Category Archives: Kidsgrove

Scenes From the Past – Balls Bank Methodist Church

balls-bank-methodist-church-kidsgrove
Balls Bank Methodist Church in Whitehill Road, Whitehill (Kidsgrove)

Spotlight on North Staffordshire is researching the history of Methodist Churches in Whitehill and The Rookery.

If you and your family worshipped at Balls Bank or attended Sunday school there please share your memories with us. Our email address is bettyatspotlight@outlook.com

Kidsgrove: The Legend of the Kidcrew Buggett

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the legend of the Kidsgrove Boggart was one of the best-known ghost stories in Staffordshire.

Known locally as the “Kidcrew Buggett”, the ghost lived in one of the two canal tunnels which took the Trent and Mersey Canal through Harecastle Hill between Kidsgrove and Chatterley.

People who claimed to have seen the boggart said it was a headless woman who wore a blood-stained white dress.

Although the boggart rarely left the tunnels, Kidsgrove miners and their families believed that when it was seen in Boathorse Lane, The Avenue or on the pit heaps overlooking Kidsgrove Bank “a tragedy was pending” at one of the collieries in the district.

Whenever a sighting of the boggart was reported, Kidsgrove prepared for news of a mining disaster.

The Story’s Origins

Writing about the Kidcrew Buggett in the City Times during the 1930s, a person who called himself the “Old Man of Mow” gave an account of the origin of the ghost story.

In this edited extract from his article, “The Old Man of Mow” says the legend began when a woman passenger on a canal-boat was murdered by a boatman in one of the tunnels.

Murder in the Harecastle Tunnel

“A few years before the railway was built in the 1840s, a Kidsgrove woman who wanted to travel to another part of the country had too much luggage to go by stagecoach.

“She decided to make the first part of her journey by canal-boat from Harecastle. Her luggage was her undoing. As soon as the boat entered the tunnel, the covetous boatman murdered her, cut off her head and buried her body at Gilbert’s Wharf (Gilbert’s Hole) where coal and ironstone were loaded into boats.

“When the woman was reported missing, the police traced her to the canal-boat. The boatman was arrested, tried for murder and executed.”

Before he died, the boatman admitted to killing the woman and told the police where they could find her body.

The “Old Man of Mow” ended his account of the murder by saying local people believed that the woman’s spirit haunted the place where she was killed.

Note: The Kidsgrove Boggart is sometimes called the Kitcrew Bugget.

The photograph shows the Kidsgrove end of the Harecastle Tunnels as they were in the 1950s.

A child murder in Kidsgrove

On Friday, July 31st, 1868, a 40-year-old furnaceman, William Hancock, stood in the dock at Stafford Assizes charged with the wilful murder of Mary Ann Whitehurst at Kidsgrove on June 10th, 1868.

The court heard that Mary, a little girl about ten years old, was the daughter of one of William’s neighbours.

On the evening of June 9th, she was playing with William’s children and obtained permission from her father to sleep at the accused’s house overnight.

Mary went to bed at about 9.30pm. In the early hours of the morning, the household was woken by William who being in a state of uncontrollable violence was shouting, cursing and attempting to attack his wife. Terror-stricken, William’s wife and children ran out of the house leaving Mary there.

William jumped out of his bedroom window into the street. Being unable to find his wife and children who had taken refuge with their next-door neighbour, William went back into the house where he saw Mary.

He caught hold of Mary and dragged her into the kitchen. He picked her up by the legs, held her upside down and battered her head on the kitchen floor until she was dead.

Medical evidence presented to the court showed that William was suffering from delirium tremens and did not know what he was doing when he killed Mary. The jury said he was insane and the judge ordered him to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Life was hard for Kidsgrove miners

During the first half of the 19th century, a coal miner’s life was hard. Wages were low. Men, women and children worked long hours in semi-darkness. The work was dangerous. Accidents were frequent. Human life was cheap, and colliery owners put profits before safety.

Half naked men and women worked together at the coalface mining coal and putting it into wagons. Young children were employed to open air doors on roadways leading from the coalface to the bottom of the mine shaft. They sat alone in the darkness and opened the air doors for boys and girls who were harnessed to wagons which they pulled along the roadway.

