Category Archives: Caldon Canal

Thieves were not deterred by whipping and transportation

The Swan Inn

During the 18th century, Hanley and Shelton became the most important towns in The Potteries.

Between 1762 and 1801 their populations grew from 2,000 to 7,940. Hanley’s first church, St. John’s, erected in 1738 was enlarged during the 1760s. Stagecoaches called at The Swan, an old inn in the town centre. Pack horses and wagons carried ware from Hanley and Shelton to the Weaver Navigation’s wharves at Winsford and brought back ball clay and household goods. A covered market designed by architect James Trubshaw was built in Town Road during 1776.

The Trent & Mersey and the Caldon Canal stimulated economic expansion and population growth.

Entrepreneurs opened factories and iron works. People from the surrounding countryside came to Hanley looking for work and new houses were constructed.

In 1791, a trust was formed to acquire the market hall and build a town hall. The trustees leased land in Market Square from John Bagnall, the Lord of the Manor, where they erected a town hall.

Markets were held in the square on Wednesdays and Saturdays. A fortnightly cattle market was established at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1813, Parliament gave the trustees power to regulate the market place and make by-laws. The trustees demolished the old town hall and built a poultry market and a stone lockup where prisoners were held until they were brought before the Magistrates’ Court which sat in a room at the Swan Inn.

Punishments in the 18th century were severe and intended to deter the offender by degrading and humiliating him.

Men found guilty of being drunk and disorderly were put in the stocks and pelted with bad eggs, rotten tomatoes and potato peelings by jeering crowds. Women convicted of street fighting or brawling were placed on the ducking stool and dipped in Clementson’s Pool until they begged for mercy. Men and women caught stealing from market stalls were tried at the county Quarter Sessions and received a public whipping or were transported to Australia for seven years.

Despite these draconian penalties, law and order broke down. The annual wakes turned into a drunken orgy which was followed by rioting and looting.

Fearing for their own safety, Hanley’s unpaid constables turned a blind eye when serious crimes were committed. In the evenings, robbers lurked in doorways waiting to pounce on unsuspecting victims walking home through narrow unlit streets.

Having no confidence in the constables, residents employed watchmen to patrol the streets and protect their property. A society for the prosecution of felons was formed and in 1825 a professional police force was created.

Copyright Betty Cooper and David Martin 2013

PH/BC/DM

The Caldon Canal

Springs Bridge

THE CALDON CANAL

A major tourist attraction, the Caldon Canal, which passes through Hanley Park, links The Potteries with Leek and Froghall.

Branching from the Trent and Mersey Canal at Etruria’s Summit Lock, the Caldon Canal was constructed by Scottish civil engineer John Rennie.

John, who designed London Bridge, Southwark Bridge and Waterloo Bridge, was born at Phantassie near Edinburgh on June 7th, 1761. He began his career building flour mills and constructing drainage systems on the Solway Firth. Moving to England, he worked on projects to drain East Anglia’s fens and built roads, bridges and canals, including the Kennet and Avon Canal, the Lancaster Canal and the Rochdale Canal.

Opened in 1779, the Caldon Canal meanders for 17 miles through the Trent and Churnet valleys.

Boats brought coal from Kidsgrove to forges in the Churnet Valley and flint stones to flint mills where they were ground, bake-dried and turned into slop, which the pottery industry used to make earthenware more durable.

The canal terminates at Froghall Wharf, where a tramway had been laid to limestone quarries at Cauldon Lowe.

Between 1779 and 1797  two thousand boats were loaded with 40,000 tons of limestone which was used as a flux to smelt iron ore, to make fertiliser or to build houses, town halls and churches.

Towards the end of the 18th century, the Trent & Mersey Canal Company, which owned the Caldon Canal, decided to build a reservoir at Rudyard and construct branch canals to Leek and Uttoxeter.

The Leek branch opened in 1802 but work stopped on the Uttoxeter branch in 1809 when the company ran out of money. It borrowed £30,000 to complete the branch which opened on September 3rd, 1811 when six or seven boats took the directors and their guests from Uttoxeter to Crump Wood Weir (between Denstone and Alton) for a picnic lunch.

Large wharfs and dry docks were constructed at Uttoxeter where boats were built and repaired.

The branch, which carried coal, copper and brass from Alton, Kingsley and Oakamoor, was not a commercial success. It closed in 1847 The bed was drained and used by engineers constructing the section of the Churnet Valley Railway that ran between Uttoxeter and Froghall.

Like the Uttoxeter branch, the Leek branch was not economically viable although it continued to carry coal until the late 1930s.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2012