Category Archives: History and Heritage

A Patriot’s Sword

Invasionraft

AN ARTIST’S IMPRESSION OF A FRENCH INVASION BARGE 

The French Revolution began on July 14th, 1789 when the citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille, the most hated and feared prison in Europe. The citizen’s attack was successful. They captured the prison and released all the prisoners, many of whom had been detained without trial for several years.

Shortly afterwards, France became a republic. The deposed king Louis XVI asked Austria and Prussia to help him regain his throne. He was arrested, tried for treason and executed.

His execution shocked Europe, and the leading continental powers made plans to invade France and restore the monarchy. The French army attacked and occupied Belgium. When the British government protested about this violation of Belgian neutrality, France declared war on England. By the end of 1793, England, Spain, Holland, Prussia, Austria and Sardinia were at war with France.

At first, things went badly for the allies.

In 1794, Holland surrendered, and the House of Orange was forced to abdicate. The French made Holland a republic, and the new Dutch government declared war on England.

French forces defeated the armies of Prussia and Spain who made peace. The French imposed a puppet government on Spain which went to war with England in 1796.

The combined French, Dutch and Spanish fleets prepared to spearhead an invasion of  England. A large French army assembled in Northern France where barges were being built to carry it across the Channel.

Abandoned by its allies, England stood alone. Forges and factories worked day and night to make the weapons needed to defend our island.

In towns and cities throughout Britain, men joined local volunteer corps to fight alongside the regular army and the militia. A troop of Volunteer Cavalry was raised in The Potteries by Sir John Edensor Heathcote. About 70 men joined the force. Each man had to provide his own horse and buy his own uniform and equipment.  One of them had the following inscription engraved on his sword:

“Leagu’d with my friends the glitt’ring sword I bear
To guard from hostile arm my country dear;
Not to oppress, devastate or enslave, 
But England’s soil from Gallie rage to save;
Not to maintain those “Rights of Man” unjust,
Which tend to treason, plunder, blood, and lust;
But to preserve our altars, hearths and laws,
And bleed or conquer in this holy cause.”

Tunstall Schools – Can You help Spotlight?


victorian schoolroomSpotlight on Stoke is researching the history of education in Tunstall.

We are hoping to write short posts about all the schools in the town including:

  • St. Mary’s
  • The Catholic School in Oldcourt Street
  • Summerbank Road Schools
  • Tunstall High School for Girls
  • Brownhills High School
  • High Street Schools
  • Forster Street Schools

Except for Forster Street, all the schools built in Tunstall during the 19th century have been demolished. Very few photographs of them survive. If you attended any of these schools and would like to share memories of your school days with us, please email spotlightstoke@talktalk.net

St. Saviour’s (Part One)

 

St. Saviour's

St. Saviour’s the “tin church” in The Rookery which was demolished in 2013

Until it was demolished by the Church of England in 2013, St. Saviour’s the “tin church” in The Rookery, a former mining village near to Kidsgrove, was one of the oldest surviving iron buildings in the world. A miners’ church built by miners for miners, St. Saviour’s was one of the churches that helped to bring Christianity to the North Staffordshire Coalfield. At the request of local people living in Butt Lane, Kidsgrove and Mow Cop, we are reposting three posts about the church written by historical geographer Betty Cooper in 2011.

St Saviour’s (Part One)

The first iron buildings were lock-keepers’ cottages erected by canal companies towards the end of the 18th century. Their walls were built of cast iron or iron blocks. They had iron window frames and wrought iron sheet roofs.

Wrought iron corrugated roofing sheets were invented in 1829 by civil engineer Henry Robinson Palmer who used them to roof the large warehouses he was building in the Port of London. Durable and corrosion resistant, the sheets were light and easy to transport by road or canal. Enterprising entrepreneurs soon discovered that they could use them to produce “factory made” prefabricated buildings which were assembled on site by semi-skilled workers.

One of the first to realise their potential was London based civil engineering contractor Richard Walker who built a factory in Bermondsey where he made corrugated iron roofs.

In 1831, Richard published an advertisement with an illustration of an open-ended warehouse with a corrugated iron barrel-vaulted roof which he could erect for his customers. Galvanised iron was produced from 1836 onwards, and Richard started to manufacture prefabricated buildings with galvanised corrugated iron walls and roofs which were exported to Australia.

