Biddulph & District Genealogy & Historical Society Biddulph Grange by Kath Walton

Local and Family History for the Biddulph area

Current Meeting Reports - 2019

The Annual General Meeting and Mr. Peter Durnall "The Manifold Valley and Other Films" - 18th March 2019

Mr. Peter Shreyhane "A Lifetime in Education" - 18th February 2019

Mr. Frank Harris “Sutton Hoo and links to Staffordshire” - 21st January 2019


Annual General Meeting and Peter Durnall Film Show - 18th March 2018

The latest meeting of the Society was held on at 7 p.m. on Monday the 18th of March in Biddulph Library. The Chairman, Mr. Roland Machin, began the AGM with his report on the current state of the Society at the end of the financial year. He stated that the “BDGHS continues to thrive, a result of the splendid commitment, cooperation and goodwill we receive from the Committee of the Society: Elaine Heathcote, Brian Lear, Madelaine Lovatt, David Outhwaite, Mike Turncock, Kath Walton, Derek Wheelhouse and Gerald Worland.” Mr. Lear is retiring this year and Mr. Machin paid tribute to the good contribution Brian has made to the work and planning of the society. He also said the Society is grateful for the regular attendance of so many people and the large number who have committed to membership.”

Mr. Machin then outlined the winter programme of meetings which began last September when Mr. Paul Walton talked about the ongoing restoration of Biddulph Grange Gardens. Then in October Jim Worgan and Lloyd Boardman’s presentation was about the Minnie Pit Disaster marking the centenary of the event. November’s meeting allowed Mr. Machin to ‘Revisit the Biddulph Valley Railway’ by presenting his latest research and images. John Sherratt returned in December with his unique approach to research of local history and like the late Ken Dodd his audience were held captive, informed and entertained prior to the seasonal mince pies and celebration! The January meeting was a memorable and carefully prepared account of Sutton Hoo and links to the Staffordshire Hoard by Frank Harris. Peter Shreyhane gave an account of Biddulph Schools and Schooling in February that enabled many in the audience to reflect upon their time at school in a different era.

The Secretary’s report from David Outhwaite then followed and he detailed the ten new books that had been produced last year. He then outlined the new books and areas of research which are taking place and which will be published this year:

1. The Biddulph Trade Directories 1818 – 1940 will be launched at the March Sale of Books in Biddulph Library on Saturday the 23rd of March and will cost £5.00.

2. Goowin dine th’grayn the Society’s book on the Biddulph High Street has been revised by Elaine Heathcote and will be available soon at £12.99.

3. The Greenway Bank Sale Document of 1871 will be available to buy this year.

4. Madeline Lovatt and Michael Turnock have been meeting with George Gerard Booth and a book about this WW2 tail gunner from RAF Squadron 51 is being prepared.

5. The Buses of Biddulph Adrian Lawton is writing an updated version of a study of Biddulph Bus and Coach Services with the help of the other members of the Bus Group (Mr. John Dixon and Mr. Peter Smith).

6. John Hancock and Roland Machin are updating the study of the Biddulph Valley Railway which will be available later this year.

Mr. Machin thanked Mr. Outhwaite for his work in preparing the books for printing; encouraging the publication of member’s research; maintaining and updating the website; preparing the Committee Meeting minutes; and, writing the meeting reports for the Chronicle.

He then invited the Treasurer, Kath Walton, to present the annual accounts. Kath confirmed that the Society was in good health with an increase in new membership and visitors at the meetings and its income from publishing. So much so that there will be no changes in fees, with annual membership remaining at £5 and with non-members paying £2 per meeting.

Elaine Heathcote, the Society’s Archivist, outlined a number of document collections added to list – including new documents on Cowlishaw Walker from Gordon and Pam Lomas and some of the papers of John Sherratt.

Michael Turnock was then invited to give details of the proposed midweek trip in June following our last meeting of the season. The trip will be to the Lion Salt Works and the Anderton Boat Lift near Nantwich. The interest shown at the AGM and April’s meeting will decide if the numbers justify the excursion. The cost will be around £30 including the costs of tours and a boat trip and a deposit at the next meeting will secure a place.

The meeting then turned to the Election of Officers: Derek Wheelhouse remains the honorary President and the meeting was asked to vote for the current Chair Roland Machin, Secretary David Outhwaite and the Treasurer Kath Walton who had all expressed their willingness to continue and they were all duly elected.

