Current Meeting Reports - 2022
Caroline Speirs and Professor Ray Johnson "Flying the Dream" - 21st November 2022
Mr. Danny Wells "Joseph Paxton, The Busiest Man in England" - 17th October 2022
Mr. Philip Leese "A History of Lawton Hall" - 26th September 2022
A Walk from Chapel to Church led by David J. Outhwaite - 20th June 2022
“The Manifold Valley and Railway” with Mr. Roland Machin - 16th May 2022
Albert and the Centenary of Unveiling of the Biddulph War Memorial - 25th April 2022
The BDGHS Annual General Meeting - 21st March 2022
Jonathan Fryer introduces Ray Johnson's film the "Sneyd Pit Disaster" - 21st February 2022
Geraldine Outhwaite "The Hospital Where Everybody Smiles" - 17th January 2022
“Flying the Dream” Caroline Speirs and Professor Ray Johnson - 21st November 2022
An illustrated talk on the Second World War Air Transport Auxiliary Women Pilots.
The November meeting of the Society was held on the 21st and forty eight members and guests braved atrocious weather to attend. They were there to hear Caroline Speirs talk about the Second World War Air Transport Auxiliary Women Pilots and the life in the ATA of her mother Rita Baines. The meeting began with Professor Ray Johnson showing a short film about the deployment of women into numerous war-related jobs in the Staffordshire area in munitions, transport and farming which allowed more men to be released to fight. Caroline Speirs then gave a history of the ATA which included a look at its formation and the type of ladies that applied. It also included the involvement of her mother, her training and missions, before the film “Flying the Dream” was shown. Written by Caroline Speirs, using documents left by her mother, this Ray Johnson film gives an account of Rita Baines’ life and work for the ATA during the Second World War.
The Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) was a civilian organisation set up during World War II originally intended to carry personnel, mail and medical supplies. The idea of a kind of Territorial Air Force using civilian pilots who were not eligible for RAF flying service and RAF pilots unfit for operational flying was first put forward by British Airways in 1938. It was founded by British Airways Limited in May 1938 and was subsequently organised into an operational unit at the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939. As well as transporting service personnel on urgent duty and performing some air ambulance work it soon included providing pilots to ferry new, repaired and damaged military aircraft between factories, assembly plants, maintenance depots and so on to active service squadrons and airfields. Its pilots were soon in demand to work with RAF ferry pools in the transport of aircraft and by 1st August 1941 had taken all ferrying responsibility, freeing up much-needed pilots for combat roles.
It was a civilian organisation which made an enormous contribution to victory by taking over from service pilots the task of ferrying RAF and RN warplanes from factories to maintenance units and front-line squadrons and back again from the squadrons if damaged or due for overhaul. From the initial 28 pilots recruited in Bristol in September 1939, the numbers rose to over 650 pilots five years later. The ATA's HQ was set up at White Waltham airfield near Maidenhead in Berkshire early in 1940 although the organisation was originally established at Whitchurch Airfield, Bristol. In total, over 309,000 aircraft were ferried by ATA pilots during the war.
The ATA’s motto “Aetheris Avid” means “Eager for the Air.” Eager they were, young and old, fit and less fit, men and women, British and foreign with 22 nationalities being represented. Training was given on one type of aircraft in each class, whilst flying any of the aircraft listed in this first class, training began on one aircraft in the next class. (See the table below).
Depending on their level of experience and training, they could be called on to ferry any one of 147 different aircraft types from ‘anywhere to anywhere.’ Often they had never seen a particular aircraft type before being ordered to fly it and their only guidance was a thin volume of “Ferry Pilots’ Notes” - a pocket-sized flip pad of basic do’s-and-don’ts for every aircraft in service.
In November 1939, Commander Pauline Gower was given the task of organising the women’s section of the ATA. The first eight women, seen in the picture above, were accepted into service on New Year’s Day 1940, initially cleared only to fly Tiger Moths. They were Joan Hughes, Margaret Cunnison, Mona Friedlander, Rosemary Rees, Marion Wilberforce, Margaret Fairweather, Gabrielle Patterson, and Winifred Crossley Fair. Although at first seen as less-skilled than their male counterparts, in time they flew all types of aircraft, from Hurricanes and Spitfires to four-engine heavy bombers such as the Lancaster and Flying Fortress.
