A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1963.
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THE lordship of Hulton, some 1,400 acres in extent, lay within the parish of Burslem, of which it formed the south-eastern projection. It comprised Sneyd Green, Birches Head, and part of Milton. This long tongue of land slopes down from an altitude of some 600 ft. around Sneyd Green and Birches Head to one of about 400 ft. by the Trent. It then climbs the eastern ridge beyond the river to a height of 700 ft. at Woodhead Farm. The Hot Lane Brook, the Trent, and its tributary the Foxley Brook formed the north-western boundary, and a stretch of the road from Sneyd Green to Bagnall formed the northeastern boundary in the Milton area. (fn. 1) Since Sneyd Green and Birches Head had been transferred to the boroughs of Burslem and Hanley by 1910, their history is treated in the articles on those boroughs. An account of coal mining there, however, is given in this article. Since Milton lay mainly within Norton-in-the-Moors, its history is reserved for treatment under that parish.
There are remains of an earthwork on the western slope above the Trent to the south of the Birches Head road, and traces of early burials have been found nearer the river. (fn. 2) A primitive boat was dug out of the former course of the Trent at Hulton in 1930. (fn. 3) The significance of these discoveries, however, has not yet been assessed. Hulton was grouped with Rushton in Domesday Book, and the two vills were there said to have a population of three villeins and three bordars. (fn. 4) Granted to the new abbey of St. Mary in 1223, Hulton disappeared as a vill for the rest of the Middle Ages, probably because it became the site of the abbey and of one of its granges. (fn. 5) After the dissolution of the monastery in 1538 (fn. 6) Sneyd Green probably became the centre of the district, (fn. 7) and even in the late 1870's the only other area that was at all built up was that part of Milton which lay on the Hulton side of the road from Sneyd Green to Bagnall. (fn. 8) The population of Hulton lordship rose from 477 in 1821 to 945 in 1871. (fn. 9) The area around the abbey site, now known as Carmountside, has developed only in very recent times. A large house belonging to the Sneyds and Carmountside Farm had been built near the site by the early 17th century. (fn. 10) Abbey Farm to the west beyond the Trent was in existence by the early 18th century when it was the home of John Bourne, grandfather of the Primitive Methodist leader Hugh Bourne. (fn. 11) It appears to have been rebuilt early in the 19th century, but though mainly of brick it contains stone walling which may possibly be of 17th-century origin. (fn. 12) A council estate completed in 1936 (fn. 13) lies south and east of the abbey site which is itself occupied by the Carmountside Secondary School, opened in 1938. (fn. 14) There are still (1960) some post1945 prefabricated bungalows on the north side of Woodhead Road, and farther north still on the east side of Leek Road is Lawn Cemetery and Crematorium, opened in 1940. (fn. 15) Barratt Gardens on the north-eastern edge of the cemetery, with its old people's homes and community centre, dates from the mid-1950's. (fn. 16) Although the lordship of Hulton was also called 'Abbey Hilton' by the late 16th century, (fn. 17) the modern suburban district known as Abbey Hulton (fn. 18) lies south of the former lordship boundary.
The area is crossed by the road from Stoke to Endon which was built by 1842 under an Act of 1840 (fn. 19) and by the road which runs from Great Chell to Hanley via Sneyd Green, turnpiked in 1770. (fn. 20) A road runs from the Carmountside area over the Trent to Birches Head and Hanley and another from Cobridge to Sneyd Green, Milton, and Bagnall. This second road was formerly part of the main road from Newcastle to Leek. (fn. 21) The stretch which comprises Holden Lane and Sneyd Street is thought to have been part of a way between Hulton Abbey and its grange at Rushton near Cobridge. (fn. 22) 'Abbey Bridge' existed by 1733, (fn. 23) and is presumably identifiable with the bridge which carries the Hanley road over the Trent at Abbey Farm. In 1734 it was stated in Hulton manor court that 'a sufficient footbridge' over Foxley Brook was needed, (fn. 24) and there was a Foxley Bridge carrying the road from Cobridge to Bagnall over the brook by 1759 when it was in a state of disrepair. (fn. 25) It was rebuilt as a carriage bridge c. 1834, by which time it was a county responsibility. (fn. 26)
The Caldon branch of the Trent and Mersey Canal, constructed from Etruria to Froghall under an Act of 1776, (fn. 27) runs through Abbey Hulton.
