The city of Stoke-on-Trent: Introduction

Page 80

A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1963.

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ALTHOUGH Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-onTrent adjoin each other, their historical development has been strikingly dissimilar; the one has its roots deep in the past and exhibits the slow evolution of a burghal community, while the other is a town of the industrial age. Geologically the Potteries area can be described as an outcrop of quick-burning coals, clays, and marls, and it is this character of the subsoil that has favoured the growth of the local pottery industry. The story of Stoke is basically that of a community of potters, whose skill and business acumen have in the course of two centuries made Stoke the twelfth largest city in the United Kingdom and extended its reputation in the field of ceramics far beyond the shores of Britain.

The historical development of the 30 square miles of North Staffordshire moorland which today constitutes the city of Stoke-on-Trent can appropriately be described as a palimpsest whose original parochial pattern has been overlaid by a new complexus of civil government. The modern city has mainly evolved out of the ancient parishes of Stoke-upon-Trent and Wolstanton, both of which lie in the northern division of Pirehill hundred. Of the two Stoke has made by far the larger contribution. In early times the word 'Stoke' seems to have connoted no more than the location of a church. Its circumjacent parish, corresponding in size to but differing in composition from the city of today, comprised nearly a score of townships. These were Penkhull (with Boothen), Hanley (with Shelton), Fenton, Longton (with Lane End), Burslem, Newcastle, Whitmore, Norton, Bucknall (with Bagnall), Clayton (with Seabridge), Botteslow, and Hulton. Of these places Hanley, Fenton, Longton, and Burslem grew into separate parishes, each with an urban core, and Stoke itself, consisting partly of Penkhull and Boothen, made a fifth. Of the other components of the parish Newcastle, Whitmore, Norton-in-the-Moors, and Bucknall and Bagnall became separate parishes in 1807. Clayton and Seabridge, after inclusion in Stoke Rural in 1894, became a separate civil parish in 1896 and were incorporated into Newcastle between 1921 and 1932. Botteslow was transferred to Stoke Rural in 1894, and absorbed by Stoke in 1922. The lordship of Hulton, once part of Burslem parish, was divided in 1891 and 1894 and as a result of changes in the early 20th century and again in 1922, is now almost wholly within the city.

Most of the area covered by the modern city was once dominated by two manors: Tunstall embracing Burslem and Tunstall; and Newcastle, which included Penkhull and Boothen, Hanley and Shelton, Clayton and Seabridge, Botteslow, Longton, and part of Fenton. The rest of Fenton lay in Fenton Culvert manor. The development of the agrarian economy of the area and the maintenance of its leet jurisdiction remained under the control of the lords of Newcastle and Tunstall until well into the 19th century.

Yet a third pattern was imposed on the ancient parish of Stoke in the late 16th century as a result of the statutory obligation to make provision for the relief of the poor. The parish was divided into five units, Stoke, Burslem, Newcastle, Norton, and Whitmore, each of them being regarded as a separate parish for the purpose of poor relief. The first of these, Stoke, consisted of eight districts, each apparently a separate rating district, namely Penkhull with Boothen; Clayton and Seabridge; Shelton and Hanley; Fenton Culvert; Fenton Vivian; Longton; Bucknall; and Bagnall. Burslem was a separate parish for civil purposes, including poor relief, from the later 16th century, while Tunstall, as has been said, belonged to Wolstanton parish. By the early 17th century the eight districts of the Stoke area had been rearranged into four quarters: (1) Penkhull, Boothen, Clayton and Seabridge; (2) Shelton and Hanley; (3) the Fentons, Longton, and Botteslow; (4) Bucknall and Bagnall; and this territorial division was retained when the Stoke-upon-Trent Union was formed in 1836. Two years later Burslem became part of the Wolstanton and Burslem Union, as also did Tunstall. It will be seen, therefore, that in regard to the administration of the poor law the area was treated in a somewhat fortuitous manner and was unaffected by the creation of the new parishes in 1807.

By the beginning of the 19th century the Pottery villages had become towns or at least urban aggregates and new solutions had to be found to the problems of local government. A gradual evolution, beginning with ad hoc efforts to meet pressing needs, led slowly to the extrusion of new civil and ecclesiastical parishes, and thence to the formation of new boroughs and urban districts. In 1910 these were amalgamated to bring into existence the new borough of Stoke-on-Trent; the story of this amalgamation is related in the section headed 'The Federation of the Six Towns'.

In consequence of these various administrative complexities the article which follows discards the conventional framework of the ancient parish. Instead, each of the six towns—Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke-upon-Trent, Fenton, and Longton— has been treated as though it were an ancient parish. To each a general introduction has been assigned and this is followed, in each case, by sub-sections on manors, other estates, churches, local government and public services, economic history, and social life. Botteslow and Hulton, most or all of which had been absorbed into Stoke by 1922, have been somewhat similarly handled. Four topics, however, have been treated in a way which ignores the division into towns. These are Roman Catholicism, Protestant nonconformity, schools, and charities for the poor. These four sections carry the story to the present day, as do all the sub-sections of the separate town histories. Developments since 1910, mainly in the sphere of local government, are traced in the section called 'Stoke-on-Trent since 1910'. The histories of Bucknall and Bagnall, Norton-in-the-Moors, Whitmore, and Wolstanton are reserved for treatment with the rest of Pirehill hundred.