In World War II the ATA flew 415,000 hours and delivered more than 309,000 aircraft ranging from smaller planes such as the Spitfire and Mustangs to heavy bombers such as the Lancaster and American B17 Flying Fortress. 174 men and women pilots of the ATA were killed during the War - around 10% of the total who flew for the ATA. Initially, as the pilots were civilian and/or women, the aircraft were ferried with unloaded guns or other armaments. However, after encounters with German aircraft in which the ferried aircraft were unable to fight back, RAF aircraft were then ferried with guns fully loaded.
The ATA had women who were (almost) all young, and sound of mind and body, and were unsuitable for combat duty because of their gender, although many had as much, if not more, experience of flying than their male counterparts. According to one of the best women pilots, Gabrielle Patterson, there weren’t many of them because until 1938 ‘women pilots hitherto have consisted only of those with large enough bank balances’. Gabrielle Patterson helped to set up the Civil Air Guard which offered subsidised flying lessons for the less well-off, although hadn’t managed to complete their “A” licence before civilian flying was stopped at the outbreak of WWII.
The ATA was one of the few diverse organisations during the War - apart from accepting women as well as men, there were disabled pilots, older pilots and people of many nationalities, including from neutral countries. There were 28 different nationalities who flew with the ATA. Women were paid the same as men of equal rank - the first time that the British government had allowed equal pay for equal work for an organisation under its control. At the same time, American women flying with the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) received as little as 65 per cent of their equivalent male colleagues.
Left: Rita Baines flying for the ATA.
The role of the ATA was vital to the success of the RAF in WWII and to the outcome of the war. As Lord Beaverbrook said at the disbanding of the ATA on 30th November 1945, “Just as the Battle of Britain is the accomplishment and achievement of the RAF, likewise it can be declared that the ATA sustained and supported them in battle. They were soldiers fighting in the struggle just as completely as if they had been engaged on the battlefront. ”
Caroline’s mother, Rita Baines, was to join the ATA and fly to the end of the War. Caroline has worked with Ray Johnson to produce a film “Flying the Dream.” Those who missed the meeting can find it currently available to view on YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55M7KBUOdBM. It tells the story of this brave local aviation pioneer and her work with the ATA.
Mr. Michael Turnock thanked the audience for attending and thanked Caroline for her interesting talk and Professor Ray Johnson for the films on each side of the presentation which had produced an enthralling evening of images and information. He referred to his own book on a Biddulph flying hero of World War Two, Sergeant Gerard Booth and quoted from it: “Standing on the airfield one day Gerard watched an aircraft land and after taxiing to a halt, a crew of three emerged from a new four engine heavy bomber, the Halifax MKIII. When the figures took off their flying helmets he could not believe his eyes. They were three glamorous ladies, with beautiful long flowing blonde hair. He could not get to the Mess quick enough to tell the other Sergeants what he’d just seen. The three women were with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), their role had been to fly this new aircraft from the Handley Page factory at Radlett to RAF Snaith.”
Joseph Paxton, The Busiest Man in England - 17th October 2022
The October meeting of the BDGHS was held on the 17th of the month when Mr. Danny Wells presented his illustrated talk on “Joseph Paxton, The Busiest Man in England.” Assistant Chairman Michael Turnock began by linking Mr. Paxton to our local plantsman Mr. Bateman who was also at the forefront of the introduction of new plants in the early C19th. He then introduced Mr. Wells whose talk covered the extraordinary life of Sir Joseph - gardener, plantsman, garden and greenhouse builder, newspaper proprietor, fountain builder, house builder, designer of public parks, railway enthusiast, and politician being the Member of Parliament for Coventry from 1854 until his death.
Joseph Paxton was born on August the 3rd, 1801, near Woburn, Bedfordshire and died on June 8th, 1865 at Sydenham, near London although he is buried at St Peter’s Church, Edensor. In those 64 years he seemed to have had lived two full life times when his achievements are related. He was born the seventh son and last of nine children of the gardener at Battlesden Park the home of Sir Gregory Page-Turner. He applied for a job at Chatsworth as a gardener employed by the Duke of Devonshire, whose friend, factotum, and adviser he became. It was a busy first day as he also met Sarah Bowd who became his wife and patient and trusted friend. During their marriage whilst Sarah lived at their house, latterly at Barbrook House in Edensor, the Duke would whisk Joseph abroad to Switzerland for six months and during the Crimean War Joseph was away helping to install Brassey’s light railway.