The Biddulph Valley railway line from Stoke built in 1858–63 and opened for passenger traffic in 1864 (fn. 28) runs through Abbey Hulton. The line to Leek, built under an Act of 1863, branches off near Foxley Bridge. (fn. 29)
Hulton remained within Burslem parish (though it was never within Burslem borough) until 1894 when it became part of the new civil parish of Milton, itself added to Smallthorne Urban District in 1904. (fn. 30) In 1891 166 acres of the Sneyd Green portion of Hulton had been added to Burslem Borough, while in 1905 Birches Head and the rest of Sneyd Green were transferred from Smallthorne to Hanley. (fn. 31) Most of the remainder of the former lordship, as part of Smallthorne, was added to the county borough of Stoke-on-Trent in 1922. (fn. 32) Hulton had its own manorial and leet jurisdiction (fn. 33) and formed a separate constablewick from the rest of Burslem parish. (fn. 34) A constable was still appointed at Hulton manor court in 1839. In 1826 an assistant constable or headborough was also appointed. Two assistant constables were appointed in 1831, three in 1835 and subsequent years, and four in 1840. (fn. 35) The Burslem police attended the court in October 1839 and were sworn, presumably in connexion with their duties in the Sneyd Green area which was the only portion of the lordship subject to the jurisdiction of the Burslem Improvement Commissioners. (fn. 36) Like the other town ships in Burslem parish Hulton was responsible for the maintenance of its own highways, appointing its own highway surveyor and spending its rates independently of the rest of the parish. (fn. 37)
HULTON, held before the Conquest by Ulviet, had become part of Robert de Stafford's estates by 1086 when, with Rushton, it was assessed at ⅓ hide. (fn. 38) The overlordship remained in the Stafford barony until at least 1284 when Hulton and Rushton together formed ½ knight's fee. (fn. 39)
In 1086 the Saxon tenant Ulviet was still in possession, holding as tenant of Robert de Stafford. (fn. 40) By 1167 Hulton was held by Emma, daughter and heir of Ralph fitz Orm and soon afterwards the wife of Adam de Audley. (fn. 41) In 1223 Henry de Audley, son of Adam and Emma, granted Hulton to the Cistercian abbey of St. Mary in his foundation charter of that year. (fn. 42) The Audleys, however, continued to owe knight service to the Staffords for Hulton until at least 1284. (fn. 43)
In 1535 Hulton appears as a manor with demesne, tenants, and courts, worth in all £16 9s. 4d. and organized under a steward, deputy-steward, and bailiff. (fn. 44) On its suppression in 1538 the abbey and its possessions passed to the king. (fn. 45) In 1539 the site, the demesne in Hulton and Stoke, and a coal mine in 'the field of Hulton' were leased to Stephen Bagot of London (fn. 46) who had already purchased the abbey's movables at the Dissolution. (fn. 47) In 1543 the Crown granted the manor of Hulton, the site of the abbey, its demesne, and all its other possessions in Hulton, Sneyd, Baddeley, Milton, and Burslem to Sir Edward Aston. (fn. 48) Sir Edward's great-grandson Sir Walter Aston conveyed the manor to William Sneyd of Keele in 1611. (fn. 49) The manor then remained in the Sneyd family, (fn. 50) Ralph Sneyd owning some 1,100 of the 1,400 or so acres in Abbey Hulton in 1838. (fn. 51) The 150-acre Abbey farm, the 26-acre Mill farm, and the 78-acre Birches Head farm formed the only land there still owned by the family in 1951 and were offered for sale on the break-up of the Keele estate in that year. (fn. 52)