Mr. Machin then introduced Mr. Peter Durnall, to show the latest in a long line of award winning films. starting with a beautifully shot look at a year in the Manifold Valley. Stunning wild life, including fledgling dippers and woodpeckers and a lonely male peregrine falcon; the historical footage of the Manifold Valley Light Railway; and, film of the changing seasons were included in a tour de force look at the history and natural history of this local scenic treasure.

Photographs of Thor's Cave and the River Manifold reappearing near Ilam Hall.

There were photographs and film of the stations on the Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway at Hulme End, Ecton, Butterton, Wetton Mill, Redhurst Halt, Thor’s Cave, Grindon, Beeston Tor, Sparrowlee and Waterhouses. The narrow gauge railway began operating in 1904 and finished in 1934. The main use of the railway was the transport of milk and the closure of the Express Dairies Creamery at Ecton creamery signalled its end. Whilst filming the Manifold Way the rivers Manifold and Hamps are never far away. Many small packhorse bridges cross the river with some built to transport copper from the mines at Ecton. The river which disappears underground in the summer down a sink hole near Wetton Mill then reappears some miles distance way near Ilam Hall.

The next short film was from the Staffordshire Film Archive and showed the Prince of Wales visiting the Potteries in 1929 including his meeting with the son of John Harold Rhodes wearing with his father’s medals including the Victoria Cross. Believed to have been filmed by George H. Barber, the local cinema owner, it also showed the huge crowds at Burslem; the H & R Johnson Tile Works; and, the children’s choir assembled for the visit.

The next short film was from the Staffordshire Film Archive documentary on the working day of a miner at the Wolstanton and Victory Collieries. The Society decided to show the film as a tribute to Mr. Eric Whalley who died four days short of his seventy eighth birthday just before Christmas. Eric was a lifelong member of the Society, in its many forms, and will be missed as he was a source of all sorts of local and W(h)alley knowledge. His wife Betty and son took the time to attend the meeting and watch the film with us.

Miners at the End of the Shift in 1969

Mr. Durnall then showed his own film of the History of the Chatterley Whitfield Colliery from working coal mine, through its use as a museum and the current slow decline awaiting a proper rejuvenation. The film includes photographs provided by the Friends of Chatterley Whitfield and it was following their invitation to film that Peter has brought a local landmark to life.

Finally, Peter showed an interesting film of the Bell Tower at St. Lawrence’s Church by John Hazeldine who is the Biddulph Church Tower Master. This film is available to view on and on You Tube.

Mr. Machin thanked Peter for showing the films and displaying once again the talent that Biddulph has to offer in the field of cinematography.

The next meeting of the Society will be held on Monday the 15th of April 2019 when Mr. Danny Wells will speak on the garden as a feature of British Art in a talk entitled “The Art of the Garden.”

“A Lifetime in Education - 18th February 2018”

The latest meeting of the Society was held on Monday the 18th of February when the Speaker was Mr. Peter Shreyhane with a talk entitled “A Lifetime in Education.” The talk charted the changes in education some of which Peter witnessed in his lifetime career as a teacher which he continues in voluntary capacity to this day. Mr. Shreyhane started with the approach to education by the Greeks, Romans, and later the Venerable Bede. The first Universities were founded in Oxford (1096 - 1167) and Cambridge (1209) when education was reserved for a rich elite. In fact even in the Thirteenth Century only 5% of the population were literate.

The industrial revolution and especially the work of the Quaker and other entrepreneurs spread more general education. An example was John Fothergill’s Quaker School which was founded in Pontefract in 1779 along with schools in towns like Birmingham, Nottingham, Saltaire and York. Many schools also developed from the work of Sunday Schools but one of the first schools in this area was the Rushton Spencer School built by public subscription in 1772. The Royal School for the Blind in Liverpool was founded in 1791 and is the oldest specialist school of its kind.

Locally, James Bateman introduced schools including the Red Cross School at Knypersley in 1850 (see plaque on the right) and Biddulph Moor (four years before the Church in 1862).

One of the reasons Mr. Shreyhane believes education was eventually provided by the State was the increase in the country‘s population from the early C. 19th. For centuries the population had been around one million. Biddulph’s population, for example, in 1841 was 2,214 rose to 4,700 in 1947 and by 1950 had risen to 11,000.