From 1826 he was superintendent of the gardens at Chatsworth, the Duke’s Derbyshire estate. In 1840 Paxton designed and built an iron and glass famous conservatory which cost £36,000 with eight coal fired heaters and many miles of pipework to maintain a high temperature. In 1850 Paxton built the lily house for the Duke’s rare Victoria Regia Water Lily which he had propagated from seed and brought to flower. Another feature of the house was the fountain which Paxton designed for a proposed visit of Czar Nicholas in 1844. It is on record as having reached the height of 90m (300ft) and is powered by the pressure of water dropping 122m through a 40cm iron pipe. Unfortunately the Czar didn’t visit but it was still called the Emperor Fountain. These features and the building of a station at Rowsley attracted 80,000 visitors per year to visit the Duke’s estate at Chatsworth.
This write up of Mr. Wells wide ranging talk will concentrate on just one element of Joseph Paxton’s work.
In 1849 Prince Albert the president of the Royal Society of Arts, conceived the idea of inviting international exhibitors to participate in an exposition. Plans were developed and the necessary funds speedily raised, with Queen Victoria herself heading the list of subscribers.
In January 1850 a committee was formed to choose the design for a temporary exhibition building that would showcase the latest technologies and innovations as the “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations.” The structure had to be as economical as possible, and be built before the exhibition was scheduled to open on May 1st, 1851. Within 3 weeks the committee received 245 entries, all of which were rejected. It was only after this that Paxton showed his first interest in the project.
(Left) Interior of the Crystal Palace
Having designed and built a number of large hothouses for the Duke of Devonshire Paxton applied his extensive glasshouse construction to his plan. Using combinations of prefabricated cast iron, laminated wood, and standard sized glass sheets, Paxton created the ‘ridge-and-furrow’ roof design. This was the system Paxton used in 1836 for the first time in the “Great Stove” - the largest glass building at the time.
Paxton proceeded to visit Hyde Park, where he quickly doodled his famous concept drawing of the Palace (the sketch is now held in the Victoria and Albert Museum). The drawing included all the basic elements of the building, and within two weeks all calculations and detailed plans were submitted.
His design covered four times the area of St. Peter’s, Rome, and the grandeur of its conception was a challenge to mid-19th-century technology. Although it was built within six months and he was knighted for his efforts (1851), it was not until later that the structure was seen as a revolution in style.
Paxton’s design was based on a 10in x 49in module, the size of the largest glass sheet available at the time. It consisted of an intricate network of slender iron rods sustaining walls of clear glass. The modular system consisted of right-angled triangles, mirrored and multiplied, supported by a grid of cast iron beams and pillars. These basic units were extremely light and strong and were extended to an incredible length of 564 meters. The main body of the building was 1,848 feet (563 metres) long and 408 feet (124 metres) wide; the height of the central transept was 108 feet (33 metres). The construction occupied some 18 acres (7 hectares) on the ground, while its total floor area was about 990,000 square feet (92,000 square metres, or about 23 acres [9 hectares]). On the ground floor and galleries there were more than 8 miles (13 km) of display tables.
The committee were impressed by the low cost of Paxton’s proposal and accepted his innovative plan. There were just 8 months available for the construction which commenced immediately in Hyde Park. 5,000 workers handled more than 1,000 iron columns and 84,000 square meters of glass. All parts were prefabricated and easy to erect, and every modular unit was self-supporting, allowing the workers freedom in assembling the pieces. Thanks to Paxton’s simple and brilliant design, over 18,000 panes of glass sheets were installed per week, and the structure was completed within 5 months.
Some 14,000 exhibitors participated with nearly half coming from abroad. France sent 1,760 exhibits and the United States 560. Among the American exhibits were false teeth, artificial legs, Colt’s repeating pistol, Goodyear India rubber goods, chewing tobacco, and McCormick’s reaper. Popular British exhibits included hydraulic presses, powerful steam engines, pumps, and automated cotton mules (spinning machines). More than six million visitors attended the exhibition, which was open to the public until October 11. Paxton wanted the working man to have free access to the exhibition but the Prince and committee voted against it. The event showed a significant profit, and a closing ceremony was held on October 15.
