Tag Archives: Tunstall Market

J. B. Priestley visits Tunstall

An Artist’s Impression of Adams’ Greengates Factory in the 18th Century

Writer and broadcaster, John Boynton Priestley made his first visit to The Potteries in 1933 when he was writing English Journey, a personalised semi-documentary account of life in England.

A well built, good-natured, plain speaking, pipe smoking Yorkshireman, he visited towns and cities throughout the country collecting materials for his book.

Meandering northwards from Southampton, John made his way to The Potteries where he visited two 18th century potbanks – Adams in Tunstall and Wedgwood at Etruria.

John was surprised to hear the foreman at Adams call the workers “ladies and gentlemen” instead of “men and women”. He saw them making and decorating cups and saucers, teapots, butter dishes, dinnerware and tea services.

The “ladies and gentlemen” took pride in their work. John admired their skill and craftsmanship but was critical of the firm’s traditional designs that were not selling well in overseas markets.

Before leaving the factory, John unsuccessfully attempted to throw a large plate on a potter’s wheel. He could not control the wheel’s speed, and the plate kept spinning off it.

Unwilling to admit defeat, John decided to try again when he went to Wedgwood where he persuaded the company to let him throw a vase.

John’s skills as a potter were limited, and amused workers watched his futile attempts to shape the clay. Realising he did not have the ability to make a vase, John spent all afternoon trying to create a bowl. One disaster followed another. Eventually, he managed to produce something resembling a bowl which could be used as an ashtray.

Did you know that Adams had two potbanks in Tunstall? The one called Greengates was near Christ Church. The other called Greenfield was in Furlong Road. Both factories were demolished many years ago.

If you have memories of these factories or photographs of them and the ware they made that you would like to share with people living in Tunstall, please email David Martin at daymar727@talktalk.net or visit Memory Lane in Tunstall Market on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

BC/DM (2018)

Tunstall’s Town Hall and Market


Tunstall Town Hall

Tunstall’s heritage market was 200 years old 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 halfway 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 that was published 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.

A New Market Hall

In 1856, the Board of Health decided to build a new market hall and turn the courthouse into a town hall. George Thomas Robinson, the architect who designed Burslem’s Old Town Hall, was commissioned to transform the courthouse into a town hall and to build a new market hall.

Robinson enlarged the courthouse giving it a circular front where the steps had been. He redesigned the courtroom and turned the market hall into a boardroom and offices for the Board of Health.

Constructed on a half acre site opposite the Market Place in High Street, the new Market Hall cost £7,651.

The Market Hall was opened by Thomas Peake, the Chief Bailiff and Chairman of the Board of Health, on December 2, 1858. In the evening a concert was held in the Market Hall. At 9.00 pm there was a firework display in the Market Place which was followed by a ball in the Market Hall.

Trading commenced there two days later on December 4, 1858, when the retail market which sold:

  • Dairy produce
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Meat, fish, poultry, game and rabbits
  • Manufactured goods and household utensils

left the Market Place and moved into the building.

The wholesale market that sold:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Fruit trees and bushes
  • Garden plants, seeds and shrubs
  • Hay and straw

remained in the Market Place which later became known as Market Square.

A New Town Hall

Although the courthouse had been enlarged and made into a town hall, the building was too small to meet the administrative needs of an expanding industrial town.

At the beginning of the 1880s, the front portion of the Market Hall and the main entrance in High Street, which had been built on the spring line that marks the geological boundary between Etruria Marl and the Blackband series of coal and ironstone measures, was collapsing due to subsidence. The Board of Health decided to reduce the size of the Market Hall by a third. The front part of the building was demolished and a new town hall was erected on the site. Designed by Absalom Reade Wood who was one of North Staffordshire’s leading architects, the town hall is a free “Renaissance Style” building that stands on a rusticated stone base. It was opened by John Nash Peake, the Chief Bailiff and Chairman of the Board of Health, on October 29, 1885.

While the town hall was being built, the remaining two-thirds of the Market Hall was being modernised. The building was reroofed, new gas lighting was installed, the floor was relaid and permanent stalls were erected.

The Wholesale Market in the 20th Century

The wholesale market, which closed before the end of the 19th century, was re-established in the Market Square in 1901. Shortly afterwards, a small retail market selling fish and rabbits was opened in the square. These markets declined after the First World War (1914-18). The retail market in the Market Hall became Tunstall’s primary market, although as late as the 1930s there were still a few stalls in the square selling fish and rabbits.

