Category Archives: Fenton

The Pottery Industry in the 1960s

In the 1960s, The Potteries was a hive of industrial activity. Skilled crafts-persons living and working in the six towns created the best pottery in the world.

About 90% of the bone china, earthenware, tiles, porcelain, bricks and sanitary ware made in the United Kingdom was produced in Stoke-on-Trent. Pottery workers employed by factories in Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton were proud of their skills and expertise. They took pride in their work and knew that the ware they made was exported all over the world.

The seeds of North Staffordshire’s industrial development were sown in the 14th century. Iron ore was mined in Tunstall and at Apedale. Small pot banks which used local clay to make earthenware were scattered in isolated villages and hamlets throughout the district. There were coal seams near the surface and coal miners risked their lives working in drift mines and bell pits to get the coal needed to fire the ware.

Industrialisation came to The Potteries in the 18th century when entrepreneurs like Josiah Wedgwood, William Adams, Josiah Spode and Thomas Whieldon built factories that produced good quality ware which was sold at prices people could afford to pay.

During the 19th century the pottery industry and the coal mining industry expanded rapidly. The population increased and the six towns which we know today were created. New factories were built and the smoke from numerous bottle ovens and kilns polluted the atmosphere.

As late as 1939, the pottery industry used 1,500,000 tons of coal to fire its ovens and kilns. After the Second World War, coal fired bottle ovens and kilns were replaced by electric or gas fired tunnel kilns. Between 1945 and 1966, many small firms closed and others amalgamated to form large companies. In 1966, there were about 66,000 people employed in the industry 48,000 of whom were women.

(The photograph was taken in the warehouse at the Gladstone Pottery Museum by J. Rutter and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Focus on Fenton – Fenton’s Cenotaph and War Memorial

John Vaughan Campbell (412x577)

COLONEL JOHN VAUGHAN CAMPBELL V.C

Fenton’s Cenotaph in Albert Square was unveiled by Colonel John Vaughan Campbell V.C. on Armistice Day, November 11th, 1922.

The ceremony started at 2.30pm with a service in the town hall, where a Minton Hollins enamelled faience memorial panel had been fixed to the wall of the main staircase. Designed by Walter Brown, who had been a student at Fenton Art School, it contained the names of Fenton men who had been killed in action during the First World War (1914-1918).

When the service ended, the memorial panel was unveiled by Colonel John Ward, the Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent, who had commanded the 25th Middlesex Regiment during the war.

A detailed description of the memorial was given in the official programme which read:

“A panel containing a complete list of the names of the men of Fenton who fell in the Great War is erected on the wall of the main staircase of the town hall and is seen on entering the vestibule. This has been executed in richly enamelled faience and is architectural in character. The names are painted in scarlet letters and black capitals on a cream ground, and are preceded by the words, ‘In proud and glorious memory of the men of Fenton who fell in the Great War, 1914-1918,’ and surmounted by a floral wreath and shield worked in mosaic, with a background of vermilion. The moulded framework is coloured in a neutral green, the base having an inset of gold and black mosaic, and the inscription, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’.”

After Colonel Ward had unveiled the memorial, those who had attended the service made their way to the square where a large crowd was waiting to watch Colonel Campbell unveil the Cenotaph.

Standing on a reinforced concrete foundation 27 feet long, 27 feet wide and two feet thick, the Cenotaph was designed by architect Charles F. Simms who worked in the borough surveyor’s office in Stoke.

Constructed by Burslem sculptors W. & R. Mellor Ltd., the Cenotaph is a stone obelisk, 37 feet high. Supported by buttresses, it stands on a stone base eight feet wide and seven feet six inches high. The figure of a private soldier with arms reversed stands at the foot of the obelisk looking across the square towards Christchurch Street. Fenton’s coat of arms and its motto “Onward and Upward” is carved on the side of the Cenotaph facing the town hall. There are laurel wreaths and festoons on the other three sides with the words “Honour, Sacrifice and Courage” carved beneath them.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2013

Focus on Fenton: Fenton Library

Brief description The site was gifted to the town by William Meath Baker (the Baker family owned a large pottery business in Fenton, and the street the library is on, is called Baker Street). The architect was F.R. Lawson. Current status: Closed as a library in 2011, but see article linked below – plans are […]

First posted 6th August 2017. To read more visit Fenton library — The Carnegie legacy in England

Fenton Park’s opening was marred by rain and controversy

DSC00781, Fenton, Fenton Park copyAlthough everyone had hoped that the day would be bright and sunny, it was pouring with rain on Monday, April 14th, 1924 when Alderman Frank Collis, the Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, came to Fenton to open the new park in Cemetery Road.

