A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1963.
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By 1297 Burslem was a chapelry in the parish of Stoke-upon-Trent (fn. 1) and retained that status until 1809 when it was made parochial under the Stoke Rectory Act of 1807. (fn. 2) As a chapelry it was in the charge of a curate appointed by the Rector of Stoke. (fn. 3) In several respects, however, it had parochial status before 1809, and indeed from the late 16th century it was often called a parish. (fn. 4) It organized its own poor relief and highway maintenance, (fn. 5) and by 1553 it had its own churchwardens.
Under the Act of 1807 the living was made a rectory and the patronage vested in the trustees of William Robinson, rector and patron of Stoke. (fn. 6) The patronage was sold in 1809 to William Adams of Cobridge Hall, (fn. 7) who presented in 1811. (fn. 8) It is not clear why, on the resignation of his nominee in the same year, the next presentation was made by Josiah Spode as patron. (fn. 9) When William Adams died in 1831 the patronage passed to his son Thomas and on Thomas's death in 1835 to his sisters. (fn. 10) They had sold it by 1850 to Charles Hebert, rector 1850–8. (fn. 11) In 1858 John Armstrong became the rector and patron, (fn. 12) and after his death in 1869 the patronage passed to John Morris who presented Alfred Watton, (fn. 13) himself the patron by 1871. (fn. 14) Watton died in 1886 and his widow made the next presentation, (fn. 15) but shortly afterwards the patronage was acquired by Robert Heath, the younger, of Biddulph Grange. (fn. 16) From him it passed c. 1918 to the Church of England Trust Society, (fn. 17) which, as the Martyrs' Memorial and Church of England Trust, still holds it. (fn. 18)
By 1738 there had been assigned to the curate the tithes, fees, and dues arising within the chapelry. (fn. 19) By the Act of 1807 these revenues were legally secured to the new rectory, which was further endowed with 7½ acres of glebe in Burslem and an annual pension of £68 out of the revenues of Stoke rectory. (fn. 20) Much of the new parish was tithe-free, since it had once belonged to Hulton Abbey. This exempt area lay at Abbey Hulton and Rushton Grange and thus included Cobridge. (fn. 21) From c. 1815 the tithe was compounded at an average rate of 5s. an acre, (fn. 22) and in 1843 it was commuted for £400. (fn. 23) The glebe lay across the course of the present Waterloo Road and over the two decades from 1815, the year the construction of that road was begun, was largely sold for building plots. The proceeds were applied towards building the rectory-house and increasing the endowments of the church. (fn. 24) The rector's net annual income over the three years 1828–31 was £530 out of which he paid £158 to an assistant curate. (fn. 25) The pension of £68 was still being paid by the Church Commissioners in 1958. (fn. 26)
Burslem chapel had two churchwardens in 1553, (fn. 27) but by the mid-17th century one was appointed for each of the townships of Burslem, Sneyd, and Hulton, chosen from certain landholders in rotation. (fn. 28) This system of rotation was abandoned c. 1789, although one churchwarden continued to be chosen from each township, and by the early 19th century a fourth was appointed by the minister. (fn. 29) In 1789 the vestry decided to create a new office for the prevention of 'disorders and irregularities that arise from children playing in and daubing the seats in church on Sundays and other times' with a wage of 2s. a week to be paid out of the church rates; an official 'for keeping good order in the church on Sundays' was still being appointed in 1792. (fn. 30) By the early 19th century the organist's salary was paid out of the market tolls, a system which received official sanction in the Act of 1825 regulating the market (fn. 31) and remained in force until 1851 when the Burslem local board refused to continue the payments. (fn. 32)
One of the Audley barons, apparently in the later 15th century, gave a 20s. rent-charge to Burslem chapel to secure prayers 'for ever'. (fn. 33)
