Frederick Tobias Wade, the son of the Rev. Thomas Wade, was born in Ireland.
Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, he graduated in 1833 and was ordained two years later. He started his ministry at Runcorn and came to Kidsgrove in 1837 when industrialist Thomas Kinnersley built St. Thomas’s Church in The Avenue.
Designed by Kinnersley’s wife Anna, the church was erected in six weeks. It had a tower which contained a clock and a peal of six bells. The building could accommodate 600 worshippers, and the first service was held there on May 7th, 1837.
Frederick’s personality quickly made an impact on Kidsgrove – an industrial town with a high crime rate whose constables were unable to maintain law and order. Colliers spent their wages on drink, turning to theft and poaching to feed their families.
A miner’s life was hard and dangerous. Semi-naked men and women worked together at the coalface. Boys and girls, who could neither read nor write, were harnessed to wagons which they hauled through narrow, rat infested tunnels.
Abandoned by the churches, the miners lived in filth and squalor. They enjoyed prizefighting and gambling. Many were semi-illiterate, and Frederick realised he would have an uphill struggle converting them to Christianity.
He persuaded Kinnersley, who owned Clough Hall Collieries and Iron Works, to build a school in The Avenue. Mission halls were opened at Mow Cop and Goldenhill. Appeals were launched to build schools and churches in the two villages. North Staffordshire’s most generous philanthropist, Smith Child, endowed the living at Goldenhill and gave it to Frederick, who retained his position at St. Thomas’s.
A recession hit Kidsgrove bringing short-time working and unemployment. To prevent the miners being forced to sell their homes and apply for poor relief, Frederick found them employment building a road from The Rookery to Mow Cop.
On February 17th, 1848, Frederick married Emma Cassons. The couple had four children – Henrietta, Ferdinand, Helen and Evelyn.
Kidsgrove was made a parish in 1852 and Frederick became the vicar.
The school in The Avenue was now too small to accommodate all the children who wanted to attend. Frederick asked Kinnersley for help, and he agreed to build new schools.
Designed by Hanley architect Henry Ward, whose other buildings include Bucknall Church and Stoke Town Hall, the new schools were erected in Liverpool Road. Opened in 1854, the single-storey Gothic style red brick building with stone facings, which was demolished a few years ago, contained three schools, a boys’ school, a girls’ school and an infants’ school. Each school had accommodation for 80 pupils, and there were covered playgrounds where the children could play when it rained.
Frederick remained Vicar of Kidsgrove until 1880 when he was appointed Rector of Tettenhall. He died there aged 75 on March 15th, 1884. His body was brought back to Kidsgrove and buried in the cemetery which overlooked the schools in Liverpool Road
Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2012
Photograph of St. Thomas’s Church, Kidsgrove © Copyright Chris Brough and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.