Category Archives: North Staffordshire

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.)

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.

Tunstall Camera Club’s Exhibition

Did you know there was a Camera Club in Tunstall at the beginning of the 20th century?

Called the Tunstall and District Photographic Society, the club held a photographic exhibition and a social event in the courtroom at the town hall on the afternoon of Thursday, February 13th, 1902.

As well as photographs, the exhibition contained lantern slides taken by four members who had been awarded medals in a recent competition. During the afternoon the four (Mr Capey, Mr Critchlow, Mr Walley and Mr Webster) were presented with their medals.

Before the exhibition closed, members held a concert party and were entertained by the a group called the Victorian Glee Party.

Are heritage railways coming to the end of the line?

The dwindling supply of British coal may force many heritage railways to close. Stocks are low and will run out in two years.

An all-party Parliamentary group on heritage rail blames the government. It says government plans to invest in alternative fuels and ban traditional coal-fired power stations will make coal mining in the UK uneconomic.

Most of Britain’s 158 heritage railways are run by volunteers. Many railways can’t afford to buy foreign coal and will be forced to close.

Heritage railways are a vital part of Britain’s tourism industry. They attract about 13million visitors a year and bring in an income of more than £400million.

Spotlight on Biddulph Grange

Last week’s post on the Geological Gallery at Biddulph was, I hope, something of an insight in to the mindset of James Bateman its creator in the mid-19thc. Today’s is designed to look at the gardens he created there, partly because both he and his wife were passionate about plants but partly as a reinforcement of […]

via A Walk Around the World — The Gardens Trust

Spotlight on Biddulph Grange – Orchids, Ferns, Fossils and the Great Flood

biddulph-grange.jpeg

Biddulph Grange

We often hear that grand gardens cost money: it’s as true as the old cliché which says “money talks.” But there is a world of difference between a grand garden and a great one. Great gardens develop when that money meets vision, enthusiasm, knowledge – and a gardener. In the garden I’m going to talk about […]

To read more visit Orchids, Ferns, Fossils and the Great Flood — The Gardens Trust

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 Tunstall – The Victoria Institute Faces An Uncertain Future

Tunstall’s town centre is becoming more and more like a ghost town every day.

Spotlight on North Staffordshire would support a campaign by local people to prevent the city council “selling off” the Victoria Institute to a property developer when the library leaves the building and moves into the town hall which is now being regenerated after being closed for almost 30 years.

The proposal by at least one councillor that the Institute could be turned into luxury flats for high powered executives working in Manchester and Birmingham is ridiculous.

Local elections are being held in May, and the city’s political parties have already launched their campaigns to get your vote.

Even though it is non-political, Spotlight on North Staffordshire and The Potteries is concerned about the future of Tunstall, a town that reminded a group of American visitors of Skid Row in Los Angeles.

Before deciding to vote for a candidate, residents should ask all the candidates how they intend to halt the town centres decline.

Tunstall’s Technical Schools

Tunstall’s Technical Schools, which were housed in the Victoria Institute in Station Road (The Boulevard), opened in November 1890.

Subjects taught by the schools included Art, Science and General Subjects.

Most students attending classes at the schools worked during the day in industry or commerce and gave up their evenings to study for vocational qualifications.

The schools’ academic year started in September, and there were four ten-week terms, Students were given a week’s holiday at Christmas, another week at either Easter or Whitsun and a “long vacation” lasting two months during July and August. To ensure that students attended classes regularly during term time a register of attendance was kept which could be viewed by their parents or guardians and by their employers.

Tunstall’s Technical Schools entered their students for examinations set by the Board of Education. Students who passed were awarded certificates and the ones who gained the highest marks were given gold, silver or bronze medals.

Students who wanted to continue with their studies and become industrial designers or art teachers could apply for scholarships tenable at the Royal College of Art in London.

Speaking at Tunstall Technical Schools’ annual prizegiving ceremony in 1899, Staffordshire County Council’s director of technical education, Thomas Turner, said that North Staffordshire, like other leading industrial areas, should have its own University College.

The local newspaper, The Sentinel, supported Turner’s call for a University College to be established in North Staffordshire and asked one of the area’s leading educationalists to write about the scheme.

Published on May 27, 1899, the article that was written by an unnamed contributor said technical schools in The Potteries were too small to run scientific or academic courses for boys and girls who had been educated to matriculation standard.

To overcome this problem, the writer suggested creating a North Staffordshire College where students could read for degrees in academic subjects and receive degree level vocational training in engineering, ceramic technology, mining or metallurgy.

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