By the end of the 1840s corrugated wrought iron sheets had been used to roof Liverpool’s Lime Street Station and New Street Station in Birmingham.

When the Californian Gold Rush began in 1849, a Manchester firm E.T. Bellhouse and Co. produced prefabricated iron warehouses and miners’ cottages which were shipped to California and erected on the goldfield.

A two roomed miner’s cottage, with a day-room and a bedroom, cost £100. For more affluent customers, the firm manufactured two storey houses whose price ranged from £450 to £500. The corrugated iron used to construct these buildings was coated with tin alloy to prevent rust. Some of them had four rooms on each floor and were described as being “equal to that of the most comfortable house” of the same size in England. Barrel-vaulted roofs were replaced by pitched roofs in 1849, and in 1850 a twelve-room lodging house was sent to California.

At the beginning of the 1850s, there were several firms producing a wide range of prefabricated iron buildings that included houses, village halls, sports pavilions, warehouses, hospitals and churches which were exported to the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

E.T. Bellhouse produced a “special emigrant’s cottage” which the emigrant could take with him when he and his family left England to find fame and fortune in a new country.

The firm exhibited an emigrant’s cottage at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Prince Albert was impressed by the building and the technical skill shown by its designers.

He ordered a large wrought iron building, 60 feet long by 24 feet wide, which could be used as a ballroom, a dining room and a theatre at Balmoral Castle.

When the exhibition closed the demand for iron buildings increased and in 1855 the United Kingdom’s first “tin church” was erected in the grounds of the vicarage at Kensington.

A report in The Builder (27th October 1855) said it was constructed of galvanised corrugated iron and observed that: “It would not be too difficult on a future occasion to give a more ecclesiastical character to such a structure…” A large number of “tin churches” were built in the second half of the 19th century. One of them was St. Saviour’s which was erected in Butt Lane in 1868 and moved to The Rookery in 1879.

Copyright Betty Cooper 2011

St. Saviour’s (Part Two)

SONY DSC

ST. SAVIOUR’S THE HISTORIC “TIN CHURCH” IN THE ROOKERY

Until it was demolished in 2013 St. Saviour’s the “tin church” in The Rookery was one of the oldest corrugated iron buildings in the world. In this post, first posted in 2011, historical geographer Betty Cooper, who was born in The Rookery, writes about the local miners who built the church.

St. Saviour’s (Part Two)

A mission church, St. Saviour’s was constructed from a self-assembly kit manufactured in London by Messrs Vavasour. The kit was bought by the Parish of Talke in 1867 and erected in Congleton Road, Butt Lane on a site called the Hollins, which had been given by Mrs Marsh Caldwell who lived at Linley Hall.

Local landowners, including Mrs Marsh Caldwell and her daughters, subscribed to the building fund.

“Tin Churches” which the Victorians called “Tin Tabernacles” were easy to erect by volunteers. When the “self-assembly kit” arrived at Butt Lane it contained an instruction booklet and everything needed to construct the church including numbered corrugated iron sheets, pre-cut wooden strips, doors and windows.

Working in the evenings and at weekends, colliers from Butt Lane and Talke cleared the site, laid the foundations, erected the timber frame and bolted the prefabricated corrugated iron sheets, the doors and the windows to it.

St. Saviour’s cost less than £350 although an additional £300 had to be raised to pay a local builder who was employed to construct a wall around the site.

A single storey building, the church could accommodate 120 worshippers. The interior was lined with stained wood. There was an inscription over the chancel arch and a stained glass window above the altar which depicted “Christ the Saviour of the World”.

St. Saviour’s was opened by George Selwyn, the Bishop of Lichfield, on April 1st, 1868.

At 2.00pm a procession, containing the bishop and local clergymen, was formed at a nearby farmhouse. Led by Chesterton Church choir, the procession made its way to St. Saviour’s.

The bishop entered the church, and the service began. Admission to the service was by ticket only. Tickets cost £3 – a price the colliers, who had built the church, could not afford to pay.