The County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent was created in 1910 by amalgamating Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Longton and Fenton.

Shortly afterwards, the new county borough decided to give Fenton a park. The council purchased a 17-acre site in Cemetery Road and made plans to turn it into a park. Work on the project was suspended when the First World War broke out in 1914.

Council workmen started laying out the park in the 1920s. Supervised by the borough surveyor and the parks’ superintendent, they planted more than 8,000 trees and shrubs, erected a bandstand, laid a bowling green, created a tennis court and constructed children’s playgrounds.

Before he opened the park, the Mayor attended a civic luncheon held in Fenton Town Hall. Inside the hall, the atmosphere was tense. Fentonians still resented losing their independence and being forced by the House of Lords to amalgamate with the other pottery towns to create the County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent.  Many believed the county borough was deliberately neglecting Fenton and allowing it to die.

The town’s pent up frustrations surfaced after the meal. While proposing the toast “Success to Fenton and its new Park and Parks Committee”, the Deputy Mayor Mr F.T.H. Goodwin said Fenton had the best and most efficient fire brigade in The Potteries.

Almost everyone in the room knew that the county borough council was planning to close Fenton fire station.

Responding to the toast, Alderman Warren said that since the county borough had come into existence, Fenton had gone completely dead and was now called the town of the long, long street.

Alderman Phillip Elliot, the Chairman of the Education Committee who owned two drapers shops in Fenton, pointed out that it had taken the county borough 14 years to give the town a park and electric light. He recalled being told by the House of Lords when it was considering amalgamation, that Fenton had nothing – no furnace for burning refuse, no swimming pool and no market. Alderman Elliot had no hesitation in saying things had not changed. He ended his attack on the county borough by accusing it of developing the larger centres and neglecting little places like Fenton.

It was still raining heavily when a procession led by the Mayor left the town hall. The procession made its way to the park gates in Cemetery Road where a large crowd had gathered to watch the opening ceremony. Alderman Elliot handed the Mayor a gold key. The mayor unlocked the park gates and declared the park open.

© David Martin 2013

PH/FF

Fenton – The old library

Fenton 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

Focus on Fenton: The vicar who had friends in high places

Christ_Church,_Fenton,_from_south-eastAn establishment figure, the Reverend the Honourable Leonard Tyrwhitt, the Vicar of Fenton from 1895 to 1907, was a man with friends in high places.

Born on October 29th, 1863, Leonard was the son of Sir Henry Tyrwhitt and his wife Emma who inherited the title Baroness Berners when her uncle Lord Berners died.

Graduating from Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1886, he trained for the ministry at Wells Theological College and was admitted to the priesthood in 1888.

When he came to Fenton in 1895, Leonard found a parish deeply in debt and services were held in the new parish church (Christ Church) before the bell tower had been erected.

Designed by Stoke architect, Charles Lynam, the church could accommodate 1,900 worshippers. Built of red brick with stone dressings, the nave and chancel which cost over £6,000 had been consecrated by Dr Maclagan, the Archbishop of York, on October 3rd, 1891. Although nearly £5,400 had been donated towards the cost of building the nave and the chancel, over £800 was still owed to the builder, and about £2,000 had to be raised before the bell tower could be constructed.

Leonard moved into the vicarage in Glebedale Road and made plans to revitalise the parish. He established a church council, organised Bible classes and formed youth clubs.