Mr. Shreyhane explained that the Education Act of 1880 Act made it compulsory for children to attend school until the age of ten. It was supported by the National Education League which promoted elementary education for all children. The Act placed the provision of education in the control of Local Authorities using byelaws to control the attendance of Children at School. This led to the development of the Board Schools which included Biddulph North in 1874. Under the Elementary Education (School Attendance) Act 1893 increased the leaving age to 11 and the right to education was extended to deaf and blind children. In 1899 the leaving age was increased again to 13 years and the County was tasked with providing education.

Between 1900 and the First World War new schools were opened in Biddulph, Biddulph Moor (1908) and Knypersley (1911). An interesting log book exist which was kept by one head teacher, a Mr. Lowe who recorded all the details of staff and pupils, but it is barred from publication for one hundred years.

The next change was the 1917 Act which raised the school leaving age to 14 and a year later the Royal Institute for Blind founded the first Residential School for deprived and blind children. In 1923 the Labour Party included “Secondary Education for All” in its party policy. Locally, the 1920’s saw the building of grammar schools Wolstanton in 1928, Brownhills Girl’s in 1931 and Mr. Shreyhane’s school St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic “Holy Joe’s. ” The 1936 Education Act proposed the raising of the school leaving age to 15 from September 1939 but this was overtaken by World events.

Mr. Shreyhane explained that in 1938 80% of children left school at 14 having attended an Elementary School and less than 1 in 100 made it to University. The Conservative politician ‘Rab’ Butler was put in charge of Education in 1941. With cross party support and a deal with Anglican and Catholic Churches the Education Act of 1944 Act led to pupils transferred from Primary and Secondary school at eleven years and introduced the 11 Plus. The idea, at the time, had been to create three types of school Grammar, Technical and Secondary Modern School with adequate funding which Mr Shreyhane believes was never achieved.

It also led to the introduction of free school milk, in one third of a pint bottles, and the important role of milk monitor plus the provision of free school meals.

Mr Shreyhane took the meeting through the building of Biddulph Grammar School. Briefly, in 1960 there were 59 children enrolled to the school which wasn’t ready so the pupils attended two other schools locally. The first headmaster appointed in 1961 was Mr. Kelly from the Isle of Man, he and all the other candidates where all from outside the area. In 1961 the school was also looking for lodgings for teachers and the school finally opened on the 23rd of May 1962. Mr. Shreyhane remembers attending an inter school cross country race started by local business man Mr. George Rhodes. He also related his attempts to avoid taking part in cross country races with the result that the strap was administered by the staff of ”Holy Joe’s. “

One problem with the 11 plus was that fluctuations in the population and the availability of places could skew the places available and this happened in Biddulph when the new Grammar School opened.

In 1970 women finally got equal pay as teacher and the next major change was in 1974 when the First, Middle and Higher Schools system was introduced. New schools at Oxhey, Squirrel Hays and English Martyrs were built and then in 2010 another large shake-up occurred with the introduction of the first Academy’s funded outside of the control of the Local Authorities. Essentially, Academies have more freedom than other state schools over their finances, the curriculum, and teachers’ pay and conditions. There are also Foundation Schools which are supported by a charitable foundation or trust, an example is the Coop Academy which was formerly Brownhills Grammar, and they appoint governors to the school’s governing body. Many of the local schools have formed into groups which combine to cover pupils from 4 to 18 years of age.

This talk was full of anecdotes and information which the audience could readily relate to and brought back many memories and stories. An attempt to appear in a long full school photograph twice by running along the back of serried rank of pupils was much appreciated. Mr. Shreyhane finished by outlining what a lifetime in education had taught him: that the vast majority of parent’s love their children; that we all remember our favourite teacher or do better in that subject; and, although glad the strap has gone pupils even now pupils appreciate a teacher who is firm, fair and with has sense of humour.

Mr. Shreyhane’s favourite teacher was Mrs. Gallagher who when he had completed your work allowed you to sew on buttons – a skill he has to this day.

Mr. Machin thanked Mr. Shreyhane who has spent most of his working career in the North East for an interesting talk full of local knowledge about the schools of Biddulph that most of his audience had attended.

The next meeting of the Society will be held on Monday the 18th of March 2019 when the Society’s Annual General Meeting will be followed by a ‘film show’ featuring two short films by local filmmaker Peter Durnall “The Manifold Valley – Its History and Natural History” and “The Old Mine – Chatterley Whitfield from closure to the Present Day.” There will also be two short films given to the Society by Professor Ray Johnson “The Prince of Wales Visits Tunstall 1924” and the Society is showing “Victoria Colliery in 1969” in memory of Mr. Eric Whalley.