A house and garden formed part of the demesne of Hulton manor in 1621, (fn. 53) and it was presumably there that Ralph Sneyd was living in 1615 when he was described as of Hulton. (fn. 54) The house, which evidently stood near the abbey site, was of some size in 1682 (fn. 55) and was still in existence in the mid-18th century. (fn. 56)
The view of frankpledge attached to the manor by 1611 was then stated to cover all or part of Hulton, Milton, Bucknall, Baddeley, and Ubberley, and parts of Burslem, Sneyd, Stoke, and Newcastle. (fn. 57) Courts were being held for the manor by 1535, (fn. 58) but court rolls and papers survive only from 1733 to 1841; during that period the courts were held at Sneyd Green. (fn. 59)
In 1647 Birches farm, lying within the manor of Hulton to the east of what is now the Birches Head district, seems to have been held by a John Brett. (fn. 60) By 1669 it was the home of William Sneyd, second son of William Sneyd of Keele and M.P. for Newcastle-under-Lyme from 1685 to 1687. (fn. 61) William continued to live there until his death in 1708, (fn. 62) and a 'Mr. Sneyd' was tenant in 1722 and 1723. (fn. 63) The farm was occupied by John Prime in 1791, (fn. 64) and the Prime family remained there until at least 1854. (fn. 65) Birches farm, some 150 acres in extent, was bought from the Sneyds by the present owner, Mr. William Jenks, before the break-up of the Keele estate in 1951; the old farmhouse was rebuilt some time after 1926. (fn. 66)
Carmountside farm within the manor of Hulton was held in 1611 by Beatrice Smith, widow, and Roger Smith, (fn. 67) probably her son. Thomas Smith was granted the lease by the Sneyds in 1650 (fn. 68) and was still the tenant in 1672. (fn. 69) By 1697 the farm was held by John Heath (fn. 70) whose family occupied it until at least 1748, (fn. 71) but c. 1758 a Robert Clark was the tenant. (fn. 72) The Worthington family lived there during the earlier 19th century. (fn. 73) The house was rebuilt in 1856 on a site farther west which in 1884 was found to be over the chancel of the former abbey church. (fn. 74) The farm, some 210 acres in extent c. 1878, (fn. 75) still existed in 1930, (fn. 76) but the site of the house, and thus of the abbey, has been occupied since 1938 by Carmountside Secondary Modern School. (fn. 77)
Carmount Head farm at the southern end of Baddeley Edge above the village of Milton (fn. 78) was held of the manor of Hulton in 1611 and 1621 by John Loggun. (fn. 79) A messuage and lands called Carmount 'near or adjoining Baddeley Edge' were leased by the Sneyds to Thomas Knight in 1647 in succession to his father John (fn. 80) and were evidently the Carmount farm occupied by the Austen family between at least 1699 and 1744. (fn. 81) The estate seems to have been occupied in 1760 by John Weatherby, probably the tenant of Woodhead farm also. (fn. 82) Joseph Adams was farming at Carmount Head in 1834 and 1839, (fn. 83) and by 1848 the 19-acre farm was owned by Benjamin Yardley, the elder, and held by a tenant. (fn. 84) Between at least 1876 and 1912 the farm was occupied by John Williamson who on emigrating to Canada c. 1912 sold it to Frank Mayer, still the occupant in 1940. (fn. 85) It is now (1958) owned and occupied by Mr. Harold Mayer. The stone-built house and farm buildings appear to date from the 19th century; there is a barn dated 1836.