When children approached his stall one of the traders who sold rabbits started singing these words to the tune of the well-known music hall song “If you want to know the time ask a policeman”:

“Does your mother want a rabbit?

“Sell you one for sixpence.

“Skin you one for ninepence.”

The Market Hall after 1940

Before the Second World War (1939-45), the Market Hall was open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. In February 1940, the market was opened for the sale of meat on Fridays. During 1941, some of the stalls were taken down and a civic restaurant was established in the Market Hall.

After the war, market days were Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

During the 1950s and 60s, families could do their weekly shopping in the market where there were stalls that sold:

  • Bread and cakes
  • Eggs, butter, cheese, margarine and milk
  • First and Second World War memorabilia and military medals
  • Fruit and Vegetables
  • Groceries
  • Handbags and purses
  • Hardware and household utensils
  • Ladies and children’s clothing
  • Meat and poultry, black pudding, boiled ham, brawn, corned beef, Cornish pasties, home-cured bacon, pork pies, sausages, savoury ducks and tripe
  • Pet food, cages for budgerigars and hampsters, fish tanks and goldfish bowls
  • Pottery
  • Oatcakes and Pikelets
  • Shoes and handbags
  • Second-hand books and magazines
  • Toys and games
  • Watches and jewellery

In 1992, the City Council’s architects and surveyors discovered that the Market Hall and the town hall were unsafe. The structures supporting the Market Hall’s roof were unstable and its east gable wall was likely to collapse. A temporary market was erected in Woodland Street. Both the town hall and the Market Hall were closed. Although the town hall is still closed, the Market Hall was regenerated and reopened at the beginning of the 21st century.

© Betty Cooper and David Martin (2017)

Heritage Market Celebrates 200 Years

tunstall marketHeritage tourism is big business. More than 4.7 million tourists visit Stoke-on-Trent each year.

Tunstall’s heritage market will be celebrating its 200th birthday on September 23rd, 2017.

Spotlight on Stoke believes that everyone who cares about Tunstall’s future should back the market’s bi-centennial celebrations and help to make them a success.

Tourists spend a lot of money when they visit a town.

The bi-centennial celebrations will put Tunstall on Stoke-on-Trent’s tourist trail and help to regenerate the town centre.

Share Your Memories of Tunstall Market

Tunstall Town HallDo you have memories of Tunstall Market and the town hall?

Did you work in the market or did you go shopping there with your mother when you were growing up? Can you remember the stalls that were there and the things they sold before the market was regenerated at the end of the 20th century?

Spotlight on Stoke is writing a booklet about the market and the town hall.

If you have memories or old photographs of the market or the town hall which you would be willing to share with us, please email David Martin at daymar727@talktalk.net

Focus on Tunstall: John Nash Peake

Nash Peake Street (Tunstall)

Nash Peake Street in Tunstall is named after John Nash Peake who was one of the town’s most flamboyant characters.

Born in Tunstall on the 13th April 1837, John was the son of Thomas Peake the owner of Tunstall Tileries in Watergate Street who was Tunstall’s Chief Bailiff from 1858 to 1861.

Educated in Bloomsbury, John showed remarkable artistic ability. He became a student at the Royal Academy under Millais.

When he was only 18, one of John’s paintings called “Alpine Monks Restoring a Traveller” was put in an exhibition at Burlington House. A year later, he exhibited “The Last Hours of the Condemned” a painting that portrayed a soldier awaiting execution.

Although he could have remained in London and become a professional artist, John returned to Tunstall in the late 1850s, and joined his father’s firm which manufactured bricks, tiles, water pipes and ornamental garden pottery. When Thomas died, John inherited the business. He doubled its size and made it one of the largest tileries in the world with 35 ovens and kilns producing over 250,000 roof tiles a week.

A man who cared about Tunstall and the welfare of its people, John had a forceful personality, a keen intellect and a commanding presence. He was eloquent, versatile and persevering.

Politically a Liberal, John became a member of Tunstall’s Board of Health in 1869. A staunch supporter of the Church of England and the Protestant Reformation, he opposed the growing influence of Newmanism and the introduction of Anglo-Catholic dogma and rites into Potteries churches.

Working closely with the Board of Health’s clerk, solicitor Arthur Llewellyn, and its architect Absalom Reade Wood, he regenerated the market hall and gave Tunstall a late Victorian Civic Centre which included a town hall and the Jubilee Buildings that contained a free library, an art school, a technical school, a swimming pool and a museum.

