Category Archives: Stoke-on-Trent

Spotlight on Burslem – Woolworths

17-19 St John’s Square, Burslem, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire ST6 3AN Woolworths opened in Burslem in September 1929 in a purpose-built two-storey building. According to the book Burslem Through Time by Mervyn Edwards, the first store manager was L.H. Hewitt. This branch of Woolworths stocked a range of locally manufactured china and pottery items. Source: […]

To read more visit Burslem – Store 371 — Woolies Buildings – Then and Now

Spotlight on the Staffordshire Hoard

Staffordshire Hoard (2)

Yes, I was one of those nutters who queued for almost 5 hours outside of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery around 10 years ago to see the Staffordshire Hoard soon after its discovery, and since then I’ve seen the display of elements of the hoard at Lichfield Cathedral. However, I haven’t visited Birmingham Museum since, nor […]

To read more visit The Staffordshire Hoard, Explored — Archaeo𝔡𝔢𝔞𝔱𝔥

Spotlight on Crime and Punishment – The Stocks

1515356

On October 6th, 1680, Tunstall Court Leet ordered the High Constable of the Manor of Tunstall to repair the stocks in Burslem within six weeks or pay a penalty of six shillings and eight pence.

From Anglo-Saxon times until the middle of the 19th century, the stocks were used to punish minor offences.

The Stocks were designed to humiliate and degrade petty criminals by putting them on display in a public place where members of the public could impose their own punishments on them.

Stocks were erected on village greens, in market squares and at crossroads. Most were made of wood, although a few were made of iron. Offenders sat on a wooden bench with their ankles placed through holes in moveable boards. How long a person spent in the stocks depended on the gravity of the offence. Some were there for a few hours. Others were put in them for two or three days and fed on bread and water.

In 1350, the Second Statute of Labourers compelled every town and village to erect stocks in a public place.

Having its own set of stocks conferred status on small communities. A settlement that was too small to have a set was regarded as a hamlet and could not call itself a village.

Men and women in the stocks were a source of entertainment for the crowds that flocked to see them punished.

Members of the public could whip offenders until their backs were bloody and throw stones, broken pottery, dead dogs and cats, rotten fruit, bad eggs, mud and excrement at them.

Dishonest shopkeepers, innkeepers and market traders were put in the stocks.

Housewives poured the contents of chamber pots over the heads of traders who had given them “short weight.” Butchers who had sold rotten beef, lamb, pork or poultry had maggot-infested meat placed at their feet. Fishmongers who sold fish that had passed its sell-by date sat in the stocks with stinking fish hung around their necks. Customers who had been sold watered down beer by innkeepers and alewives poured jugs of stale ale over them.

Towards the end of the middle ages gangs of rogues and vagabonds made their way from town to town begging, robbing and stealing everywhere they went. To deal with these rogues and vagabonds the government brought in new laws with draconian penalties for those who infringed them.

In 1388 an Act of Parliament (12 Rich. 2) was passed making it illegal for labourers to give up their jobs and leave the hundred where they lived without the King’s permission. The statute gave borough mayors, manor stewards and town constables authority to put labourers who had run away from their employers in the stocks until they found sureties who guaranteed that they would go home and return to work.

A statute, passed during the reign of Henry VII, allowed constables to place vagrants in the stocks.

Passed in1494, the Vagabonds and Beggars Act gave the courts power to put “vagabonds, idle and suspected persons” in the stocks for three days and three nights

Under the provisions of a statute (22 Hen 8, c. 12) passed in 1530, magistrates could give “the impotent poor” permission to beg at specified places in the town or village where they lived. If they were found begging anywhere else, they were put in the stocks for two days and nights.

During 1605 a new law made the punishment for getting drunk six hours in the stocks and the penalty for being a drunkard four hours in the stocks or a fine of three shillings. Shortly afterwards, Parliament made the punishment for swearing one hour in the stocks or a fine of one shilling.