Holden farm was in the tenure of the Heath family between at least 1611 and 1657, (fn. 86) but in 1683 it was evidently occupied by Thomas Beech and his wife Dorothy. (fn. 87) Thomas died in that year and in 1689 his widow married William Adams, younger son of Thomas Adams of Birches Head. (fn. 88) William was living at Holden in 1699, (fn. 89) but in 1701 he and Dorothy divided the farm and the house with a Thomas Beech who was also living there by then. (fn. 90) Thomas was given the parlour, the parlour chamber, the little chamber, the back kitchen, the great entry, use of the well, and a share of the outhouses, but William and Dorothy were to be allowed to bake in the back kitchen. (fn. 91) This division continued until at least 1718 when Dorothy died at Holden and possibly until the death of her husband in 1721. (fn. 92) The Beeches continued to live at Holden until at least 1754 (fn. 93) and retained the ownership (fn. 94) until 1806 when Thomas Beech sold it to John Sparrow of Bishton (in Colwich) and John Hales of Cobridge. (fn. 95) By 1848 the 101-acre Holden farm, held by William Wooliscroft, was owned by Sir George Chetwynd of Brocton (in Baswich) and Grendon (Warws.), who had married one of John Sparrow's daughters and co-heirs. (fn. 96) The house, situated north of the road from Sneyd Green to Milton, (fn. 97) had been abandoned by 1957 when it was occupied as a temporary Methodist church. (fn. 98)
Woodhead farm is situated on the hillside in the eastern part of Abbey Hulton and now within the parish of Norton-in-the-Moors. It was part of the property of Hulton Abbey at the time of its dissolution in 1538 and was then held on a 30-year lease by William Barnett and his family. (fn. 99) They were still the tenants in 1543 when the farm was conveyed with the manor of Hulton and other abbey lands to Sir Edward Aston. (fn. 100) By 1637 the estate had been divided. One part was then in the tenure of John Weatherby (fn. 101) whose family remained tenants there until c. 1839. (fn. 102) By 1848 Ralph Sneyd's tenant at this 48-acre farm was Benjamin Yardley, the younger. (fn. 103) In 1649 the other part was held by John Sneyd, yeoman, (fn. 104) and in 1672 by a John Sneyd the younger. (fn. 105) It was probably the latter John who was the tenant in 1699 (fn. 106) and his daughter Jane who died there c. 1721. (fn. 107) By 1722 this part of the farm was held by Josiah Dean, (fn. 108) by him or his son Josiah in 1742 (fn. 109) and 1764 (fn. 110), and by Richard Dean in 1806. (fn. 111) In 1834 and 1839 the tenant was John Docksey (fn. 112) who by 1848 had been succeeded in the 63-acre farm by Ephraim Docksey, still the tenant in 1854. (fn. 113) By the late 1870's there was only the one Woodhead Farm, owned by the Revd. Walter Sneyd. (fn. 114) It changed hands twice in the early 1950's after the break-up of the Keele estate, passing finally to the present owner, Mr. W. Birch, who farms 133 acres there. (fn. 115) The farmhouse was rebuilt in brick in 1865. (fn. 116) A fine range of outbuildings forming a threesided court is of local stone and probably dates from the early 19th century.
Hulton has always been a predominantly agricultural area, although since the 1930's there has been some suburban development. (fn. 117) In the Middle Ages, however, there was a certain amount of industry centring on the abbey, notably tile-making and coal mining, and coal continued to be mined in the area until the late 19thcentury.
Hulton was assessed with Rushton in 1086. The two vills then had land for 3 ploughs and the 3 villeins and 3 borders there had 1 plough. (fn. 118) There was woodland 1 league long and ½ league broad attached to the vills, (fn. 119) and Henry de Audley's endowment of Hulton Abbey in 1223 included what was described as a wood at Sneyd 'within the enclosed hay of Kennermunt' (i.e. Carmount). (fn. 120) A grange was established at Hulton soon after the foundation of the abbey, (fn. 121) and there were 2 carucates of land attached by 1291. (fn. 122) Assized rents from Hulton were producing £1 a year by 1291. (fn. 123) By 1535 the estates consisted of demesne (£6), 12 tenancies at will (£9 15s.), and free tenancies (chief rents of 6s.). (fn. 124) In the year following the dissolution of the abbey in 1538 the manor, including Rushton Grange and lands in Burslem and Stoke parishes, was divided into the demesne, consisting of the abbey site at Hulton with 33 acres of arable, 30 of meadow, and 54 of pasture, and Rushton Grange with arable in a field called 'Walfeld', 25 acres of meadow and 156 acres of pasture; 3 free tenancies; 3 tenancies-atwill; 4 customary tenancies; and 10 farms leased for 30, 40, or 42 years. (fn. 125) By 1621 the Sneyds' Hulton estate consisted of demesne and 3 free and 23 copyhold tenancies. (fn. 126) A return of the 1640's lists 8 tenancies on the demesne and 16 other tenancies. (fn. 127) Copyhold leases granted during the 17th and early 18th centuries were normally for 2 or 3 lives or for 21 years, and in addition to the cash rent and the heriot the dues payable often included a rent of 1, 2, 4, or 6 hens at Candlemas, Shrovetide, or Michaelmas. (fn. 128)
The endowment of the abbey included a fishery, presumably in the Trent. (fn. 129) Traces of the abbey's fishponds near the river on the opposite side of the main road from the abbey site (fn. 130) are still visible.
