Category Archives: Hanley

Spotlight on Hanley: “The Doctor and Parson” by Noah Heath

noah-heath- sneyd-green-the-potteries

“The Doctor and Parson” is a poem that was based on a true story. It was written by Noah Heath who was born at Sneyd Green towards the end of the 1770s or early in the 1780s. The doctor was Dr. Lane who lived in Saggar Row (now Parliament Row), Hanley. We believe that the parson was the Rev. John Middleton.

The Doctor and Parson

Verse One

The case was distressing when truly displayed,

On a languishing pillow the patient was laid,

The gossiping neighbours all had no doubt,

That the spark of existence was nearly run out;

When a grave, skilful doctor, renowned in fame,

To give some assistance, immediately came.

He feels the pulses and views him all o’er,

Refers to his judgement which way to explore,

Then turns himself round, to his treasure he hies,

And his life giving balsam then straightway applies.

Seems to have little doubt he can make a firm cure,

And the life of the patient pronounces secure.

Verse Two

In comes the parson, that sanctified man,

And declares that the doctor had took a wrong plan;

Then questions the patient again and again,

Whence arose all his sorrows, his anguish and pain,

“Your treatment is wrong, I have to say,

It’s as plain as the sun in the skies at mid-day;

Such wrong application must meet with disgrace,

For a mortification will shortly take place.”

“A mortification!” the doctor then cries;

“Yes, a mortification,” the parson replies.

“Pooh! pooh!” says the doctor, “such things I deny,

And tell you quite plainly, your reverence, you lie.

Tho’ we must all allow you’re a man of great parts,

And have a great knowledge of science and arts,

That the truth you expound, and peruse much in books,

You are a Jack-of-all-trades, we can see by your looks,

But in case like these ever silence pray keep,

And if you be the shepherd, preserve well your sheep;

Let us both mind our business, without more control,

For I’ll mind the body if you’ll mind the soul.”

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.)

Molly Albin – Hanley’s Formidable Town Crier

So far as we can ascertain no local artist made a sketch or painted a portrait of Molly Albin, the formidable lady who was Hanley’s town crier in the 1820s.

Molly lived in Tontine Street, which was still a country lane where there were a few cottages and a farm.

She was a well-built woman, who had a strong arm, a forceful personality and a mind of her own.

Molly despised married men who spent their wages getting drunk in public houses.

A man drinking in a public house, when he should have been at work or at home with his wife, was terrified when he heard Molly ringing her bell as she walked towards the tavern. He trembled with fear while waiting for her to call his name and tell the world about his misdemeanours.

Molly had no intention of letting the man off lightly, and men and women gathered outside the building to hear what she had to say about him. They knew that she would have no hesitation in humiliating and degrading “her victim” by telling them all about his “offences” and how he abused his wife and children when he came home in a drunken stupor.

Speaking in a loud voice to make sure they could all hear her, Molly told the people in the crowd everything she knew about him including where he worked, what his job was and how much money he earned. Nothing was held back. They heard how he spent his wages on drink when his wife needed money to pay the rent and buy food for the family. Molly did not care what she said about a man who neglected his family. However, there were times when she went too far and told the crowd how much money he owed to his creditors and how the debt had been incurred.

Sometimes, factory owners would pay Molly to “ring up their drunken idle workmen” and “persuade” them to return to work. After the employer had given her the man’s name, Molly walked through the town ringing her bell telling people in the streets that he was a man who refused to work and maintain his family.

The men who spent their time getting drunk in public houses came to hate her. From time to time, a drunkard about whom she was making scathing remarks threatened to assault her. Molly knew these were idle threats and laughed in the man’s face when they were made.

Spotlight on Hanley: The Old Swan Inn

 

Swan Inn

THE  SWAN INN

In volume two of his series Romance of Staffordshire, published in 1878, Henry Wedgwood describes the interior of the Swan Inn, an old coaching inn which was demolished in the 1840s.

The Swan Inn

“It is wonderful how soon public buildings pass from memory with all their associations, and, may be, usefulness. How completely the Old Swan Inn, Hanley is now buried in the past, and with it the memory of those who used to meet there.

“The old inn was a large building, with strange looking wings and gable ends. It had square built chimneys and gothic windows mullioned by heavy stonework. There were iron palisades at the front of the building and an extensive bowling green at the rear. Its front entrance was covered with a flat canopy supported by stone pillars. Inside there were queer, odd, little rooms with chimney nooks and ancient screens from bygone days. The one large room was used for social functions and town celebrations when speeches were made about ‘King, Country and the Pottery’ industry.

“One of the back rooms had a large bay window that looked out on to the bowling green. This was the room where Justices of the Peace held their petty sessions (Magistrates’ Court). The court tried summary offences and sent men, women and children who were accused of committing felonies to the Assize Court or Quarter Sessions for trial.”