A large number of colliers and their families had gathered outside the building. While the hymn before the sermon was being sung, the Bishop surprised everyone. Instead of making his way to the pulpit, he walked down the aisle to the main entrance. After the hymn, he stood in the porch and preached to the crowd standing outside.

During the service a collection was held which raised £12 to support church missions in New Zealand where George had been a bishop for ten years before coming to Lichfield.

St. Saviour’s served Butt Lane until 1879 when it was replaced by a mock Tudor timber-framed building. The redundant “tin church” was acquired by Mow Cop parish. The building was dismantled and taken to The Rookery where it was reassembled.

Copyright Betty Cooper 2011

St. Saviour’s (Part Three)

A Second World War Liberty Ship

A SECOND WORLD WAR LIBERTY SHIP

Opened by George Selwyn, the Bishop of Lichfield, on April 1st, 1868, St. Saviour’s was a tin mission church in Butt Lane. Manufactured as a “self-assembly kit” containing a wooden frame, corrugated iron sheets, doors and windows, the church was purchased from a London firm. Erected by volunteers, St. Saviour’s served the village until 1879 when it was replaced by a mock Tudor timber-framed building.

The redundant “tin church” was acquired by Mow Cop parish, dismantled and taken to The Rookery where it was reassembled.

Now called “St. Saviour’s Mission Church in the Rookery”, the church was self-supporting. All its income came from collections and fundraising activities organised by members of the congregation.

Although services were taken by the vicar of Mow Cop who appointed the Vicar’s Warden, other officials were elected by the congregation at the annual general meeting. As well as electing the People’s Warden, the treasurer and the sidesmen, the meeting appointed the Sunday School superintendent, the choirmaster, the organist and the cleaner.

In September 1932, the Rev. Charles Hood became Vicar of Mow Cop. A man with a forceful personality, he persuaded the annual general meeting to regenerate St. Saviour’s and the church was closed from August 18th to September 8th, 1935 while the work was carried out. Some of the money to finance the project was raised locally, but most had been given by retired marine engineer, Summers Hunter, who had helped re-erect the church when it came from Butt Lane.

One of John and Isabella Hunter’s six children, Summers was born at Inverness on July 12th, 1856 and educated at Inverness Academy. In 1870, when Summers was 14, his father became the agent for a colliery in the Kidsgrove area. The family left Scotland and came to live in The Rookery.

Summers obtained an apprenticeship with Barker & Cope, a Kidsgrove engineering firm which made boilers, winding gear and pumps. He attended classes at the Wedgwood Institute and won prizes for electrical engineering, technical drawing and machine construction. In 1880, Summers left The Rookery and went to Sunderland to work for the North Eastern Marine Engineering Company where he became one of the world’s leading marine engineers.

In 1900, the company made him its managing director. He modernised the firm’s Wallsend factory where cutting-edge research was undertaken to develop new and more powerful steam engines. Efficient and easy to maintain, these engines were used by shipbuilders in Europe and North America to power their ships. During the Second World War, a triple expansion engine, developed by Summers in the early years of the 20th century, was modified and installed in the British designed Liberty Ships which were built in Britain and America to carry supplies across the Atlantic.

When St. Saviour’s was regenerated, Summers gave two stained glass windows. A large window which depicted the figure of Christ was installed above the altar, and the other window was placed above the main entrance.

Summers visited St. Saviour’s on October 13th, 1935 and addressed the congregation. After giving a brief account of the church’s history, he bore “personal witness” of the way his life had been influenced by the services he attended there in his youth.

Copyright Betty Cooper 2011

St. Saviour’s was demolished in 2013. Regeneration consultants believe the church was an asset that could have been used to help create a heritage based tourist industry in the Kidsgrove area. Architectural historians say the demolition of this historic church was an act of bureaucratic vandalism which proves to the world that North Staffordshire does not care about its heritage.  

Tunstall’s Town Hall and Market

tunstall-town-hall

Tunstall Town Hall

Tunstall’s heritage market was 200 years old on September 20, 2017.

In 1816, Tunstall’s chief constable, pottery manufacturer John Henry Clive, founded a company to build a Magistrates’ Courthouse and create a Market Place.

