Category Archives: Hanley

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.

High Street Shops Face An Uncertain Future

After the recent announcement that Debenhams in Hanley could close, retailers in North Staffordshire and The Potteries are asking if the traditional high street shop has a future.

Last year 475 high street stores in the West Midlands went out of business.

In Stoke-on-Trent 20 shops closed and only eight new stores were opened.

The number of banks in Newcastle-under-Lyme and The Potteries fell dramatically while the number of cafes and fast food takeaways increased.

No one can deny that 2018 was a turbulent year for retailers.

The continued growth of online shopping and the ever-rising costs of running a high street business are having a devastating effect on town and city centres throughout the region.

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.”

A Visit To The City Archives – Minton Tiles

Mallaband-Brown

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I had the pleasure of being invited to a behind the scenes visit to our city archive today. I had been asked if I wanted to go along by a friend who is doing an art project about the pottery manufacturer.

We went up to the third floor of the city library and were shown round the back of the reception desk into the staff only section. There the city archivist showed us some of the fading pages in the ledgers. They were images of pots that various pot banks made in the history of Stoke-on-Trent.

There were pattern books for tableware and tiles  ledgers with the cost of making the ware and details of workers. The old pottery firms did not collect a lot of details and a lot was thrown out when they closed down. But once we had been in the air conditioned archives we were allowed…

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Free Publicity For Local History Societies’ Activities

Did you know that our website has a Diary Date section which local history societies can use to publicise their activities?

All you have to do to gain widespread publicity for your event throughout North Staffordshire and The Potteries is email us at daymar727@talktalk.net and tell us about the event three weeks before it takes place.

Please contact us if you would like to know more about Diary Date and how it can help you to let more people about your activities and events.

Free Publicity For Your Group’s Activities

Did you know that our website has a Diary Date section which organisers of cultural activities and community groups can use to publicise their activities?

All you have to do to gain widespread publicity for your event throughout North Staffordshire and The Potteries is email us at daymar727@talktalk.net and tell us about the event three weeks before it takes place.

Please contact us if you would like to know more about Diary Date and how it can help you to let more people about your activities and events.

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.

STOKE-ON-TRENT-ART SCHOOL, 1919: "AN ATMOSPHERE OF DEPRESSION, FAILURE AND DISAPPOINTMENT"

MARSHALL COLMAN

Differences between teachers and school inspectors are not new.  The Stoke-on-Trent art schools got a pasting from government inspectors at the end of the First World War, but the principal, Stanley Thorogood, was proud of their achievements in difficult circumstances and was fizzing with ideas for the future.

Hanley, one of the six towns of the North Staffordshire Potteries, first opened its art school in 1847. Burslem opened in 1853. Smaller schools in the other towns amalgamated with Hanley and Burslem in 1910. They were part of the national system of art education, providing artisans with basic drawing and modelling skills. Only the most persistent student could follow its syllabus through its 22 levels; most went through only two or three. Originality and creativity were actively discouraged. At the pinnacle of this system was the National Art Training School in South Kensington, later the Royal College of Art (RCA)

Remarkably…

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