The pinfold of Abbey Hulton manor was mentioned in 1831 when the jurors stated that it had been taken down and that a new one was necessary. A new pound had still not been erected in 1833. (fn. 131)
MILL. Henry de Audley's endowment of Hulton Abbey as confirmed by the king in 1256 included a mill (fn. 132) which followed the same descent as the manor of Hulton. (fn. 133) At the Dissolution in 1538 the mill was held on a 42-year lease by William Craddock (fn. 134) who still held it in 1543 when it was described as in Stoke, (fn. 135) presumably on the Trent just south of the Burslem boundary where Abbey Mill was situated by 1775. (fn. 136) By 1611 it was being worked by Thomas Mellor (fn. 137) whose son Richard was granted the lease in 1660. (fn. 138) Thomas Adams of Birches Head probably held it at his death in 1681, (fn. 139) and Jonathan Adams, son of Ralph Adams of Sneyd and Milton, was probably the miller at his death in 1721. (fn. 140) By 1792 the mill was used as a flint mill and had been leased by Ralph Sneyd to the New Hall Company of Hanley. (fn. 141) The mill, in the tenure of 'that veteran grinder, Mr. Mager Walker' in 1839, (fn. 142) was used in the early 19th century for grinding both corn and potters' materials but by 1914 was used solely by potters. (fn. 143) It had ceased to be worked by the 1930's. (fn. 144) The 26-acre farm attached was sold on the break-up of the Sneyds' estate in 1951 and has recently changed hands again. (fn. 145)
INDUSTRIES. There was a coal mine in Lee Field at Hulton worked by the abbey at the Dissolution and immediately afterwards leased by the Crown to a Thomas Foxe at a rent of £1 6s. 8d. With other property of the abbey it was leased to Stephen Bagot of London in 1539 and sold to Sir Edward Aston in 1543. (fn. 146) By the mid-17th century Thomas Adams of Birches Head was working a coal mine on his estate at Abbey Hulton, (fn. 147) and this branch of the Adams family continued to mine on the Birches Head estate and elsewhere within the Sneyds' manor of Hulton until at least 1777. (fn. 148) Under the will of John Adams of Birches Head (d. 1753) a share in the mines at Birches Head passed to his daughter Mary, the wife of Richard Hollins. Her sons inherited this share in 1782. (fn. 149) Both the Hollins and the Adams families had an interest in the Abbey Hulton Colliery by 1800 which they then assigned to Walter Sneyd. (fn. 150) This colliery was still in operation in 1804. (fn. 151) It may be identifiable with the colliery at Sneyd Green which was worked by Walter Sneyd in 1818 and by his son Ralph after him and which was leased by Ralph in 1851 to Francis Stanier of Newcastle and Silverdale. A company formed by Stanier worked it until at least the mid-1870's. (fn. 152) In the mid-1860's there were two other collieries in operation at Sneyd Green. (fn. 153) About 1840 in fact the village of Sneyd Green was described as largely inhabited by colliers. (fn. 154) There was a colliery to the north-west of Abbey Farm in 1832, but it had been abandoned by the 1870's. (fn. 155)
There was a tannery at Hulton towards the end of the 13th century belonging to the monks. (fn. 156) At some time during the Middle Ages they evidently had a fulling mill there, presumably situated on the Trent (fn. 157) and possibly connected with their sheepfarming. (fn. 158) The monks also seem to have produced encaustic tiles during the Middle Ages. (fn. 159) Early pottery-making in the area is mentioned elsewhere. (fn. 160)
There has been an aluminium works on the canal near Foxley Bridge since the end of the 19th century. (fn. 161) There was a chemical works on a site to the north on the Hulton and Milton boundary between at least 1867 and 1940. (fn. 162)