Tag Archives: Staffordshire Moorlands

Tunstall – An Anglo Saxon Village

Anglo-Saxon Village

An Artist’s Impression of an Anglo-Saxon Settlement

Tunstall is one of the oldest towns in The Potteries.

The town’s “Old English” name indicates that it dates from the late 6th or the early 7th century.

“Old English” place names are descriptive. They describe the settlement and tell us the main occupation of the people who lived there. The word “Tun” means an enclosed farmstead, hamlet or village, and “Stall” is derived from the “Old English” word “Steall” which means a place with pens or sheds where cattle were kept for fattening.

Anglo-Saxon Tunstall was built on a sandstone ridge overlooking the Chatterley Valley near the spot where Green Lane (Oldcourt Street and America Street) crossed the old drove road (Roundwell Street) from the Staffordshire Moorlands to Chester. Green Lane which ran from Leicester to Warrington was an important highway that linked the East Midlands with Merseyside. All traces of Anglo-Saxon Tunstall have disappeared although historians believe it was an enclosed settlement protected by a ditch and a wooden palisade.

Two old field names, Gods Croft and Church Field, which survived until the 19th century, support the local tradition that there was a church in Tunstall many centuries before the Wesleyan Methodists erected a church in America Street. Another old field named Cross Croft near where Madison Street joins America Street indicates that there could have been a wayside cross where markets were held. Calver Street, which runs between Forster Street and Oldcourt Street, takes its name from Calver Croft a place where there were cattle pens for calves born on the journey from the Staffordshire Moorlands to Chester.

Towards the end of the 11th or the beginning of the 12th century, Tunstall became part of Staffordshire’s New Forest.

Today when we think of a forest, we picture a place covered by trees. In medieval times a forest was a large tract of land where the King and his friends hunted for deer and other beasts of the field.

Staffordshire’s New Forest, which extended from Tixall in the south to Mow Cop in the north, may have been founded by William the Conqueror. The forest was not an area of continuous woodland. It was the King’s hunting ground which included:

  • woods and grassland
  • hills and moorland
  • towns, villages and hamlets
  • farmland, open fields and rough pasture.

The forest had its own laws designed to protect the beasts of the field and the vegetation they ate. Offenders against Forest Laws were brought before special courts. The penalties imposed by these courts were brutal and savage. For killing a beast of the field, a poacher could be sent to the gallows, have his eyes torn out or have his hand cut off.

Werrington Industrial School

Despite the harsh sentences imposed on young offenders, juvenile crime increased dramatically during the 1850s.

Neither birching nor imprisonment deterred. Realising that a new method of dealing with juveniles was needed, Parliament created residential industrial schools for boys and girls likely to become professional criminals. Magistrates’ Courts were given the power to send children under 12 who had committed criminal offences and young persons under 14 who were homeless or who had been found begging in the streets or who were beyond parental control to industrial schools where they received an elementary education and were given vocational training.

An industrial school for boys opened at Werrington, a village on the outskirts of The Potteries, in January 1870. Benjamin Horth was the superintendent, and his wife was the matron. Boys worked on the school farm or in a workshop where they made shoes. Farm produce and shoes were sold commercially, and the boys were paid wages. The money they earned was put into a savings account and given to them when they were released.

Discipline at Werrington was maintained by a system of rewards and punishment. The boys were divided into three divisions – first, second and third. Good conduct marks were given for good behaviour. After six months at the school, a boy was placed in the third division and given a farthing for every 12 marks awarded. Continued good behaviour enabled him to progress to the second division, where every 12 marks gained were worth a halfpenny. When promoted to the first division, boys received a penny for every 12 marks obtained. After they had been in the first division for six months, boys, who had not been punished for breaking school rules, were put in the merit class which entitled them to an extra 24 marks a month.

“Spare the rod and spoil the child” was the maxim of Victorian parents and teachers. Punishments at Werrington were just as severe as those imposed by the courts. A list giving details of the punishment a boy would receive if he misbehaved was displayed in the classroom. For the first offence of dishonesty or falsehood, he forfeited 18 good conduct marks and was given six strokes of the cane, for a second offence he lost 36 marks and received four strokes of the birch and for a third he lost 144 marks and was given 8 strokes of the birch.

Absconding was the most serious offence. The first time a boy absconded, he forfeited 36 marks and was given six strokes of the birch. Those who absconded a second time lost 72 marks and received eight strokes of the birch. Boys absconding a third time lost all the good conduct marks they had earned and were given 12 strokes of the birch.

Despite the severity of these punishments, less than 5% of the boys who had been sent to Werrington got into trouble with the police when they left at 16.