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.”

Spotlight on Hanley – The Grand Theatre

FRANK MATCHAM WHO DESIGNED HANLEY’S GRAND THEATRE

Designed by Frank Matcham, the Grand Theatre of Varieties in Trinity Street, Hanley was built for two brothers, impresarios Charles and George Elphinstone who owned the Theatre Royal in Pall Mall, Hanley and Batty’s Circus.

Born in Devon during 1854, Frank was educated at Babbacombe School, Torquay. He became an architect and went to live in London where he worked for Jethro Robinson who designed and built theatres. Robinson died suddenly in 1874 while he was erecting the Elephant and Castle Theatre in south London. Although only 24 years old, Frank took over Robinson’s practice and finished building the theatre.

Rapidly establishing himself as one of the country’s leading architects, Frank designed over 100 theatres and music halls, including the London Palladium and the Coliseum, before his death in 1920.

Impresarios employed him to build theatres in towns and cities throughout the United Kingdom. He designed the King’s Theatre, Glasgow; the new Theatre Royal, Portsmouth and the Gaiety Theatre at Douglas on the Isle of Man. In the north-west, he built the Olympia Theatre. Liverpool and the Grand Theatre in Blackpool where he designed the Tower Ballroom and Circus.

The Elphinstone brothers commissioned Frank to increase seating capacity at the Theatre Royal, to build the Empire Theatre in Commerce Street, Longton and to design the Grand Theatre of Varieties.

An ornamental Renaissance-style theatre with a dome over its main entrance, the Grand cost over £25,000 and part of the auditorium could be converted into a circus arena by extending the stage.

Officially called “The Hanley Grand Theatre of Varieties and Circus” the new theatre opened on August 22nd, 1898 with a variety show starring Professor John Higgins, the world’s champion jumper. Billed as “the human kangaroo”, Higgins astonished a packed house by jumping over 30 chairs placed 11ft apart. The audience held its breath as he leapt over two horses, and cheered when he successfully jumped over a four-wheeled cab.

A popular venue, the Grand attracted world-famous music hall and variety artistes including George Robey, Vesta Tilley, Albert Chevalier and “The Potteries’ very own – the one and only” Gertie Gitana.

Gertrude Astbury, who took the stage name Gertie Gitana, was the daughter of pottery worker William Astbury and his wife Lavinia. Born at 7 Shirley Street, Longport in 1888, Gertie began her theatrical career as a male impersonator with Thomlinson’s Royal Gypsie Choir when she was four years old. A child prodigy, she made her music hall debut as Little Gitana at the Tivoli in Barrow-in-Furness. Gertie acquired a repertoire of popular songs that included “Nellie Dean”, “When the Harvest Moon is Shining” and “Sweet Caroline”, and went on tour captivating music hall audiences everywhere.

Like most variety theatres, the Grand showed newsreels between performances, and audiences saw Gladstone’s funeral, Queen Victoria’s visit to Ireland and British troops in action during the Boer War.

Travelling showmen brought “moving pictures” to fairs. The films they showed were very popular. During 1909, entrepreneur George Barber opened a cinema in Tunstall. Shortly afterwards four cinemas were opened in Newcastle-under-Lyme. In 1910, the Elphinstone brothers built the Empire Electric Theatre in Hanley, a cinema that could seat more than 900 people.

Cinemas provided cheap entertainment for working-class families. Even the most impoverished families could afford to spend a few pence watching a silent film and have enough money left to buy fish and chips on the way home. After the First World War, people started going to the cinema two or three times a week.

Audiences drifted away from music halls and variety theatres. When the Grand Theatre closed in 1932, the building became a cinema. The first film that was shown there was “Sally in our Alley” starring Gracie Fields.

Newcastle and The Potteries in 1750

 

17th-century-pottery-e1523612338894.jpg

A SMALL POT BANK WITH A CONE SHAPED KILN

In July 1750, the Rev. Richard Pococke visited Newcastle-under-Lyme and The Potteries.

Richard who kept a journal of his travels described North Staffordshire as an area where pottery manufacturers used local clay to make unglazed earthenware, bricks, tiles water pipes and plant pots. Some manufacturers mixed white pipeclay from Poole in Dorset with calcinated flintstone from Lincolnshire and other places to make salt-glazed stoneware pottery and ornaments.

All the ware made in the district was baked “in kilns built in the shape of a cone” which Richard said gave the area “a pretty appearance”. He went on to say that there were “great numbers” of these kilns in the Pottery villages to the east of Newcastle-under-Lyme.

In this edited extract from his journal, Richard describes Newcastle-under-Lyme and The Potteries as they were in 1750. He wrote:

“Newcastle is a small, well-built market town situated on the slope of a hill overlooking a lake. It has a handsome church and a market hall. Although Newcastle is the capital of the neighbouring Pottery villages, there are only a few potters working in the town.

