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Not many students and staff who attend Staffordshire University’s award ceremonies on the Trentham Estate know that Trentham Hall could have been home to a leading Russell Group university like Manchester or Birmingham.
On February 12th, 1890, Francis Elliot Kitchener, the headmaster of Newcastle High School, attended the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner at the North Stafford Hotel.
While proposing the toast to “the staple trades of Staffordshire”, he suggested establishing a University College in Hanley which specialised in chemistry and engineering. Both the Sentinel and Thomas Turner (Staffordshire County Council’s director of technical education) supported the idea.
However, nothing was done until 1900 when a Council for the Extension of Higher Education in North Staffordshire was set up to help finance Oxford University’s Extension Courses in the district.
Taking up Kitchener’s idea, the council launched a public appeal to build a North Staffordshire College in The Potteries.
The proposed college, which would have had University status, was going to run full and part-time degree courses, train teachers and provide vocational training for men and women working in industry and commerce.
Although the estimated cost of the college was £20,000, there was widespread support for the project.
By the end of 1904 pottery manufacturers, colliery owners, professional bodies and local town councils had promised to give between £10,000 and £11,000 towards the cost.
Staffordshire County Council offered to give £12,500 if matching funding could be raised. The Council for the Extension of Higher Education in North Staffordshire made plans to launch a final appeal. Before it could be launched, the Duke of Sutherland stepped in and offered to give Trentham Hall to the county council if it agreed to establish the college there.
Believing it had achieved its objective, the Council for the Extension of Higher Education disbanded, and the county council made plans to transform the hall into a regional college.
While these plans were being made, a campaign to reform local government in The Potteries by replacing its six local authorities with a county borough council was gaining momentum.
Realising change was inevitable and that responsibility for education would be taken from it and given to the new county borough, Staffordshire County Council withdrew its support for the North Staffordshire College.
Hanley, which was already a county borough, refused to take over the project and the county council erected temporary buildings to house a mining school and a pottery school on land near Stoke Station.
At the end of the First World War, another attempt to give North Staffordshire a University College failed.
The mining school and the pottery school became the Central School of Science and Technology, one of the technical schools in The Potteries from which Staffordshire University can trace its descent.
Tunstall’s heritage market celebrated its bicentenary on September 20, 2017.
In 1816, Tunstall’s chief constable, pottery manufacturer John Henry Clive, founded a company to build a Magistrates’ Courthouse and create a Market Place.
The company leased three-quarters of an acre of sloping ground called Stoney Croft from Walter Sneyd, the Lord of the Manor. It built a courthouse and laid out a market place, which later became Tower Square, on the site.
A two-storey stone building, the courthouse had a fire station with two fire engines and a market hall on the ground floor where eggs, butter, milk and cheese were sold when the market opened. The building faced eastwards. It was erected about half way up the slope. Steps led from the lower part of the Market Place, where stalls were set up on market day, to the market hall’s main entrance.
Beneath the market hall was the town lock up – a dark, foul-smelling dungeon where prisoners were held while awaiting trial. The stocks stood at the foot of the steps leading to the market hall. Six hours in the stocks or a fine of five shillings was the usual penalty for being drunk and disorderly.
The company placed an advertisement in the Staffordshire Advertiser on September 13, 1817, which read: “Notice is hereby given that henceforward a market will be held at Tunstall, in the Potteries, weekly on Saturdays in front of the Court-House. The first to be on Saturday, 20 September. Stalls and standings free.”
Tunstall Market was both a retail market and a wholesale market. Retailers sold fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, poultry and salt. Horse-drawn waggons brought dairy produce, fruit and vegetables to the wholesale market which attracted retailers from Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Longton and Fenton.
An Act of Parliament passed in 1840 created the Tunstall Market Company to manage the market. In 1847, the company sold the market for £6,500 to the town’s Improvement Commissioners. Shortly afterwards, the commissioners allowed dealers to sell hay and straw there. In 1855, the Improvement Commissioners were replaced by a Board of Health. The Board of Health managed the market until 1894 when Boards of Health were abolished, and Urban District Councils were created to replace them. Tunstall Urban District Council ran the market until 1910 when the “six towns amalgamated” to form the County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent.
John who became one of North Staffordshire’s leading lawyers served his articles with an attorney in Cheadle.
Qualifying in 1808, he moved to Burslem and set up his own practice.
At the time, Britain and her allies were at war with France. Napoleon’s army had defeated the Prussians. English troops, commanded by the Duke of Wellington, were fighting a rearguard action in Portugal and John joined the Longport Volunteers, a unit formed to help defend The Potteries if the French invaded.