In the early 1840s, Samuel Scriven who was preparing a report on child labour for the government visited Kidsgrove. He interviewed several coal miners employed by colliery owner Thomas Kinnersley who lived in luxury at Clough Hall.

A Young Miner’s Working Conditions

Seventeen year old John Vickers who was interviewed by Mr Scriven said: 

“I have been working in the mines for about four years. Before that, I worked at a farm for about four years. My job is to attend at the pit’s mouth and haul away the coals that come up from the Delph. My wages are 11 shillings a week which I give to my mother. I am paid by the charter master. He gives me my wages in a public-house. I went to day school for a few months before going to work on a farm. Although I cannot read or write, I go to church pretty regularly. I start work at six in the morning and go home at about six {in the evening}. I am too tired to go to school in the evening. I would like to go if I could but, as I said before, I am always too tired.

“My father is dead. My mother keeps a dame school for young children. I have three sisters; two of them work in the silk factories at Congleton. The eldest is 18 years old. She earns five shillings and six pence a week. My other sister, who works in Congleton, is 14. She earns three shillings and six pence a week. My youngest sister goes to the National Day School at Mr Wade’s. 

“I have my first breakfast before I go to work and take my second breakfast to work with me. I go to dinner at twelve and have ‘tatees’ and bacon. I always take an hour for dinner and eat my second breakfast when I can. I never do any night work.”

The illustration shows a girl harnessed to a wagon in a coal mine.

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.

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)

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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.  

Focus on Kidsgrove: St. Saviour’s the heritage church demolished by the Church of England

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ST. SAVIOUR’S THE HISTORIC “TIN CHURCH” IN THE ROOKERY WHICH WAS DEMOLISHED BY THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN 2013

St. Saviour’s the historic tin church in The Rookery, near Kidsgrove, was demolished by the Church of England in 2013. Spotlight on Stoke has been asked to re-post the articles that our historical geographer Betty Cooper wrote about the church before it was demolished.

Spotlight has agreed to re-post Betty’s articles which will be posted on this site in March.

Betty Cooper and David Martin agree with the comments made by the Phoenix Trust when it heard that St. Saviour’s was going to be demolished. The Phoenix Trust said it was:

“A miners’ church, built by miners for miners, which helped to bring Christianity to an industrial village on the North Staffordshire Coalfield.

“One of the oldest tin churches in the world, its unique character and atmosphere were destroyed when the interior, shown in the photograph, was gutted.

“When St. Saviour’s is demolished North Staffordshire will lose a major heritage asset.

“An asset that could have been used to help create a heritage based tourist industry which would bring millions of pounds into our region and help to regenerate it.”

Photograph Copyright David Martin

Focus on Kidsgrove – The Kitcrew Bugget

Brindley's Harecastle Tunnel (Chatterley)

The Rev. Frederick George  Llewellin, the Vicar of Kidsgrove from 1922 until his death in 1941, wrote a book “The Lighter Side of a Parson’s Life” about his ministry in the town.

In this edited extract from the chapter which looks at the lives of the boat people who worked on the Trent & Mersey Canal, he tells the story of the Kitcrew Bugget – a ghost that haunts the Brindley Tunnel which runs under Harecastle Hill.

The Kitcrew Bugget 

“Lor, bless yer, lad, don’t yer know? Did yer never hear tell o’ it? Well, gaffer, years ago, in the very middle o’ the tunnel right atween Tunstall on the one side and Kitcrew (Kidsgrove) junction on the other, two men murdered a woman and threw her body inter the tunnel and because it wor a deed o’ violence and her life wor taken from her before it wor asked for, that there ‘oman have never lain quiet.

“But years ago as it wor, she’d appear, sometimes in the form o’ a white horse, sometimes like a female without a head, but whenever her comes, trouble’s sure to foller. Never wor there an accident at the collieries but the Kitcrew Bugget wor sure to come to tell o’ it. Somebody ‘ll die, or be murdered or drowned in the cut (canal) or coal mine when that there ghost appears.”

Note: The Kitcrew Bugget is sometimes called the Kidsgrove Boggart or the Kidcrew Buggett.

The photograph taken in 2012 shows the Chatterley entrance to the Brindley Tunnel – the home of the Kitcrew Bugget

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