The company leased three-quarters of an acre of sloping ground called Stoney Croft from Walter Sneyd, the Lord of the Manor. It built a courthouse and laid out a market place, which later became Tower Square, on the site.

A two-storey stone building, the courthouse had a fire station with two fire engines and a market hall on the ground floor where eggs, butter, milk and cheese were sold when the market opened. The building faced eastwards. It was erected about halfway up the slope. Steps led from the lower part of the Market Place, where stalls were set up on market day, to the market hall’s main entrance.

Beneath the market hall was the town lock up – a dark, foul-smelling dungeon where prisoners were held while awaiting trial. The stocks stood at the foot of the steps leading to the market hall. Six hours in the stocks or a fine of five shillings was the usual penalty for being drunk and disorderly.

The company placed an advertisement in the Staffordshire Advertiser that was published on September 13, 1817, which read: “Notice is hereby given that henceforward a market will be held at Tunstall, in the Potteries, weekly on Saturdays in front of the Court-House. The first to be on Saturday, 20 September. Stalls and standings free.”

Tunstall Market was both a retail market and a wholesale market. Retailers sold fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, poultry and salt. Horse-drawn waggons brought dairy produce, fruit and vegetables to the wholesale market which attracted retailers from Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Longton and Fenton.

An Act of Parliament passed in 1840 created the Tunstall Market Company to manage the market. In 1847, the company sold the market for £6,500 to the town’s Improvement Commissioners. Shortly afterwards, the commissioners allowed dealers to sell hay and straw there. In 1855, the Improvement Commissioners were replaced by a Board of Health. The Board of Health managed the market until 1894 when Boards of Health were abolished and Urban District Councils were created to replace them. Tunstall Urban District Council ran the market until 1910 when the “six towns amalgamated” to form the County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent.

A New Market Hall

In 1856, the Board of Health decided to build a new market hall and turn the courthouse into a town hall. George Thomas Robinson, the architect who designed Burslem’s Old Town Hall, was commissioned to transform the courthouse into a town hall and to build a new market hall.

Robinson enlarged the courthouse giving it a circular front where the steps had been. He redesigned the courtroom and turned the market hall into a boardroom and offices for the Board of Health.

Constructed on a half acre site opposite the Market Place in High Street, the new Market Hall cost £7,651.

The Market Hall was opened by Thomas Peake, the Chief Bailiff and Chairman of the Board of Health, on December 2, 1858. In the evening a concert was held in the Market Hall. At 9.00 pm there was a firework display in the Market Place which was followed by a ball in the Market Hall.

Trading commenced there two days later on December 4, 1858, when the retail market which sold:

  • Dairy produce
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Meat, fish, poultry, game and rabbits
  • Manufactured goods and household utensils

left the Market Place and moved into the building.

The wholesale market that sold:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Fruit trees and bushes
  • Garden plants, seeds and shrubs
  • Hay and straw

remained in the Market Place which later became known as Market Square.

A New Town Hall

Although the courthouse had been enlarged and made into a town hall, the building was too small to meet the administrative needs of an expanding industrial town.

At the beginning of the 1880s, the front portion of the Market Hall and the main entrance in High Street, which had been built on the spring line that marks the geological boundary between Etruria Marl and the Blackband series of coal and ironstone measures, was collapsing due to subsidence. The Board of Health decided to reduce the size of the Market Hall by a third. The front part of the building was demolished and a new town hall was erected on the site. Designed by Absalom Reade Wood who was one of North Staffordshire’s leading architects, the town hall is a free “Renaissance Style” building that stands on a rusticated stone base. It was opened by John Nash Peake, the Chief Bailiff and Chairman of the Board of Health, on October 29, 1885.

While the town hall was being built, the remaining two-thirds of the Market Hall was being modernised. The building was reroofed, new gas lighting was installed, the floor was relaid and permanent stalls were erected.

The Wholesale Market in the 20th Century

The wholesale market, which closed before the end of the 19th century, was re-established in the Market Square in 1901. Shortly afterwards, a small retail market selling fish and rabbits was opened in the square. These markets declined after the First World War (1914-18). The retail market in the Market Hall became Tunstall’s primary market, although as late as the 1930s there were still a few stalls in the square selling fish and rabbits.

