Tag Archives: William Scarratt

Scarratt’s Tunstall – A Country Town

Tunstall, which is one of Stoke-on-Trent’s six towns, was very much like a country town as late as 1854. The oak and other trees around Greengates House, the large house built by William Adams in the 18th century near where Furlong Road joins High Street, were quite leafy. Rooks built their nests in them, and there were wild ducks on the pond in front of the house. There were several large trees in the courtyard at the back of the house, and the cawing of the rooks was noisy enough in springtime. Little birds built their nests in the hedgerows below Christ Church – I have found them there. Nobody today would think that a pack of harriers or beagles were kept at Greengates House, but that is a fact, the then owner being fond of sport.  I should think the pack numbered 15 couples. I have met them when walking to the grammar school at Newchapel. Furlong Road which led to Greenfields was once narrow and overhung in some places with laburnum and other trees.

(An edited extract from “Old Times in the Potteries” by William Scarratt published in 1906)

Scarratt’s Tunstall – Reflections

In this edited extract from Old Times in The Potteries by William Scarrat published in 1906, the author looks back and reflects on the changes which took place in Tunstall during the second half of the 19th century.


It would be well for some qualified person to estimate our losses and gains since the 1850s. We have lost the sweet fields and the green foliage which sheltered happy songbirds. Gone, too, are the wealthy townsmen, in search of health and quiet breathing. That grand old man, Sir Smith Child, Bart, removed his last oak tree from Newfield Hall in 1846. The advice and opinions of these cultured absentees are lost to a great degree. If the urbanity and the hospitality of the past were not over-refined, they were generous and hearty. Parks, however estimable, are not an equivalent to the free haunts of the past; for one thing, you did not see a notice “Keep off the grass” next to the pathway. The freedom of all grades and classes is unlimited in other respects, and working conditions are much better. But at the same time, we miss the patriarchal behaviour of a previous generation of master potters. One is aware that even in that state there were certain evils. The employer and the employee are now too frequently rivals. Up to the end of the 18th century, they often worked side by side. A good master would have a good man, and did not begrudge him good wages – he would just as soon have an empty cottage as an empty bench.

Scarratt’s Tunstall – Dogfighting was a brutal sport

In this edited extract from “Old Times in The Potteries”, by William Scarratt, who was born at Tunstall in the early 1840s, the author describes a dogfight which he saw when he was a pupil at King Street National School.

William told his readers that:

“Even though dogfighting was on the decline in the 1840s and 1850s, there were still many fighting dogs kept in Tunstall. These bull-terriers or fighting dogs had coarse yellow or brown hair with white patches over one or both eyes and ears. The dogs were pugnacious to a high degree, although affectionate and quiet at home. A fighting dog had to be prompted to attack another fighting dog, but once a fight started the two dogs continued fighting until they were exhausted.

“On one occasion during school dinner time, I saw a fight between two dogs. One was a white bull-terrier that weighed 24lbs. The other was a broken haired, crossbred bull-terrier that weighed 28lbs.

“No one tried to stop them fighting. After several rounds both dogs were exhausted. They could only crawl along the ground to each other to continue the fight when the next round started.

“It was an accidental scratch battle, to begin with. Then men took respective sides for each dog. A series of lines were drawn on the ground to make ‘a ring’ in which the dogs could fight. At the end of each round, the dogs were picked up by their owners and carried over the lines where their mouths were cleared of loose hairs.

“Because the spectators believed neither combatant would yield to the other, I understood that the dog which failed to drag itself over the first of the series of lines at the start of the next round would be considered vanquished. The contest lasted about an hour. When it ended, the men picked up the dogs who were unable to walk and took them to the Grapes Inn where they were weighed in an outhouse.”

Scarratt’s Tunstall – King Street Schools

victorian schoolroom


William Scarratt’s book “Old Times in the Potteries” is a collection of facts and reminiscences of life in “the six towns” from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th.

Published in 1906, the book is based on a series of articles William wrote for the Weekly Sentinel.

Born at Tunstall in the early 1840s, he was educated at a Dame School, King Street National Schools and Newchapel Grammar School.

In his book, William says there were several dame schools and three elementary schools in Tunstall when he was growing up. One of the elementary schools was the Church of England National School in King Street (Madison Street). The school, which was built with money raised by Christ Church, was housed in a “clean, lofty, airy, well-ventilated building”.

The other two elementary schools were British Schools founded by the Methodist Church.

The National School in King Street, which William attended, was opened in 1839. In 1841, it had 333 pupils (125 boys and 208 girls). In those days, parents had to pay school pence for their children’s education. The parents of children attending King Street were charged 2d a week for each child’s schooling.

By the time William went there, a good-natured rebellion known as barring-out had become a school tradition. On barring-out day, the boys came to school early. They locked the headmaster and the teachers out of the building and refused to let them in until the headmaster agreed to give all the pupils a holiday.

When recalling his school days, William wrote about the barring-out day ceremony he saw during his first year at King Street.

In this edited extract from “Old Times in the Potteries” he says:

“I was one of the little ones and of no consequence in the eyes of the older boys and was an observer of the first barring-out day I experienced. The headmaster came to school at the usual hour, but he could not get in. Great was the excitement inside the schoolroom. The big boys went to the open windows. Some of them put the keys on a long pole which was held out so high that the headmaster could not reach them. The headmaster and the teachers had been barred-out.

“Parleying of a bantering nature began between the boys and the headmaster which continued until he agreed to give the whole school a holiday.

“Great was the triumph of the victors who said they would have kept the doors locked all afternoon if he had refused to give them their annual holiday.”

Can You Help Spotlight?

Like most of the schools built in Tunstall during the Victorian era, King Street has been demolished.

Spotlight on Stoke is researching the history of education for its new series Focus on Tunstall. If you went to school in Tunstall and would like to share your memories of your school days with us email spotlightstoke@talktalk.net

Focus on Tunstall – William Scarratt

tunstall-town-hallIn his book “Old Times in the Potteries” which was published in 1906, William Scarratt recalls growing up in Tunstall and describes life in the town during the Victorian era.

The book is based on a series of features which he wrote for the Weekly Sentinel.

In an article introducing these features to Weekly Sentinel readers, R. W. Ship said that Scarratt would “have little need to introduce himself”. For over 50 years he had moved freely about four of the six Pottery towns and was well known in Tunstall. If anyone asked him to justify writing about The Potteries, Scarratt could say that during his childhood he was fascinated by “the stories” his parents told about events which had taken place in the latter part of the eighteenth century and that his interest in local history had “grown with the passing years”.

During 2018, Spotlight on Stoke will from time to time be posting edited extracts from “Old Times in the Potteries” in its new series Focus on Tunstall.