Note: There will be a Book Launch of a new 88 page book “The Biddulph Trade Directories 1818 – 1940” which has been collated by David Outhwaite which will be on sale at £5 and the Monthly Sale of Society Books between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday the 23rd of March 2019 in Biddulph Library.

“Sutton Hoo and links to Staffordshire - 21st January 2019”

The first meeting of the Society in 2019 was held on Monday the 21st of January when the Speaker was Mr. Frank Harris with a talk on “Sutton Hoo and links to Staffordshire.” The Chairman of the Society, Mr. Roland Machin, introduced Mr. Harris who was surrounded by two tables of books and posters describing both the Sutton Hoo and Staffordshire Hoard finds. There was also an Anglo Saxon helmet, shield and sword which the audience were invited to try on at the end of the meeting.

Mr. Harris began by admitting to a passionate attachment to the Anglo Saxon culture and that the two finds, the Hoard and the Hoo, were pivotal in looking at this time in English history. He described the finding of the Staffordshire Hoard in 2009 when Terry Herbert, a recently retired coffin maker, found a large collection of Anglo Saxon artefacts on the land of farmer Fred Johnson at Hammerwich. Having been declared treasure trove the pair shared £3.5 million pounds but they have subsequently had a falling out. The numerous items found, especially the gold and garnet sword parts, initially convinced Mr. Harris that the finding of the Hoard must be related to the earlier find at Sutton Hoo.

There is quite a lot of information about the Hoard and we are fortunate to be able to visit part of it at the Hanley Museum so here is a brief description of the finding of Sutton Hoo treasures. If you travel north from Ipswich on the A12 toward Lowestoft and just after Martlesham turn onto the B1083 Melton to Bawdsey and follow the signs you arrive at the White House on the Hoo.

Map of the area showing the site next to Ipswich and Colchester [Google Maps].

Built in 1910, Tranmer House was originally known as Sutton Hoo House and was designed by John Corder, a local architect from Ipswich and built for artist and gentleman of independent means John Chadwick Lomax. After their marriage in 1926, Mrs Edith Pretty and Lt Colonel Frank Pretty chose to make this house their home. When Edith passed away in 1942, the house passed to their only son, Robert Pretty. He was only 12 at the time and moved to live with his aunt in Eton. He would never return to live in Tranmer House himself. The house instead moved fulltime into the ownership of the War Office, already having provided a home to the Land Army girls – who quite literally left their mark on the house. If you look carefully, you can still see the graffiti they carved into the stone fireplace and the ring of tiny holes in the wooden wall panelling, around where their dartboard would have hung. It is presently being refurbished by the National Trust and will reopen in the Spring of this year.

Photograph of Tranmer or Sutton Hoo House [National Trust].

This description misses one important feature found on the estate when Mrs Edith May Pretty J.P. [photograph on the right] lived in Sutton Hoo House and owned the estate. She had moved there with her husband in 1926, but he died in 1934 leaving her with a young son. They had often wondered what the strange, rabbit-infested mounds were which they could see from the house. In around 1900 an elderly resident of Woodbridge had spoken of ‘untold gold’ in the Sutton Hoo mounds, and Mrs Pretty’s nephew, a dowser, repeatedly identified signals of buried gold from what is now known to be the ship-mound. Mrs Pretty became interested in Spiritualism, and was further encouraged by friends who claimed to see figures at the mounds. By popular account she had a vivid dream of the funeral procession and treasures.

Through the Ipswich Museum, in 1938 she obtained the services of Basil Brown, [photograph below left] a Suffolk man whose smallholding had failed four years earlier, and who had taken up full-time archaeology on Roman sites for the museum. Mrs Pretty took Mr Brown to the site, and suggested that he start digging at Mound 1, one of the largest. The mound had obviously been disturbed, and in consultation with Ipswich Museum Brown decided instead to open three smaller mounds during 1938 with the help of three estate labourers. These did reveal interesting treasures, but only in fragments as the mounds had been robbed. We are fortunate that Mr. Brown was a meticulous man as he recorded carefully all of his work on the site. Later at the Staffordshire Hoard Mr. Jenkins too had been careful in marking and bagging each item he found.