The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, lying below the southern slope of the ridge on which Burslem is built, consists of a nave, an apsidal chancel, and a low west tower flanked by vestries. The tower is of stone and was almost certainly built c. 1536. (fn. 34) It is entirely late Perpendicular in style and, in spite of claims made to the contrary, shows no signs of earlier work. In the west wall a low Tudor-arched doorway has a three-light window above it. The belfry stage is pierced by three-light Perpendicular windows and surmounted by an embattled parapet. The body of the church is of brick and is said to have been built in 1717 to replace an earlier timber-framed thatched structure which was burnt down in that year. (fn. 35) In 1788 the church, 'being too small for the number of inhabitants', was lengthened by the addition of the present chancel 'according to Mr. Thomas Sherwin's plan'. (fn. 36) The alterations, which appear to have been instigated by Enoch Wood, then churchwarden, cost £700. (fn. 37) They included the raising of the roof and probably the insertion of additional galleries. Externally the building is very plain, the nave being lighted on both sides by tall round-headed windows in brick reveals. Near both ends of the south wall and near the east end of the north wall are shorter windows with stone doorways below them. The chancel has an apsidal east end in which there is a stone Venetian window. It is possible that some of the original features were reinstated when the chancel was extended in 1788; the two pedimented doorways near the east end appear to belong to the early, rather than the late, 18th century. The doors give access to two vestibules flanking the chancel, which at one time contained gallery staircases. (fn. 38) It is known that there was formerly a gallery at the east end of the church on which an organ, erected by subscription in 1792, was mounted. (fn. 39) A west gallery, which still exists, is probably of the same period, and there may also have been side galleries. A new pulpit, a desk, and a 'singers' table' were installed c. 1789. (fn. 40) Under a vestry resolution of 1793 a brick vestry was added on the south side of the tower in the following year. (fn. 41)
In 1878 the nave was restored and refitted at a cost of £2,000. (fn. 42) A new organ was installed in the west gallery and the east gallery was probably cleared away at the same time. Alterations to the fittings at the east end were made in 1919. (fn. 43) The north-west vestry was added in the 1930's. (fn. 44)
The chancel contains a modern tablet commemorating various members of the Adams family who lived between the 15th and 17th centuries. Also in the chancel are two terra-cotta plaques, a figure of Christ and a Descent from the Cross, which were modelled by Enoch Wood (d. 1840), the first when he was fifteen years old and the second when he was eighteen. These, together with a bust of John Wesley and other ornaments (now in the vestry), had originally been placed in the Wood family vault. (fn. 45)
In the churchyard is a medieval stone coffin, said to have been brought from Hulton Abbey. (fn. 46) Near it stands a table-tomb set with its axis north and south. This is reputed to be the grave of Margaret Leigh (d. 1748). According to local legend she was a witch whose ghost could be laid only after her body had been exhumed and her grave reorientated. (fn. 47)
Because of 'the great increase of inhabitants' in the parish the churchyard had to be extended in 1804. (fn. 48) It was further extended in 1847 (fn. 49) and 'improved' in 1878. (fn. 50) The older part of the churchyard is still surrounded by brick walls dating from the late 18th or early 19th century. Iron gates of the same period stand at the north and east entrances, the latter being the more elaborate and having an ironwork overthrow incorporating a lamp bracket.
The plate in 1553 included a silver chalice and paten. (fn. 51) It now includes a silver flagon of 1718, a silver chalice of 1723, and a silver paten of 1724, all the gift of Katherine Egerton of the Overhouse (d. 1756), and a silver chalice and paten of 1848, given by Mary, widow of John Wood of Brownhills, in 1850. (fn. 52) There were three bells and a sacring bell in 1553. (fn. 53) Four new bells were installed in 1720. (fn. 54) These were recast in 1827 when two more were added, (fn. 55) and all six were rehung in 1911. (fn. 56)
The surviving registers date from 1636; the earlier book, dating from 1578, was burnt in the fire of 1717 but there is a transcript of it made in 1701. (fn. 57) The registers from 1578 to 1812 have been printed. (fn. 58) There is also a book of churchwardens' and overseers' accounts dating from 1700 to 1795, with some vestry minutes.
