Category Archives: Longton

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.

NewsDesk – Burslem has become a ghost town

According to research by the Local Data Company, a third of the shops in Burslem’s run-down town centre are unoccupied.

Shops and banks have moved out. Nothing has come in to replace them.

Some shops have been empty for over five years, and one resident claims that there isn’t even a greengrocer’s shop where a customer can buy an apple. Very few people shop in Burslem. The town has nothing to offer them.

Many buildings in Market Place and Queen Street are abandoned and derelict. Their windows are broken. Willowherb and buddleias grow out of the guttering and weeds of all kinds have made their home in cracks in the brickwork.

June Cartwright the founder of Our Burslem, a group campaigning to regenerate Burslem, is trying to persuade Stoke-on-Trent City Council to open a street market which she believes will ease the town’s reliance on traditional high street shops.

Burslem is not the only town in The Potteries which has been abandoned by both shopkeepers and customers. Although Longton seems relatively busy, very few people shop in Fenton and Stoke which, like Burslem, have become ghost towns.

Making space for the Wedding Present at Gladstone

Celebrating the Hardworking History of English Ceramics

Pottery and ceramics are enjoying a revival in England. It’s early days, and it’s patchy, but there are some gloriously green shoots of renewal, investment, and public support. A visit to the Staffordshire Potteries opens up the history of this important industry and demonstrates why it thoroughly deserves a resurgence. And this year is the ideal time to visit, as they are marking 40 years since the last giant bottle oven was fired…

via Celebrating the Hardworking History of English Ceramics — The Vale Magazine

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.

Camera in the City – Longton

Sutherland Institute

Athena

This photograph shows part of the tawny terracotta frieze above the main entrance to the Sutherland Institute in Lightwood Road, Longton.

Attributed to sculptor Charles Vyse, the frieze depicts Athena, the Greek goddess of culture, education, industry and commerce, with a child at her feet and two workmen presenting her with the fruits of their labour.

Photograph Copyright – The Phoenix Trust 2013

The Potteries in 1795 (Part Four)

In parts one two and three of our edited extracts from Aikin’s “A Description of the Country From Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester” we saw what Goldenhill, Newfield, Greenfield, Tunstall, Longport, Burslem, Cobridge, Etruria, Hanley and Shelton were like during the last decade of the 18th century. Part Four, the last article in the series describes Stoke, Fenton and Longton in 1795.

STOKE

Stoke is a parish-town with a large, ancient, well-endowed church which has several chapels and churches under it. The town, like most other parts of The Pottery, has improved much since the Trent & Mersey Canal was cut. It contains some handsome buildings and from its closeness to a wharf on the canal is well situated for trade. There are many earthenware manufacturers some of whom own large factories. At this place, a gentleman by the name of Spode used the first steam engine to grind flint. The river Trent passes here, at times with rapidity although the brick arches which carry the canal over the river do not seem to have sustained much damage. J. Whieldon, Esq. has a pleasant rural residence here. A new road has lately been made from Stoke to join the main London Road between Newcastle and Trentham.

FENTON AND LONGTON

Fenton and Longton conclude the pottery beyond Stoke. Longton is much larger than Fenton. Part of Stoke parish it has a church, a Methodist Chapel and meeting houses for dissenters. These towns, particularly Longton, manufacture large quantities of earthenware; but it is said to be with less attention than in the other parts of the pottery, consequently, it is of inferior quality although there are a few factories whose ware is second to none. At Fenton, there is the residence of Charles Smith, Esq. and Sir John Edensor Heathcote lives at Longton Hall.

Some earthenware is also manufactured at Newchapel, Wolstanton, Red Street, Newcastle, Norton and a few other places.

The Potteries in 1795 (Part Four) – Edited by Betty Cooper

The Potteries in 1795 (Part One)

In 1795, Dr J. Aikin published “A Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester”. This book describes Newcastle and The Potteries as they were at the end of the 18th century. During the next few weeks, we shall be publishing a series of edited extracts from Dr Aikin’s book. The first extracts look at Goldenhill, Newfield, Greenfield, Tunstall and Longport. Later extracts will describe Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Longton and Fenton.

INTRODUCTION

About a mile from the borders of Cheshire, the Staffordshire Potteries commence at a village called Goldenhill, from whence to the other extremity of the pottery at Lane End (Longton), is something more than seven miles; a considerable part of which, by joining together, strikes the traveller as but one town, although under different names. The manufacturing of pottery wares is, the general and nearly sole business of this extensive and very populous area; and from the great increase in the number of inhabitants and houses in the last twenty years (it is assumed that for every inhabitant and house then, there are three now) in all probability, the various towns and villages of Goldenhill, Newfield, Smithfield (Greenfield), Tunstall, Longport, Burslem, Cobridge, Etruria, Hanley, Shelton, Stoke, Fenton and Longton will before long be so intermixed with buildings, as to form only one town with one name. People living a short distance away, already call them The Pottery.

THE VILLAGE OF GOLDENHILL

One should suppose this from its name to be a large and even splendid place, but on comparison, it is found to be the least so of any in The Pottery; however, its valuable mines of coal make ample amends for its other deficiencies, and from those mines, the name was given it. At the upper end of this village is Green Lane, which commands a most unbounded and beautiful prospect. On one side the greatest part of Cheshire shows itself with the Welsh Hills in the distance; and on the other, a complete and the best general view of The Pottery and the country beyond it.

NEWFIELD

Is well fitted for manufacturing purposes, having plenty of coal in its neighbourhood; but as the place belongs wholly to one individual, Admiral Smith Child, Esq. who has a handsome residence there, it is probable that he will not suffer himself to be inconvenienced by a consequence inevitable where there are a number of factories making earthenware together, the nuisance of the smoke and sulphur arising from them. It is therefore supposed that the number of factories will not be speedily increased here.

SMITHFIELD (GREENFIELD)

The situation of this place, in point of convenience for manufacturing earthenware, is not exceeded in The Pottery. It has several strata of coal and coarse clay, which the potters use much of close to its factories; but belonging solely to Theophilus Smith, Esq. this circumstance will doubtless prevent the erection of more works. The views it commands are very beautiful and extensive.

TUNSTALL

Tunstall including its environs is the pleasantest village in The Pottery. It stands on high ground and commands pleasing views. The manufacturers in it are respectable and do considerable business. There formerly was a church here, and various human bones have been dug up; but such is the effect of time, that not the least trace of either the one or the other remains now. A neat chapel has been lately built here. There are a considerable number of brick and tile works here, the clay being of a superior kind for such articles, so that with good management the tiles made from it are as blue, and look as well on the roof of a house as moderate slate. This place is four miles from Newcastle, and nine from Congleton, standing on the turnpike road from Lawton to Newcastle; another turnpike road also commences here and ends at Bosley in Cheshire.

LONGPORT

Longport situated in a valley between Burslem and Newcastle; has some good buildings in it and several large factories; but its situation thereby is rendered at times disagreeable, if not unwholesome, by the smoke hanging over it longer than if it was on higher ground. The Trent & Mersey Canal passes through Longport where there is a public wharf. This place was formerly called Longbridge, from a kind of bridge that ran about 100 yards (91.44 metres) parallel with a stream; on the completion of the canal, there was a rapid increase in buildings and businesses and about 20 years ago the inhabitants changed its name to Longport.

The Potteries in 1795 (Part One) – Edited by Betty Cooper 2010

To be continued