When children approached his stall one of the traders who sold rabbits started singing these words to the tune of the well-known music hall song “If you want to know the time ask a policeman”:

“Does your mother want a rabbit?

“Sell you one for sixpence.

“Skin you one for ninepence.”

The Market Hall after 1940

Before the Second World War (1939-45), the Market Hall was open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. In February 1940, the market was opened for the sale of meat on Fridays. During 1941, some of the stalls were taken down and a civic restaurant was established in the Market Hall.

After the war, market days were Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

During the 1950s and 60s, families could do their weekly shopping in the market where there were stalls that sold:

  • Bread and cakes
  • Eggs, butter, cheese, margarine and milk
  • First and Second World War memorabilia and military medals
  • Fruit and Vegetables
  • Groceries
  • Handbags and purses
  • Hardware and household utensils
  • Ladies and children’s clothing
  • Meat and poultry, black pudding, boiled ham, brawn, corned beef, Cornish pasties, home-cured bacon, pork pies, sausages, savoury ducks and tripe
  • Pet food, cages for budgerigars and hampsters, fish tanks and goldfish bowls
  • Pottery
  • Oatcakes and Pikelets
  • Shoes and handbags
  • Second-hand books and magazines
  • Toys and games
  • Watches and jewellery

In 1992, the City Council’s architects and surveyors discovered that the Market Hall and the town hall were unsafe. The structures supporting the Market Hall’s roof were unstable and its east gable wall was likely to collapse. A temporary market was erected in Woodland Street. Both the town hall and the Market Hall were closed. Although the town hall is still closed, the Market Hall was regenerated and reopened at the beginning of the 21st century.

© Betty Cooper and David Martin (2017)

Heritage Market Celebrates 200 Years

tunstall marketHeritage tourism is big business. More than 4.7 million tourists visit Stoke-on-Trent each year.

Tunstall’s heritage market will be celebrating its 200th birthday on September 23rd, 2017.

Spotlight on Stoke believes that everyone who cares about Tunstall’s future should back the market’s bi-centennial celebrations and help to make them a success.

Tourists spend a lot of money when they visit a town.

The bi-centennial celebrations will put Tunstall on Stoke-on-Trent’s tourist trail and help to regenerate the town centre.

Share Your Memories of Tunstall Market

Tunstall Town HallDo you have memories of Tunstall Market and the town hall?

Did you work in the market or did you go shopping there with your mother when you were growing up? Can you remember the stalls that were there and the things they sold before the market was regenerated at the end of the 20th century?

Spotlight on Stoke is writing a booklet about the market and the town hall.

If you have memories or old photographs of the market or the town hall which you would be willing to share with us, please email David Martin at daymar727@talktalk.net

Burslem – Reflections on a town’s heritage

A Second World War Liberty Ship

Like all the towns in our area, Burslem has a proud heritage.

In the 18th century, its master potters brought the Industrial Revolution to North Staffordshire.

The old town hall is one of the finest examples of civic architecture erected by a local board of health.

Burslem born architect, Absalom Reade Wood designed the Woodhall Memorial Chapel, the Drill Hall, the Art School, the Wycliffe Institute, Moorland Road Schools, Longport Methodist Church and Middleport Pottery.

Created by local craftspersons, the Wedgwood Institute has a unique terracotta façade which is an inspiring tribute to the skills of the men and women who worked in the pottery industry.

During its long history, the Wedgwood Institute has housed several schools and colleges whose alumni have played a significant role on the world stage in the fields of literature, science and technology.

They include:

  • Oliver Lodge, the first principal of Birmingham University, who invented the spark plug and perfected radio telegraphy;
  • Arnold Bennett whose novels vividly described life in North Staffordshire and immortalised The Potteries;
  • Summers Hunter, one of the world’s leading maritime engineers, whose firm designed the engine that powered the Liberty Ships* which helped to keep the supply lines between Britain and North America open during the Second World War; and
  • Reginald Mitchell, the 20th century’s leading aircraft designer, who created the Spitfire which saved the world from Nazi domination.

*The photograph shows a Liberty Ship which was powered by a marine engine designed by Summers Hunter.

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.

« Older Entries Recent Entries »