Tag Archives: Mechanics Institution

Robert Scrivener (1812-1878)

Mechanics InstituteRobert Scrivener, the architect who changed the face of Hanley, was born in Ipswich on March 29th, 1812.

In the late 1840s or early 1850s, Robert and his wife, Elizabeth, came to live in The Potteries. He established a practice in Shelton and quickly became one of North Staffordshire’s leading architects.

Robert and Elizabeth had eight children – four boys and four girls.

The Scriveners were members of the Methodist New Connexion. They worshipped at Bethesda Church in Hanley, where Robert was a Sunday school teacher. He played a major role in church affairs and was made a trustee of Bethesda Girls’ School. In 1856, he designed a new pulpit and a communion rail for the church.

Robert designed the new Mechanics Institution* in Pall Mall whose foundation stone was laid by the mayor, William Brownfield, on October 28th, 1859.

Towards the end of 1859, Robert regenerated Bethesda Church, replacing its old window panes with frosted glass, installing gas lighting and decorating the interior. He gave the front elevation in Albion Street a Classical facade with Corinthian columns and a Venetian window surmounted by a cornice.

When pottery manufacturer John Ridgway died in December 1860, the Methodist New Connexion in The Potteries lost its most generous benefactor. John who owned Cauldon Place Pottery in Shelton worshipped at Bethesda Church. He built a chapel for his employees and gave money to help build churches in Tunstall, Burslem and Fenton.

A radical local politician with progressive views, John refused a knighthood. He became Hanley’s first mayor when it was made a borough in 1857.

The Methodist New Connexion built a chapel to commemorate John’s life. Called the Ridgway Memorial Chapel, it was designed by Robert and erected in Havelock Place, Shelton. A white brick Gothic style building, the chapel cost £2,600. It was 60 feet long by 37 feet wide and had a tower with a spire 61 feet high.

Hanley’s finest building is the town hall in Albion Street. The building, which started life as the Queen’s Hotel, was designed by Robert. It cost over £20,000 and opened on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 1869.

Built to compete with the North Stafford Hotel, the Queen’s was a modified Italian Renaissance style building with white brick corners and Hollington stone dressings. Too far away from Stoke Station to attract visitors, the Queen’s never made a profit. The hotel closed and the borough council bought the premises for £10,800.

Workmen transformed the Queen’s into a town hall. They converted the commercial room into a council chamber and the smoke room became the town clerk’s office. The dining room became a Magistrates’ Court and the billiard room was made into a police station.

Robert died aged 67 on April 19th, 1878. He was buried in Bethesda churchyard.

*The illustration shows the Mechanics Institution in Pall Mall, Hanley, which has been demolished.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2013.

Alexander Scrivener (1852-1921)

Albert Square - Fenton

Albert Square, Fenton

Alexander Scrivener, the architect who designed Fenton town hall, was born in Shelton on April 19th, 1852.

His father, Robert, and his elder brother, Edward, were architects. During 1868, Robert and Edward went into partnership and formed Robert Scrivener and Son whose offices were in Howard Place, Shelton. The firm designed the Mechanics Institution in Pall Mall and the Queen’s Hotel in Albion Street which later became Hanley Town Hall.

Alexander was educated at Hanley Art School. He became an architect and joined the firm. When their father died in 1878, Edward and Alexander acquired the practice.

Alexander married Anne Twyford. They had five children. The family lived in Endon where they worshipped at the parish church.

Alexander’s hobbies were music and archaeology. He conducted the Endon Choral Society and was choirmaster at the parish church.

A member of the North Staffordshire Field Club, he took part in archaeological digs and led field trips to historic buildings. The club made him its president for the year 1895-96. He undertook historical research and wrote articles for its journal.  In 1904, the Field Club awarded him the Garner Medal for services to archaeology and made him its president again a year later. During 1914, he excavated Castle Hill, at Audley proving conclusively that the de Audley family had built a castle there in the Middle Ages.

Politically, the Scriveners were Conservatives. They designed Hanley’s Conservative Club in Trinity Street which opened on February 25th, 1878.

Edward and Alexander were astute businessmen who used their professional skill and expertise to make Robert Scrivener and Son the area’s leading architects.

Sanitary ware manufacturer, Thomas Twyford employed the firm to design his Cliffe Vale factory. The practice built churches and schools throughout The Potteries and designed The Sentinel’s office in Foundry Street, Hanley. It designed numerous buildings in the town including the Roman Catholic Church in Jasper Street, the Higher Grade Elementary School, the Freemasons Hall in Cheapside and the telephone exchange in Marsh Street.

The buildings in Fenton which the firm designed included Queen Street Board Schools, the Cemetery Chapels and the Temperance Coffee Tavern in City Road. It built shops and offices in Christchurch Street, laid out Albert Square and designed the town hall.

Alexander designed St. Paul’s Church in Victoria Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme whose foundation Stone was laid by Sir Lovelace Stamer, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, on June 15th, 1905. Edward died while the church was being constructed and Alexander became the senior partner in the firm.

Consecrated by the Bishop of Lichfield in 1908, St. Paul’s was built of stone. A perpendicular style building, the church cost almost £700. The building, which could accommodate over 500 worshippers, had an octagonal spire. It had central heating and was lit by gas lights.

Alexander remained in practice until his death. Taken ill suddenly, he died aged 69 on December 17th, 1921 and was buried in Endon churchyard.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2013