In 1811, John married Anne Rice from Ashby-de-la-Zouch. They had one son, William, who died of pleurisy in 1847.
An able lawyer, he quickly established an extensive practice and acted for leading industrialists and large landowners including Admiral Smith Child and his grandson Sir Smith Child. Like all successful lawyers, John made enemies. Burslem pottery manufacturer Enoch Wood accused him of professional misconduct. John sued for defamation and Wood was ordered to pay him £100 damages.
A devout Christian, John was churchwarden at St. Paul’s in Dalehall, a church he helped to build. Erected on land given by William Adams, the church was consecrated by Henry Ryder, the Bishop of Lichfield, on January 19th, 1831. Costing £2,000 the medieval Perpendicular style Hollington stone building was designed by London architect Lewis Vulliamy who also built Christ Church, Cobridge.
The Reform Act 1832 made Stoke-upon-Trent a Parliamentary Borough giving it two Members of Parliament. Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Longton and Fenton were included in the constituency.
In 1837, local historian Simeon Shaw, using John’s archives, began writing “The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent” which he hoped to publish in monthly instalments.
Rewritten and edited by John, the first eight parts were printed under Shaw’s name. A financial dispute arose between Shaw and his publishers. They refused to publish any more instalments until John agreed to take over the series and complete the work. He wrote the last 12 parts, and all the instalments were made into a book called “The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent”. John was acknowledged as the author, but all profits from its sales were given to Shaw.
Politically a Conservative, John was one of Burslem’s improvement commissioners who were responsible for providing street lighting and policing. The town’s market trustees made him their clerk. He arranged for them to buy land in the town centre where they erected a meat market. Opened on October 1st, 1836 the market hall was a Romanesque-style stone building designed by architect Samuel Ledward.
Large-scale riots took place in Staffordshire during August 1842. Armed troops were used to maintain law and order. Men and women who had been arrested were taken to Stafford Gaol. The Crown employed John to help prosecute them. They were tried by Special Commissioners, who were High Court judges, sitting at Stafford.
John remained in practice until he died at his home, Furlong House in Burslem, on June 3rd, 1870. He was 89 years old. His funeral took place at St. Paul’s, Dalehall and he was buried in the churchyard.
Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust, September 2010
A local politician and a Methodist lay preacher, Spencer Lawton was born in Hanley during the 1820s.
A commission agent in the pottery industry, he moved to Burslem and became a member of the board of health which governed the town until 1878 when Queen Victoria made it a borough.
Spencer successfully stood for the borough council and was the councillor for south ward until he became an alderman.
An astute businessman, Spencer was appointed the chairman of the finance committee. Seeing himself as the ratepayers’ watchdog, he used his position to curtail unnecessary local government expenditure.
Elected mayor for 1886-87, Spencer was in office when Burslem celebrated Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Becoming mayor again in 1893, he opened Burslem Park on August 30th, 1894.
Burslem Park was one of the first parks designed by the world’s leading landscape architect Thomas Mawson. It cost £14,000 and was laid out by unemployed pottery workers on derelict land between Moorland Road and Hamil Road.
Supervised by Mawson, the men cleared the site removing colliery waste and shards. Horse-drawn wagons brought more than 70,000 loads of topsoil to cover the ground. An old pit mound was landscaped, and a waterfall was created. The men constructed an artificial lake and built an Elizabethan style half-timbered lodge for the park superintendent.
Local industrialists gave seats and helped pay for the children’s playground.
The Wilkinson family gave two terracotta fountains which were made at Doulton’s Rowley Regis factory. They were placed on the terrace where a bandstand and a pavilion had been erected.
The pavilion was a two-storey building that overlooked the park. It contained a buffet, a reception room and reading rooms for ladies and gentlemen.
Spencer gave the wrought iron gates at the park’s main entrance in Moorland Road where there were two drinking fountains one of which is shown in the photograph.
A man with few interests outside work and politics, Spencer was a devout Christian who worshipped at Swan Bank Methodist Church where he became a lay reader. He held bible classes in the evenings and on Sundays travelled to chapels in outlying villages to take services. Shortly before his death, he gave the church a stained glass window.
Spencer died of a heart attack on August 17th, 1901 at his home Elm House in Waterloo Road, Cobridge. He was 73 years old. After a civic funeral, in Swan Bank Methodist Church, his body was buried in Burslem Cemetery.
Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2012
Photograph of the drinking fountain Copyright David Martin – The Phoenix Trust 2012