Stoke-on-Trent is proud of its heritage

A Mark IX Spitfire

Reginald Mitchell’s Spitfire 

People from Stoke-on-Trent are proud of their city’s heritage.

History records the achievements of men and women from our city and tells us the role they played on the world stage.

Stoke-on-Trent’s city council was one of the pioneers of comprehensive education. It defied both Conservative and Labour governments and replaced grammar and secondary modern schools with neighbourhood comprehensive schools and a sixth form college.

Local art schools, technical schools and colleges of further education were progressive centres of excellence. Reginald Mitchell, who designed the Spitfire, turned down a place at Birmingham University. He wanted to serve an apprenticeship with a firm in Fenton and to study engineering at technical schools in the city.

By the beginning of the 1930s, the North Staffordshire Technical College was a university in everything but name. The college had an international reputation and attracted overseas students. It possessed the world’s leading ceramic research centre and had Europe’s best mining school.

There are those who say the past is dead. They are wrong. The past lives in our collective memory. It makes us what we are today. Stoke-on-Trent has a proud heritage – a heritage which must not be forgotten. A city that forgets its past is a city without a future.

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

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

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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

Spotlight on Stafford – Do You Remember Woolworths?

Woolies Buildings - Then and Now

18 Market Square, Stafford

Woolworths opened their 320th store  in Stafford on 23rd June 1928. It was at 18 Market Square, in a building full of character. You can see the store on the right here, next to the building works.

Stafford Woolworths 1934 Stafford Woolworths 1934

Source: Staffordshire Past Track

In 1962, it was intended for Woolworths to move to a bigger purpose-built store at Gaolgate Street and for the Market Square store to close. (Source: Soult’s Retail View)

The store number of 320 was transferred to the new store. But for some reason Woolworths decided to keep the old store open. With the store number given to the new branch, the Market Square store had to be assigned a new number, and that was store number 1067. You can see the original store open in this 1972 photo.

Stafford Woolworths (Market Square) 1972

Stafford Woolworths (Market Square) 1972

Source: Stoke on Trent Live

The Market…

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Spotlight on Newcastle-under-Lyme: Do You Remember Woolworths?

96 High Street (formerly Penkhull Street), Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs ST5 1QF The 300th Woolworths store opened in 1928 on Penkhull Street in a timber-framed building. At some point Penkhull Street was renamed ‘High Street’. Source: BBC After WW2 the ‘3d and 6d’ was dropped from the fascia so it read ‘F. W. Woolworth’. Source: Age […]

via Newcastle-under-Lyme – Store 300 — Woolies Buildings – Then and Now

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.

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