Category Archives: Culture

Spotlight on Biddulph Grange

Last week’s post on the Geological Gallery at Biddulph was, I hope, something of an insight in to the mindset of James Bateman its creator in the mid-19thc. Today’s is designed to look at the gardens he created there, partly because both he and his wife were passionate about plants but partly as a reinforcement of […]

via A Walk Around the World — The Gardens Trust

Spotlight on Biddulph Grange – Orchids, Ferns, Fossils and the Great Flood


Biddulph Grange

We often hear that grand gardens cost money: it’s as true as the old cliché which says “money talks.” But there is a world of difference between a grand garden and a great one. Great gardens develop when that money meets vision, enthusiasm, knowledge – and a gardener. In the garden I’m going to talk about […]

To read more visit Orchids, Ferns, Fossils and the Great Flood — The Gardens Trust

Spotlight on Hanley – The Boy’s Reading Room

On the evening of Monday, October 16, 1893, a large number of boys joined civic leaders assembled at Hanley Free Library to watch the mayor, Alderman Edwin John Hammersley, open the new Boys’ Reading Room.

The Boys’ Reading Room had been created by the council because adult readers did not want to share the library’s general reading room with boys.

Alderman Hammersley told those attending the ceremony that the Boys’ Reading Room contained between 700 and 800 books.

Speaking directly to the boys, he advised them to read books about British History and novels by leading authors including Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens and James Fenimore Cooper.

At the conclusion of his speech, Alderman Hammersley quoted from a poem about books, which says that they give us:

” New views of life and teach us how to live;

They soothe the grieved, the stubborn they chastise

Fools they admonish and confirm the wise.

Their aid they yield to all; they never shun

The man of sorrow or the wretch undone;

Unlike the hard, the selfish and the proud

They fly not sullen from the supplicant crowd.

Nor tell to various people various things,

But show to subjects what they show to kings.”

Bygone Tunstall – The Victoria Institute

In 1905, Tunstall Urban District Council produced a Year Book which gave details of the major buildings and places of interest in Tunstall including the Victoria Institute.

The edited account of the history of the Victoria Institute posted below is taken is taken from the Year Book.


“This building, the foundation stones of which were laid on the 16th May 1889, was erected by public subscription in commemoration of Her Majesty’s Jubilee and comprises a School of Science, Art and Technology and a Public Library…

“On the 24th October 1895, the foundation stone of an extension to the Institute was laid.

“The extension, which included a Museum, a Cookery School and Pottery Decorating Studios, was being erected by the Urban District Council with the help of a grant of £700 from Staffordshire County Council.”

Spotlight’s Mission

Our mission at Spotlight on North Staffordshire and the Potteries is to use our region’s unique heritage and culture to encourage regeneration by giving local people pride in the past, confidence in the present and hope for the future.

Fenton – The old library

Fenton Library


Standing on the corner of Glebedale Road and Baker Street, the free English Renaissance style building that housed Fenton Library was designed by local architect F.R. Lawson.

At the end of the 19th century, Fenton was the only town in The Potteries without a library.

Earthenware manufacturer, John Shaw Goddard, who became chairman of the urban district council in April 1900, wanted to build one but the council did not have the money.

He asked wealthy landowner William Meath Baker for help, but William who had just given the town a new fire station could not afford to build a library.

However, he promised to give a site behind the town hall where a library could be erected if John was able to raise the money.

Discovering that a New York philanthropist, the self-made millionaire Andrew Carnegie, was building libraries in towns and cities throughout the United Kingdom, John asked him to build one in Fenton. Andrew gave John £5,000 to build a library.

William kept his word and donated the site behind the town hall.

The urban district council adopted the Free Libraries Act and agreed to levy a penny rate on each householder to enable it to buy books.

The library was opened by William on March 7th, 1906.

It was housed in a two storey Accrington red brick building with Hollington stone facings. The main entrance was in Baker Street. Revolving doors led into to the foyer whose mosaic floor was laid with Minton Hollins tiles depicting the town’s coat of arms. The interior archway over the door contained a mural showing children sitting at the feet of knowledge, painted by Gordon Forsythe who later became the principal of Stoke-on-Trent Art Schools.

On the ground floor were rooms containing an adult lending library, a reference library, a children’s library and a reading room. A staircase with a wrought iron balustrade, made in Tunstall by William Durose, led from the foyer to the upper floor where there was a lecture hall which could seat between 100 and 120 people. The room had an ornamental plaster ceiling and was heated by an iron grate in a faience surround.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2013

The Daily Sentinel was Staffordshire’s first daily newspaper

North Staffordshire’s popular daily newspaper, The Sentinel, started life in 1854.

Originally called The Staffordshire Sentinel and Commercial Advertiser, the first edition was printed and published from offices in Cheapside, Hanley on January 7th, 1854.

A weekly paper, which cost 3d, The Sentinel supported the Liberal Party and campaigned successfully to make Hanley a borough.

Its first editor was Thomas Phillips, a bookseller and printer from Northampton, who remained with the paper until 1859.

During 1860, Thomas Andrews Potter, a journalist who had worked on The Bradford Observer, bought The Sentinel becoming its owner/editor.

Introducing himself to Sentinel readers, Potter wrote in his first leader:

“It will be the aim of the new proprietor to make… the Sentinel increasingly valued as the paper of this populous and thriving district. The wants of the locality will be carefully studied, and its passing events will be fully and truthfully recorded through the agency of an efficient staff of reporters and correspondents.”

At 4.00pm on April 15th, 1873, Potter brought out Staffordshire’s first daily paper, The Daily Sentinel, which had four pages and cost a halfpenny.

The Daily Sentinel was a great success, and by the end of the year, it had readers throughout The Potteries and in Congleton, Macclesfield, Leek, Stafford, Market Drayton, Uttoxeter and Crewe.


Tunstall’s Jubilee Buildings

Designed by the town’s surveyor, Absalom Reade Wood, the Jubilee Buildings, in the Boulevard and Greengates Street, gave Tunstall a public library, an art school, a technical college, a swimming pool and a fire station.

Built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, the complex was constructed in two stages. The main building, the Victoria Institute in The Boulevard, was opened by Sir Smith Child on October 29th, 1891. Still occupied by the library, the Victoria Institue cost £4,500. Apart from a small grant of £970 from the government, all the money was raised locally.

There were bazaars and fetes. Pottery manufacturers made donations and workers organised collections. Employees at Alfred Meakin’s pottery raised £50. Miner’s at Clanway Colliery gave £16 while workers at Booth’s Church Bank Pottery collected £12.50.

The three storey red brick and terracotta building, with Runcorn red sandstone facings, had wrought iron gates at the main entrance. When it opened, the library, which contained 2,000 books, was on the ground floor. The art school was on the first floor and the technical college was on the second. There were 100 students attending classes at the art school. It had scholarships for local elementary school pupils who wanted to become pottery designers. Student’s studied ceramic technology, painting drawing, modelling and design. The number of students increased and new courses including dress-making, embroidery, jewellery design and wood carving were introduced.

Smaller than the art school, the technical college trained students for careers in mining, engineering or commerce.

The Victoria Institute was extended in 1897. These extensions included a museum and art gallery, a domestic science school and pottery studios for the art school.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2011