The Crystal Palace of Sir Joseph Paxton
Six months after the exhibition closed, the structure was taken down and rebuilt (1852 - 54) at Sydenham Hill (now in the borough of Bromley), at which site it survived until 1936 when the building was destroyed in a fire. The water towers that survived the fire were finally demolished in 1941 because they were deemed a conspicuous landmark for incoming German bombers.
Paxton’s ingenious design created an unprecedented exhibition space. The construction, acting as a self-supporting shell, maximized interior space, and the glass cover enabled daylight. The method of construction was a breakthrough in technology and design, and paved the way for more sophisticated pre-fabricated design.
You have to remember that Paxton was a gardener and not an architect or engineer although he was friends of both Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Robert Stevenson and that all his building knowledge was acquired by experiment and experience.
You can take a number of guided tours of the Crystal Palace, on your computer, here is one that is available - https://www.royalparks.org.uk/whats-on/the-great-exhibition-virtual-tour
A History of Lawton Hall - 26th September 2022
The First Meeting of the New Season of the BDGHS was held on Monday the 26th of September 2022 in the Biddulph Victoria Chapel, Station Road, Biddulph. The speaker, local historian, Mr. Philip Leese presented a talk entitled “A History of Lawton Hall.”
This report will be in two parts which are only the skeleton of Mr. Leese’s wide ranging talk and starts with a History of the Hall.
Lawton Hall c.1850
William Lawton’s grandfather purchased the Abbot of St Werburgh’s share of the estate from the crown and built a fine Jacobean Manor house. It was described by George Ormerod in his ‘History of the County Palatine and City of Chester’ as follows: Lawton-hall is a handsome and spacious building of brick. In front of the house is a sheet of artificial water, and the grounds extend to the parish church at the back of the mansion.
On William’s death in 1613 the estate extended well beyond Church Lawton including the manor of Balterley, Tunstall, Church Lawton, Alsager and property in Shepperton, Littleton, Laleham, Holborn in St Giles and St Clement without the new Temple Bar in the County of Middlesex passed to the only surviving of William’s two sons John Lawton (1606 -1654). John was only 7 at the time of his father‘s death. During the term of his minority the estate was managed by Ralph Sneyd of Keele. On coming of age, John Lawton married Ralph’s daughter Clare and they had three sons.
Upon John’s death in 1654 the estate passed to his son William Lawton (1630 - 1693) who in turn had 11 children. William’s eldest son John Lawton (1656 -1736) was born just after the English civil war while King Charles II was in exile. Whilst in hiding Charles visited Lawton Hall, and remained concealed in the house ‘for some time.’ He presented John with his drinking cup as a christening gift and also gave his snuffbox, which was carved from boxwood and ornamented with his royal arms and cipher on the lid and the Lawton arms carved on the bottom. King Charles also gave two portrait paintings, one of himself and another of the young Duke of Monmouth both painted by Sir Peter Lely.
John Lawton was 37 when he inherited the estate from his father William. The fact that he was one of 11 siblings didn’t seem to put him off as he went on to have 21 children with his first wife Anne Montague and another son with his second wife Mary Longueville. All but one of Anne’s children died before their father. Fortunately the one that survived was his third eldest son John Lawton (1687 -1740) who inherited the estate. Unfortunately, having waited 49 years for it, he died just 4 years later so it was then passed to Mary’s only son, Robert Lawton (1723 -1777) who was only 17 at the time.
It was Robert Lawton who was responsible for building the first part of the current Lawton Hall in 1755 in the new Georgian Style. He died as a result of being kicked by a horse at Newcastle races and the estate then passed to his son John Lawton (1746 - 1804). John married Anne Crewe (1747 - 1810) with whom he had 5 sons and a daughter. The youngest son Robert and their daughter Sarah both died as infants. Their second youngest son was a lieutenant in the 83rd regiment but died on his way to the West Indies, leaving their 3 eldest: William, Charles Bourne and the Rev. John Lawton.
Their father John Lawton proved to be quite a disreputable character. Apart from producing 4 illegitimate children (2 sons and 2 daughters) by his housekeeper Mary Deare, his mismanagement of the estate‘s interests coupled with the dishonesty of his steward Robert Cox almost bankrupted the estate.