About the mid-16th century the curate of Burslem, Thomas Asbury, occupied a room in the Churchyard House known as the Priest's Chamber, but it passed with the rest of the estate to his sister and her family. (fn. 59) The inhabitants of Burslem petitioned William Primrose, Rector of Stoke 1618–33, to secure the room for the curate or schoolmaster of Burslem but without success. (fn. 60) Katherine Egerton (d. 1756) left £200 for the purchase of a house and land for the curate of Burslem, and the property acquired, a house next to the Crown Inn, was occupied by two successive curates. The estate was then secured by Thomas Wedgwood of the Overhouse (d. 1787), Katherine's residuary legatee, since the property was not legally settled and the bequest was void. (fn. 61) Despite the provision in the Act of 1807 that a parsonage house should be erected as soon as possible, (fn. 62) it was not until 1827 that a house was built on land called Wilberstones given by the patron, William Adams, who also contributed £250 towards the cost. After years of neglect the house fell into decay and was sold and demolished in or soon after 1903, the grounds being used to form Middleport Park in 1908. A house in Waterloo Road was bought instead for the rector by the patron, Robert Heath, (fn. 63) and this is still the rectory house.
Three mission centres have been opened from St. John's: St. John the Baptist Mission Room c. 1901– c. 1902, evidently replaced by the mission chapel at St. John's National school c. 1902-c. 1927; (fn. 64) and the Rectory Room c. 1905-c. 1927. (fn. 65)
The church of ST. PAUL, Dale Hall, was built in 1828–31 as a chapel of ease to St. John's. The site, to the north of Newcastle Street, was given by William Adams of Cobridge, patron of the mother church, and at that time it lay in almost open country. The cost of erection was met by a parliamentary grant of £8,000 and subscriptions and parish rates amounting to £4,000. The Burslem Market Trustees voted £1,000 out of their future income for the purchase of another 2 acres and the laying out of this and the rest of the site as the churchyard. (fn. 66) A parish covering Dale Hall and Longport was created out of St. John's parish in 1845. (fn. 67) The patronage of the living, a perpetual curacy until 1868 when it became a vicarage, has remained in the hands of the Rector of Burslem. (fn. 68) The rector's net annual income in 1831 was £109, (fn. 69) but the benefice was augmented from Queen Anne's Bounty in 1832 (£400) and 1833 (£200). (fn. 70)
The church, which provided some 2,000 sittings, was built of Hollington stone and was designed by Lewis Vulliamy (1791–1871) in the Perpendicular style. (fn. 71) It consists of an aisled and clerestoried nave of six bays, a shallow projecting chancel, and a west tower, 115 feet in height. The tower, which was provided with one bell, (fn. 72) rises in four stages, the belfry stage having paired Perpendicular windows and being surmounted by tall angle pinnacles. The base of the tower and the area below the west gallery form a vestibule with a staircase at each end. The aisles are occupied by side galleries and there was originally a second west gallery above the present one. This was removed in 1835 to make room for an organ, erected in the lower gallery in that year and still in position. The pulpit, font, and choir stalls are of later date but the church retains its original box pews 'of good deal, wainscot . . . painted to resemble oak', as well as the gallery fronts 'of stucco, but painted in oil, in resemblance of pannelled Gothic wainscot'. (fn. 73) The mural tablets include one to Henry Davenport (d. 1835). The open space surrounding the church and its position on rising ground contribute to an impressive exterior view, but the condition of the fabric and of the churchyard had deteriorated by 1960.