Spotlight on Stafford – John Garrett, the first Superintendent of Stafford Asylum

stafford asylum

Stafford Asylum

Staffordshire's Asylums

Finding the right staff to supervise the new asylum was a
major task in 1818. After some debate, 28 year old John Garrett was appointed Superintendent
(full title House Surgeon, Apothecary & Superintendent). He had worked at
Bethlem Hospital, and so was not new to asylums. Another applicant was James
Bakewell, whose brother Thomas was a vociferous opponent of the new county
asylum, and who ran Spring Vale asylum at Tittensor. Edward Knight was
appointed physician to work alongside Garrett.

John Garrett was a qualified surgeon and remained in post
until 1841. He managed the asylum and reported annually to a committee of three
trustees and twelve visiting justices. In the asylum’s early days, John Garrett
fought back against Thomas Bakewell’s anti-Stafford campaign, which went on
into the 1820s. Garrett dismissed Bakewell’s claims that the asylum would be
viewed by the mentally ill and others alike as ‘an object of…

View original post 622 more words

Spotlight on Burslem – Molly Leigh

A poem dedicated to Molly Leigh: 

There dwelt as persons now alive depose,

Though death must soon their testimony close,

A maiden woman, born of gen’rous race,

But like a fury both in mind and face.

When at school instead of learning truth,

A wizard tutor practis’d on her youth;

Vile gains by arts unholy she acquired,

For none did dare withhold what she desired.

Her neighbours of her spells all stood in awe,

And made her every wish their bounden law;

Thus liv’d the creature, whether fiend or woman,

Till death in clemency saw fit to summon.

So when the Christian rites were duly paid,

The body in the churchyard pit was laid;

And back the cheerful mourners hied, intent

To share the feast bespoke before they went.

But who can the dire consternation paint,

Which seized the party, and made all grow faint;

For as the threshold door they pass’d,

Her apparition struck them quite aghast.

She whom but now to the calm grave they took,

Returned before them to the chimney nook;

All ghastly pale, but unconcerned was sitting,

Employed in her accustomed task of knitting.

Spotlight found this poem about Molly Leigh, the “Burslem Witch”, in Romance of Staffordshire by Henry Wedgwood published in 1877.

NEWS DESK: MPs want the government to save our banks

An influential committee of MPs has called on the government to save Britain’s high street banks. Members of the Treasury Committee have said that face to face banking must be preserved to prevent large sections of the community being cut off from vital financial services.

The committee wants banks to consider sharing premises and to operate mobile branches to meet the needs of customers throughout the country.

Many small towns and villages have already lost their banks, and the committee calls on the government to force banks to continue to provide face to face banking facilities service for their customers.

Britain’s banks seem determined to force all their customers to bank online. The demise of the high street bank has been dramatic. In 1988 there were 20,583 high street banks. By 2017 the number had fallen to 9,690.

Unless the government takes action and forces the banks to provide local services for local people, many more high street shops will close, and our town centres will become ghost towns.

Spotlight on The Potteries – Do You Remember Woolworths in Stoke?

6-8 Majestic Buildings, Campbell Place, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs Woolworths opened in Stoke-on-Trent in 1928. Two other Stoke-on-Trent stores already existed at Hanley and Longton. This third one opened at 6-8 Majestic Buildings, which we know thanks to Graham Soult‘s research. You can see the small store on the far right of this photo. The building on the far left […]

To read more visit Stoke-on-Trent – Store 324 — Woolies Buildings – Then and Now

Spotlight on The Potteries: Wedgwood and Women by Sophie Guiny

Catherine II Empress-of-Russia

Cathrine II Empress of Russia

In May 1759, 260 years ago this month, 29-year old Josiah Wedgwood founded his own pottery works.

Born in a family of potters in Burslem, Staffordshire, young Josiah was struck by smallpox and the resulting damage to his leg (which would eventually be amputated) left him unable to operate a potter’s wheel.

He turned his attention to design and experimentation with new clays and glazes, improving on known techniques and creating new styles and ceramics bodies, including the now iconic jasperware, which Wedgwood perfected around 1775. In both pursuits, women, including Cathrine II the Empress of Russia, played a critical role as patrons, artists and factory workers.

To read more visit: Artists, Workers and Tastemakers: Wedgwood and Women – a guest post by Sophie Guiny – All Things Georgian

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.

« Older Entries