On 15th October 1903, John presented Tunstall’s Urban District Council with a mahogany cabinet that was surmounted by one of his paintings of Queen Victoria.

Designed to house the town’s records, the cabinet was placed in the council chamber in the town hall. There was a compartment between Queen Victoria’s portrait and the drawers at the base where the records were kept.

When the compartment’s doors were opened a glass display panel was revealed which contained photographs of former chief bailiffs, clerks and surveyors. During the presentation ceremony, a bronze portrait bust of John was unveiled in the council chamber and he was given an illuminated address thanking him for his services to the town.

Thanking the council for its gift, John who was 66 years old, said: “I know well that day by day I come nearer to a time when I shall be forever absent from the council chamber and the streets. Think what it means to me, this surprising tribute of yours, that I shall not be forgotten: that I shall be with you dwelling among my own people in imperishable bronze”.

He died two years later. The bronze bust disappeared a long time ago. So far all attempts to trace it have failed.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2010


Absalom Reade Wood (1851-1922)



Absalom Reade Wood, who was born in Burslem during 1851, became one of North Staffordshire’s leading architects.

Absalom was educated at the Wesleyan Day School in Burslem. On leaving school he became articled to Hanley architect Robert Scrivener who designed the Mechanics Institution in Pall Mall and the Queen’s Hotel in Albion Street, which later became the town hall.

Absalom was a  small man with a “comfortable, neat figure and a short beard”. He had a warm, friendly personality that gave him an optimistic outlook on life.

A keen sportsman, Absalom played cricket, tennis and golf. He also enjoyed cycling and swimming. 

After qualifying as an architect, Absalom established his own practice in Tunstall.

During 1875 he became the town’s part-time surveyor. Working closely with John Nash Peake and the town clerk Arthur Llewellyn, he regenerated Tunstall’s covered market hall and created the town’s Victorian Civic Centre that contained the town hall, the Victoria Institute, a fire station, a swimming pool, a drill hall and a recreation ground.

His first commission to design a pottery factory came from his childhood friend Edmund Leigh for whom he built the Middleport Pottery (Burgess, Dorling & Leigh) on the banks of the Trent and Mersey Canal. The works, which possessed seven bottle ovens, opened in 1889 and shortly afterwards he designed a factory for Enoch Wedgwood at Brownhills.

Burslem School Board employed him to design Longport Elementary Schools, Jackfield Infants’ School, Park Road Elementary Schools and the Central School (now Burslem Enterprise Centre) in Moorland Road.

Absalom married Mary Holdcroft, whose father, William, was a pottery manufacturer. The couple had five children – two boys and three girls.

Absalom and Mary were Methodists. The family worshipped at Hill Top Methodist Church in Burslem which Absalom regenerated in 1889 and at Longport Methodist Church which he designed.

His other churches include St. Andrew’s at Port Hill and the United Reformed Church in Moorland Road, Burslem which has a magnificent stained glass window depicting the Sermon on the Mount that shows Christ surrounded by people from all walks of life.

Originally called the Woodhall Memorial Congregational Church, the United Reformed Church was constructed of red brick and red Hollington Stone. It was erected in memory of William Woodhall who played a significant role in founding the Wedgwood Institute.

Built to replace an earlier Congregational Church in Queen Street, the church’s front elevation contains a bronze relief of Woodhall set in a carved moulded panel.

Closely linked with the old Queen Street church and the new church in Moorland Road was the Wycliffe Hall in Wycliffe Street. Opened in 1885, the hall, designed by Absalom, housed the church’s Sunday School and Burslem High School for Girls.

Absalom’s best-known building in Burslem is the School of Art in Queen Street. Situated opposite the Wedgwood Institute, the school which cost £8,500 was opened in 1907. Of classic design with large north facing windows that lighted the first-floor classrooms, the school was constructed of red brick with tawny terracotta facings. A circular terracotta porch supported by columns led into the building whose classrooms and studios surrounded a central hall which had a balcony with a wrought iron balustrade.

One of the school’s most famous students was pottery designer Clarice Cliff who attended classes there in the 1920s.

Born at Meir Street, Tunstall in 1889, Clarice was educated at High Street School,  Summerbank Road School and Tunstall Art School which was housed in the Victoria Institute – all buildings which had been designed by Absalom.

During his long life, Absalom designed numerous churches, civic buildings, factories and houses throughout The Potteries.

He died peacefully at his home Hillcrest in Woodland Avenue, Wolstanton on December 21st, 1922.

(Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2010)