A house on the north side of Newcastle Street west of Ellgreave Street erected by John Brindley c. 1773 was bought as the parsonage house, William Adams and the trustees of Queen Anne's Bounty contributing towards the cost. (fn. 74) It was sold in 1858 and a new house was built on the south side of Newcastle Street with the proceeds of the sale. (fn. 75) This has been sold to the Heath Filtration Co. Ltd., and the present vicarage house, purchased in 1958, is on Porthill Bank on the Wolstanton side of the Fowlea valley. (fn. 76)
Three mission chapels have been opened from St. Paul's: the present Sytch Mission Chapel, Bodley Street, in 1879; (fn. 77) St. John's Mission Chapel c. 1883, evidently closed within a year; (fn. 78) and Hope Mission Chapel opened in 1886 in the former Congregational chapel in Newcastle Street and replaced in 1897 by a mission chapel in Shirley Street which was closed c. 1957. (fn. 79)
CHRIST CHURCH, Cobridge, was built in 1839–41 as a chapel of ease to St. John's at a cost of some £1,500, about half of which was met by the Incorporated Society and the Lichfield Diocesan Church Extension Society and the rest by subscription. (fn. 80) The Rector of Burslem, Edward Whieldon, who for some years had been trying to found a church in the area, contributed generously out of the revenues of his rectory. (fn. 81) A parish consisting of Cobridge, Sneyd Green, and Abbey Hulton was created out of St. John's parish in 1844. (fn. 82) The living, a perpetual curacy at first and a vicarage from 1868, has remained in the gift of the Rector of Burslem. (fn. 83) The church is built of yellow brick in a simple Gothic style and was designed by Lewis Vulliamy. (fn. 84) It consists of nave, chancel, and west tower and has an open wood roof and lancet windows. It was enlarged and 'beautified' in 1845–6, (fn. 85) and the chancel was extended in 1900. (fn. 86) There is an organ gallery at the west end with a vestry in the south-west corner under the gallery. The vicarage house to the west was built in 1851. (fn. 87)
Four mission chapels have been opened from Christ Church: Cobridge Schoolroom c. 1873–c. 1893; (fn. 88) Cottage Lecture Room, Adams Square, c. 1893, evidently closed within a year; (fn. 89) Granville Mission Room c. 1897–c. 1900; (fn. 90) and St. Andrew's, Sneyd Street, Sneyd Green, built in 1908–9 in memory of George Bates, a pottery manufacturer of the Prospect Works in Sneyd Street, who had contributed towards the cost. (fn. 91) In 1955 St. Andrew's became the centre of a statutory district. (fn. 92) It benefits under a gift of £500 left by Harriet Bates of Endon by will proved in 1912. (fn. 93) It is a low-built brick structure with a bell-cote containing one bell. Extensions at the east end started in 1958 (fn. 94) were still in progress in 1960. The minister's house to the southwest was built in 1946 and extended in 1956. (fn. 95)
A parish covering the Sneyd area was created out of St. John's parish in 1844. (fn. 96) Services were held in a room in Nile Street until the building of the church of HOLY TRINITY in the same road in 1851–2. (fn. 97) The cost was met partly by grants from the Incorporated Society, the Diocesan Church Extension Society, and the Peel Memorial Fund, and partly by subscription. (fn. 98) The church became unsafe through mining subsidence, and in 1956 the congregation and furnishings were transferred to St. Werburgh's in Hamil Road, which was reconsecrated as the church of Holy Trinity, Sneyd, in 1958. (fn. 99) The building in Nile Street was demolished in 1959. The patronage of the living, a perpetual curacy at first and a vicarage from 1868, was vested in the Crown and the Bishop of Lichfield, who present alternately. (fn. 100) The living is at present held jointly with that of St. Werburgh. (fn. 101) The former church of Holy Trinity was built in Gothic style to the designs of G. T. Robinson (fn. 102) and consisted of nave, chancel, aisles, and northeast tower with spire. A side-chapel and vestries were added in 1895. (fn. 103) The vicarage house in Waterloo Road has been occupied by the Rector of St. John's, Hanley, since 1958. (fn. 104)
The church of ST. WERBURGH, a red-brick building in Hamil Road, was erected in 1895 (fn. 105) on land said to have been given by the Wood family. (fn. 106) At first a mission chapel within the parish of Holy Trinity, it became the centre of a conventional district in 1929 (fn. 107) and a parish church in 1939 under a perpetual curate presented by the bishop. (fn. 108) A new church was built in 1953 (fn. 109) on the corner of High Lane and Haywood Road. It is a large building of brown brick with stone dressings, consisting of wide nave with passage aisles and a projecting chancel. The west end of the nave serves as a baptistery and is lit by a tall lancet window. Externally this window is contained within a recessed panel of red brick, surmounted by a stone cross which rises above the low-pitched west gable. There is a bell in a bell-cote on the south face of the building. The vicarage house was built on an adjoining site in 1951, replacing the house in Minster Street (formerly York Street) sold in 1952. (fn. 110) The building in Hamil Road was used only as a Sunday school from 1953 until 1956 (fn. 111) when the church of Holy Trinity, Sneyd, was transferred there.
The Good Shepherd Mission Room in the parish of Holy Trinity was opened c. 1895 and closed c. 1898. (fn. 112)