Hoping it would bring in enough money to pay Christ Church’s debts and to erect a bell tower, Leonard decided to hold a three-day bazaar in the town hall to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. When he heard that the Prince and Princess of Wales were coming to The Potteries, he invited them to visit Fenton and open the bazaar.

The Royal couple accepted his invitation and arrived in Fenton on January 5th, 1897. During their visit to the town hall, the Princess, who later became Queen Alexandra, opened the bazaar which raised £3,250.

Leonard used the money to pay the church’s debts and to build a bell tower containing a peal of eight bells.

A man with a forceful personality, Leonard had unlimited self-confidence and was not afraid to speak his mind.

Early in December 1903, he began a well-publicised crusade against immorality in The Potteries which was widely reported in the national press.

In a series of outspoken, controversial sermons, Leonard condemned factory owners who failed to protect young workers from sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation. Supported by public opinion and leading non-conformist ministers, he attacked drunkenness, gambling, wife beating, child neglect, fornication and prostitution.

Photograph of Christ Church, Fenton licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Alexander Scrivener (1852-1921)

Albert Square - Fenton

Albert Square, Fenton

Alexander Scrivener, the architect who designed Fenton town hall, was born in Shelton on April 19th, 1852.

His father, Robert, and his elder brother, Edward, were architects. During 1868, Robert and Edward went into partnership and formed Robert Scrivener and Son whose offices were in Howard Place, Shelton. The firm designed the Mechanics Institution in Pall Mall and the Queen’s Hotel in Albion Street which later became Hanley Town Hall.

Alexander was educated at Hanley Art School. He became an architect and joined the firm. When their father died in 1878, Edward and Alexander acquired the practice.

Alexander married Anne Twyford. They had five children. The family lived in Endon where they worshipped at the parish church.

Alexander’s hobbies were music and archaeology. He conducted the Endon Choral Society and was choirmaster at the parish church.

A member of the North Staffordshire Field Club, he took part in archaeological digs and led field trips to historic buildings. The club made him its president for the year 1895-96. He undertook historical research and wrote articles for its journal.  In 1904, the Field Club awarded him the Garner Medal for services to archaeology and made him its president again a year later. During 1914, he excavated Castle Hill, at Audley proving conclusively that the de Audley family had built a castle there in the Middle Ages.

Politically, the Scriveners were Conservatives. They designed Hanley’s Conservative Club in Trinity Street which opened on February 25th, 1878.

Edward and Alexander were astute businessmen who used their professional skill and expertise to make Robert Scrivener and Son the area’s leading architects.

Sanitary ware manufacturer, Thomas Twyford employed the firm to design his Cliffe Vale factory. The practice built churches and schools throughout The Potteries and designed The Sentinel’s office in Foundry Street, Hanley. It designed numerous buildings in the town including the Roman Catholic Church in Jasper Street, the Higher Grade Elementary School, the Freemasons Hall in Cheapside and the telephone exchange in Marsh Street.

The buildings in Fenton which the firm designed included Queen Street Board Schools, the Cemetery Chapels and the Temperance Coffee Tavern in City Road. It built shops and offices in Christchurch Street, laid out Albert Square and designed the town hall.

Alexander designed St. Paul’s Church in Victoria Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme whose foundation Stone was laid by Sir Lovelace Stamer, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, on June 15th, 1905. Edward died while the church was being constructed and Alexander became the senior partner in the firm.

Consecrated by the Bishop of Lichfield in 1908, St. Paul’s was built of stone. A perpendicular style building, the church cost almost £700. The building, which could accommodate over 500 worshippers, had an octagonal spire. It had central heating and was lit by gas lights.

Alexander remained in practice until his death. Taken ill suddenly, he died aged 69 on December 17th, 1921 and was buried in Endon churchyard.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2013

Camera in the City – Fenton

Smith's Pool, FentonTaken in 2013, this photograph from the Phoenix Trust’s collection shows Smith’s Pool at the beginning of spring.

Fenton is a settlement of Anglo-Saxon origin. The name Fenton means a farmstead or village situated in low-lying marshland, which indicates that the first Fentonians could have lived in the area where Smith’s Pool is today.

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