In early 1939 Mr Brown unearthed an astonishing Anglo-Saxon ship burial in Woodbridge, Suffolk; astonishing both for the state of preservation of the objects within the tomb, but also astonishing for the sheer rich quality of the artefacts. The burial goods from Sutton Hoo are remarkable - gold weapons and armour, inlaid ornaments, silver and tableware. Also found within the ship was a purse containing 37 gold Merovingian (Gaulish) gold coins dating from the 620’s AD. No body was found, leading to a theory that the ship burial was intended as a cenotaph, but recent analysis has revealed that the body had simply been destroyed by the acidic soil.

This was the first ‘Saxon Hoard’ and led to a new understanding of Saxon culture in Britain but many questions and revisions of the development of their influence in the first thousand years AD are still unanswered.

Sutton Hoo Ship: an artists impression of the largest Anglo-Saxon ship ever discovered which was about 90 feet long and 14 feet wide, with a high bow and stern.

In the ship were Saxon weapons made in the Swedish style and the burial itself follows a Nordic one as there are many similar Viking sites in Denmark and Sweden. There was also a large silver dish made in Byzantium about 500 AD and a set of 10 silver bowls from the Mediterranean. Which Mr. Harris included amongst his myriad of slides of the items found at both sites.

Who was buried at Sutton Hoo? Who was so powerful in his lifetime to be interred with ceremony in a ship surrounded by so much golden splendour? According to the Venerable Bede in his "Ecclesiastical History", Raedwald, a Saxon "bretwalda", or king, ruled East Anglia in 616, although his power may have stretched as far north as the Humber. Interestingly Raedwald was the first East Anglian king to pay any heed to Christianity. Could this be the man?

Right: The famous Sutton Hoo helmet which along with many other original items is in the British Museum.

The site is now protected and a visitor centre allows people a glimpse into the past; the richness of the find; and, the incredible craftsmanship of the Saxon era. This skill is obviously in evidence in the Staffordshire Hoard and one feature of both sites is the presence of a helmet which with today’s technology can be shaped from small fragments.

The importance of Sutton Hoo is that the grave goods tell us a lot about the pattern of life in this darkest part of the Dark Ages in Britain. The style of the craftsmanship lets us draw conclusions about how strong were Saxon connections with rest of Europe both a strong Norse influence in East Anglia and trade ties to Gaul and the Mediterranean. The importance of the Staffordshire hoard is still being researched but it does include the largest number of military artefacts from this period ever found including parts of a helmet which are stunning.

The Saxon Helmet in Hanley Museum based on the findings at Hammerwich.

Mr. Harris described the craftsmanship of the items found at both sites and had to admit that his original theory for connecting the two sites may be mistaken. There are at least three theories which have been put forward as to the source of the Staffordshire Hoard. Firstly, that it was as the result of grave-robbing from Sutton Hoo. A robber pit dug in the 16th century had been sunk at the apparent centre, missing the real centre and the burial deposit by a narrow margin. Could the hoard have been stolen by digging up a number of mounds and hidden on the way to Wales? Mr. Harris believes there are too many ornate parts of swords for this to be the case.

Secondly, the hoard could be a collection of items recovered from a battlefield by the victorious side which were being stripped down ready to fashion new items. The workmanship is of the highest quality and no item would have been wasted. It is obvious from the find that the artisan skills were of the highest quality, so why dump the Hoard here - many miles from a village which had a workshop or community of craftsmen?

Thirdly, the Hoard was found on open scrubby heathland not far from a Roman road on what had been the border between the Danes in the East and the Mercians in the West. Could the hoard have been collected together to make a payment to the Danes to stop them harassing the Mercians? Could it be that it never arrived as the escort was attacked and the treasure abandoned to avoid its capture.

Mr. Harris explained that he intended to continue his research and find answers to this problem and other questions:

1. How the jewelled objects were made and on the skills required to produce them.

2. Where the raw material came from.

3. Whose body was buried in the ship at Sutton Hoo.

4. What was the truth about the Saxon invasion.

Unfortunately this would have to keep for another meeting and having answering a number of questions from the audience Mr. Machin thanked Mr. Harris for an enthralling and educational talk. The meeting then broke for tea and biscuits and many became Saxon warriors, trying on the helmet, lifting the heavy shield and brandishing the sword.

The Next Meeting of the Society will be held on Monday the 18th of February 2019 when the Speaker will be Mr. Peter Shreyhane with a talk on “ Biddulph Schools - a Lifetime of Education.”

Local and Family History for the Biddulph area

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