Anne together with her son William (now Lord of the Manor) took the matter to the Chancery court and in 1809 had the leases revoked and re-issued at a commercial rent determined by an independent arbitrator appointed by the court. The recovering of the estate’s ‘rights’ is celebrated by an amendment to a portrait of Anne originally painted in 1802. Rather than have a new portrait made (Anne was quite ill by then) the previous portrait had her left hand overpainted showing it holding a scroll to mark the occasion. Anne died 6 months later.
Anne had however used her personal inheritance to maintain, privately educate and bring up her children and hold the estate together. She was so highly regarded that even in a Georgian male dominated culture, the pall bearers at her funeral included esteemed dignitaries such as James Caldwell, Lord Crewe, Sir Thomas Broughton, Mr Offley Crewe and Sir John Heathcote.
William Lawton was 35 when he became Lord of the Manor and he managed the estate’s affairs well for the next 27 years. Although he made no significant alterations to the house, he was however responsible for creating the ‘pool.’ Between 1812 -1813, William with the help of his younger brother Charles replaced a bridge at the end of the estate with a dam to flood the valley and form the mere we see today.
William never married so on his death in 1831, the estate passed to his younger brother Charles Bourne Lawton who was 61 at the time. [See Part 2]
On Charles’s death the title would have passed to Charles’s younger brother Reverend John Lawton (1774 -1831) but he died in the same year as his older brother William so it passed to John’s son, Charles’s nephew.
The family’s financial standing never recovered to its previous status. At the death of John’s successor William John Percy Lawton in 1883, his son John William Edward Lawton was only aged 10. At which point the estate was considered no longer viable and in 1884 the Staffordshire Advertiser of 13 December reported - The seat of the ancient family of Lawton of Lawton - is to be let.
In 1906 it was leased and marketed as a hotel with its own golf course. During the First World War the hall was requisitioned as a hospital. Between the wars it was advertised as Lawton Hall Hydro “A charming residential spa hotel set within 200 acres. A magnificent old mansion with priceless antique furniture and paintings. The terrace overlooks a beautiful lake, tennis, golf, fishing, billiards, dances and a garage for 12 cars.”
Lawton Hall Hotel c.1922
During the Second World War it was used to billet the Civil Defence Reserve and the Fire Service. After the war it was used briefly as a school for the disabled, then from 1950 – 1986 it became a private school. After the school closed, the building gradually fell into dereliction and was subject to vandalism, theft and fire until its redevelopment by Gleesons started in 1999.
Part two concerns the relationship between three eminent Georgians.
A. Charles Bourne Lawton (1770 - 1869) who was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge and is recorded as being six feet four inches tall, stout and strong in proportion and a bit of a ‘ladies man.’
Charles was 38 when in 1808 he married his first wife Anne Featherstonehaugh. Unfortunately she died in childbirth in 1814 together with their child. Two years later he married Mariana Piercy Belcombe, he was 46 and she was 26.
Charles was responsible for most of the alterations to Lawton Hall but there was a tendency to live beyond his means. Apart from the cost of modifying the hall, the tithe map of the estate in 1839 shows the extent to which Charles kept land for his own use rather than leasing out for income.
Original the estate consisted of 41 acres of land in Rode, and 1,256 acres of land in Church Lawton, with coal mines using the local canals for transport and salt extraction but by the time of his death in 1860 the estate was valued at less than £10,000 and was largely re-mortgaged. Hence the personal effects left to his wife Mariana were extremely modest including my Brougham Carriage with one horse and harness; my pony carriage and the two horses belonging to it; and, Mariana’s riding pony, pianoforte, and three Alderney Cows of her selection. There were also a few shares in the railway and canal companies and his dwelling house, then used as a public house known as ‘The Bleeding Wolf Inn’ in Hall Green.
B. Anne Lister (1791 - 1840), scholar and heiress who later ran her own estate with entrepreneurial flair, was one of the most remarkable women of Georgian England. Born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, Anne was the eldest surviving child of Captain Jeremy Lister, footloose veteran of the War of American Independence. After a rural childhood, Anne attended an elite girls’ boarding school in York; then from 1806 she spent most of her life in Halifax, a centre of the West Riding worsted industry.
Her father was youngest son of the Listers of Shibden Hall, but his brothers either remained unmarried or their children did not survive infancy; and it was Anne who eventually inherited the Shibden estate with its farms and tenancies, mining and quarrying interests.
