Tag Archives: Longport

Focus on Burslem: John Ward (1781-1871)

St. Paul's Church, Burslem (640x409)John Ward, the author of “The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent” published in 1843, was born at Slawston in Leicestershire on June 22nd, 1781.

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

When our roads were the worst in Europe

Tunstall Court Leet

An Artist’s Impression of the Courthouse in Tunstall

During the Middle Ages, the Hundred Courts and the Court Leets were responsible for repairing roads and bridges.

When feudalism ended in the 16th century, the duty to maintain highways was taken from the courts and given to local parishes.

In 1555, a Statute for Mending Highways ordered parishioners to elect two honest men to serve as highway surveyors. The surveyors, who were unpaid, held office for a year. They were usually small farmers, local traders or innkeepers who knew nothing about road making or bridge building.

A few years later, Parliament gave the surveyors authority to collect stones and dig for gravel on land adjacent to the highway provided that the holes they dug were filled in afterwards.

Surveyors who forgot to fill the holes were prosecuted. During 1667, two highway surveyors, Joseph Delves and Thomas Ratcliffe, who had failed to fill a hole they had dug at Chell were brought before Tunstall Court Leet and told to fill it in before the court’s next sitting or pay a penalty of five shillings.

The territory over which Tunstall Court Leet had criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction covered parts of the parishes of Wolstanton and Stoke-upon-Trent.

Neither parish accepted responsibility for highway maintenance in areas that came under the court’s jurisdiction. In 1624, when the longbridge, which carried the road from Burslem to Newcastle-under-Lyme over the Fowlea Brook at Longport, needed repairing the Court Leet asked the County Quarter Sessions for financial help. Quarter Sessions gave a grant of £20 towards the cost. A few years later, in 1636 the Court Leet ordered the inhabitants of Sneyd and Tunstall to repair the road between Little Chell and Furlong Road or pay a forfeit of ten shillings each.

Although the Statute of Labour passed in 1586 compelled householders, cottagers and labourers living in a parish to spend six days a year repairing the roads, by the end of the 17th century England’s roads were the worst in Europe.

Like most roads throughout the country, those in North Staffordshire were deep rutted, waterlogged lanes. A new system of maintenance was needed, and turnpike trusts were created.

Turnpike trusts were commercial enterprises. They repaired stretches of road and charged travellers fees which were called tolls. The first road to be turnpiked in Staffordshire was an eight-mile stretch of the London to Carlisle road between Tittensor and Talke.

Copyright David Martin – The Phoenix Trust 2013

Note: The courthouse which was demolished in the latter part of the 19th century stood in Oldcourt Street.

PH/DM