“I left Newcastle on July 6th went to see the Pottery villages. I rode two miles to Stoke where stoneware is made. On leaving Stoke, I visited Shelton where red chinaware is produced and then went to Hanley were all kinds of pottery are manufactured. I visited Burslem where the best white and other types of pottery are made. The last place I went to was Tunstall. Although all kinds of pottery are made there, Tunstall is famous for making the best bricks and tiles.”

Potteries criminals feared Wright’s Law

Law (Wright)

A barrister whose attempts to pursue a political career in Parliament were unsuccessful, Harold Wright became The Potteries Stipendiary Magistrate in 1893.

A man who sympathised with the victims of domestic violence, Harold was determined to stamp out wife beating and child abuse in the six towns. Drunken men who had attacked their wives could expect no mercy when they appeared before his court. Even first offenders were sent to prison, and the sentences he imposed made him the most feared magistrate in the district.

Unlike the Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrates in London who sat alone, Harold sat with Justices of the Peace.

Sitting in Kidsgrove and The Potteries, his court committed indictable offences for trial to the Assizes or to Quarter Sessions. It heard matrimonial disputes and tried summary offences.

Burslem and Longton, which were boroughs, and Hanley, which was a county borough, had their own Magistrates’ Courts presided over by borough magistrates. The borough Magistrates’ Courts shared jurisdiction with the Stipendiary Magistrate’s Court, and local police decided whether summary cases were tried by borough magistrates or by the stipendiary court. Knowing that Harold would impose more severe sentences than the borough magistrates, the police always prosecuted professional criminals and habitual offenders before his court.

Harold lived at Aston Hall, a mansion near Stone. His hobbies included hunting, fishing, painting and drawing. Under the pseudonym Snuff, he drew caricatures for Vanity Fair and made sketches of the lawyers who argued cases before his court.

A man who liked animals, Harold supported the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He helped to organise Hanley’s Annual Horse Parade and launched a successful campaign against cruelty to animals in The Potteries – an area where every week between 30 and 40 people stood in the dock charged with ill-treating dogs and horses.

Robert Scrivener (1812-1878)

Mechanics InstituteRobert Scrivener, the architect who changed the face of Hanley, was born in Ipswich on March 29th, 1812.

In the late 1840s or early 1850s, Robert and his wife, Elizabeth, came to live in The Potteries. He established a practice in Shelton and quickly became one of North Staffordshire’s leading architects.

Robert and Elizabeth had eight children – four boys and four girls.

The Scriveners were members of the Methodist New Connexion. They worshipped at Bethesda Church in Hanley, where Robert was a Sunday school teacher. He played a major role in church affairs and was made a trustee of Bethesda Girls’ School. In 1856, he designed a new pulpit and a communion rail for the church.

Robert designed the new Mechanics Institution* in Pall Mall whose foundation stone was laid by the mayor, William Brownfield, on October 28th, 1859.

Towards the end of 1859, Robert regenerated Bethesda Church, replacing its old window panes with frosted glass, installing gas lighting and redecorating the interior. He gave the front elevation in Albion Street a Classical façade with Corinthian columns and a Venetian window surmounted by a cornice.

When pottery manufacturer John Ridgway died in December 1860, the Methodist New Connection in The Potteries lost its most generous benefactor. John who owned Cauldon Place Pottery in Shelton worshipped at Bethesda Church. He built a chapel for his employees and gave money to help build churches in Tunstall, Burslem and Fenton.

A radical local politician with progressive views, John refused a knighthood. He became Hanley’s first mayor when it was made a borough in 1857.

The Methodist New Connexion built a chapel to commemorate John’s life. Called the Ridgway Memorial Chapel, it was designed by Robert and erected in Havelock Place, Shelton. A white brick Gothic style building, the chapel cost £2,600. It was 60 feet long by 37 feet wide and had a tower with a spire 61 feet high.

Hanley’s finest building is the town hall in Albion Street. The building, which started life as the Queen’s Hotel, was designed by Robert. It cost over £20,000 and opened on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 1869.

Built to compete with the North Stafford Hotel, the Queen’s was a modified Italian Renaissance style building with white brick corners and Hollington stone dressings. Too far away from Stoke Station to attract visitors, the Queen’s never made a profit. The hotel closed and the borough council bought the premises for £10,800.

Workmen transformed the Queen’s into a town hall. They converted the commercial room into a council chamber and the smoke room became the town clerk’s office. The dining room became a Magistrates’ Court and the billiard room was made into a police station.

Robert died aged 67 on April 19th, 1878. He was buried in Bethesda churchyard.

*The illustration shows the Mechanics Institution in Pall Mall, Hanley, which has been demolished.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2013.

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