An intrepid European traveller, her great ambition was to visit Russia and venture beyond Moscow. And this she did. With her companion Ann Walker, she set out in 1839 via St Petersburg, reaching the Caspian Sea and eventually Western Georgia. Bitten by a fever-carrying tick, Anne Lister died near K’ut’aisi in this remote Russian province in September 1840. It took Ann Walker six months to bring the body back across Europe for burial in Halifax Parish Church.
C. Mariana Belcombe (1790 - 1868) was the daughter of Dr. Belcombe, a York physician who specialised in the care of the mentally ill. She and Anne Lister first met at a house-party at the Langton Hall home of the Norcliffe family in 1812. Anne was immediately passionately attracted to Mariana and the two women vowed to spend their lives together. However, on 9th March 1816, Mariana married Charles Lawton, a wealthy Cheshire landowner and became mistress of Lawton Hall. Although the two women carried on their clandestine relationship for a number of years, Anne regularly travelled by stage coach to visit Lawton Hall and took trips abroad with Mariana including to Paris. Their hopes of eventually being together were never realised and Anne had other affairs. Mariana outlived Anne and died at her sister’s home in London at the age of seventy-eight.
Anne Lister, the portrait on the right is in the care of Calderdale Leisure Services, recorded her life in twenty-seven diaries with almost four million words, roughly a sixth of which are in Anne's private code, are not yet fully available to historians. By comparison, Samuel Pepys’ diary (1660-69) is just over a million words. The following are two de-coded passages:
“Sat up talking to my uncle till 11 o’clock about getting married. I took care to say, however, that I never intended to marry at all. I cannot make out whether he suspects my situation towards M- [Mariana]. I begin to despair that M- and I will ever get together.” 28 May 1817 - written in Anne’s journal (SH:7/ML/E/1)
“To the world she appears exemplary. Alas the world knows not our connection and how we have always cheated Charles. Our intercourse is what? Adultery. And when she leaves him, it is to come to me. I am attached to her. She has my heart and faith.” 2 Apr 1826 - written in Anne’s journal (SH:7/ML/E/9)
If you haven’t guessed yet, the portrait of Anne Lister above is that of the eponymous ‘Gentleman Jack’ played by Suranne Jones with Lydia Leonard as Mariana in the recent BBC television series.
The Chapel to Church Walk - 20th June 2022
A Chapel to Church Walk: On Monday the 20th of June, David Outhwaite led more than twenty members of the BDGHS on a walk from the Chapel to St. Lawrence’s Church. A map of the walk prepared by Richard Dean based on the 1876 O.S. map is available from Biddulph Library and the Methodist Chapel and Victoria Centre, Station Road. You can use this article in the Chronicle or you can print these instructions on the Biddulph History Society (BDGHS) website and attempt the walk which takes about one and half hours and is just less than two miles in length.
The start is the former Primitive Chapel on Chapel Street (now Station Road) when you turn right onto Cross Street to arrive at the War Memorial.
Albert Square: You can compare what was here in 1876 with the present day - Albert Street is similar but many of the houses on John Street have not been built.
You will see on the map the Post Office is at 4 High Street but is now at 8 High Street. The year after our map the Post Office moved to a more central position at 42 High Street and in 1901 Mr. John Thomas Oakes, stationer and postmaster, was running Biddulph’s post office from here.
It was in 1871 Charles Woodstock, a chemist from Lutterworth in Leicestershire lived at No. 4 along with his wife, Mary Ann, daughter and a domestic servant. In Kelly’s 1892 Directory he was described as “a dentist, postmaster and agent for W & A Gilbey, Wine and Spirit Merchant.” After spending over twenty years on the High Street, Mr. Woodstock and his family moved to Willesden, Middlesex.
A directory for 1896 has Fred Hancock, a grocer, living at No 4A High Street. [At some time the property must have been split into Hancock’s grocery business and also an auction office operated by Mr. William Moss.]
In the 1911 Survey at No 4 or 4A John Pointon, who was a wheelwright  and his wife Elizabeth Pointon , with daughters Mary Ellen  and Alice Jane  were living at this address.
From around 1914 No 4A was occupied by Ernest Wells, Cycle Agent - who had moved from Congleton Road.
In the 1921 Survey at No 4 or 4A John Robert Green  and his wife Elizabeth Green  with sons Henry , Fred , Harold  and Frank ; and daughters Lily , Annie  and Caroline  were living at this address. Robert was a Labourer at Robert Heath Ironworks but was out of work, Henry was a Pony Driver and Fred a Pot Lad at Whitfield Colliery but were both out of work. Elizabeth Green, John’s wife was described as doing Home Duties.
From 1936 to the 1940s it was occupied by Albert and Frederick Bew, wireless apparatus dealers.
It is thought that the Midland Bank took over the premises around 1955 to be closed in March 1981 because of a lack of space and the poor condition of the property.
By 1985 Top Fashions was operating from the property and it is now “ Tang Dynasty” a Cantonese takeaway.
Walk down Bridge Street (now Congleton Road) to the roundabout at the end of Thames Drive.
Note that Cromwell Street hasn’t changed since the map was made. Neither has Thomas Street except where Charter Vets are it was Machin’s Shop with the Bakery under the arch on the right. What is the link between 100 Congleton Road and 72 John Street? It is where Colin Rodgers who wrote “Growing up in Biddulph” was born and lived. As you walk down the hill imagine the amount of traffic you see at the end of the Inner Relief Road trying to turn into town and Thames Drive.
Left: The original view north down Congleton Road towards Thames Drive and right: the view down Thames Drive to the junction.
Walk to the corner of Fountain Court.
Note that the Horse Trough at Fountain Court was moved here when the road was re-aligned for the Inner Relief Road. The inscription reads 1861 “For the refreshment of Weary Travellers may God Speed them on their way” IYB which may be a quote from John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress. ’
Walk to the corner of Smithy Lane.
Smithy Lane was the main road to Congleton until the Turnpike was built. The original road went behind the Church and Biddulph Grange and joined Grange Road
Walk to the corner of Woodhouse Lane
Woodhouse Lane which is the main route to access Biddulph Moor was originally just a track from March Green.
Walk to the car park of the Church School Car Park.
As you enter the Churchyard through the South Gate (with the date 1835 above it) when you turn right past the Crusaders graves (on the left by the church wall) find the sundial on the right and then count to find the third grave buried underground but whose grave is it?
Research in 2002 found it states: Here lies the remains of WILLIAM EARDLEY who was interred June 6th 1769 aged 84. Also SAMUEL EARDLEY son of WILLIAM and MARY EARDLEY who was interred September the 29th 1804 aged 92 years. EMME EARDLEY his wife who departed this life May 11th 1811 aged 95 years. Also HANNAH wife of RALPH EARDLEY and daughter to the above who died July 13th 1822 aged 59 years. MARY ------------ who was interr-- August 29th 1771 aged 84.
Turn left around the east end of the Church
The Heath Chapel is in the south east corner of the Church. As well as a beautiful marble statue there is a plaque for all the members of the Heath family remembered here. Including Voltelin Percy Heath of the Royal Horse Guards, only son of Sir James Heath, Baronet, born January 10th 1889, died September 4th 1914 from wounds received during the retreat from Mons. Buried at the Chateau Baron, France.
Walk through the Churchyard to the War Memorial
The Church War Memorial was dedicated in 1921 just one year before the Town War Memorial and has the same seventy three names as casualties of the First World War.
Nearby you will find the R.A.F. grave of John Machin. R.A.F. In Loving Memory of Lieut. JOHN EGBERT MACHIN the dearly loved husband of ELIZABETH MACHIN of John St Biddulph who was killed while flying at Cambridge on the 29th of May 1918 aged 24 years. He gave ’His life for England’ but ’His soul to God’ Gone but not forgotten.
Should the Church bells ring before you re-join Congleton Road they are labelled as follows: Peal of Bells (Smallest Treble and largest Tenor)
1. My gentle voice shall lead the cheerful sound: Peace to this Parish: May goodwill abound.
2. May all in truth and harmony rejoice, To honour Church and Queen with heart and voice.
3. Prosperity attend Old England’s shore, Let Biddulph flourish now and evermore.
4. With loving voice I call to Church and Prayer, And bid the living for the grave prepare.
5. For mercies undeserved this peal is raised, And may Thy Name, O God, through Christ be praised.
6. To the honour and Glory of God this peal of six bells was given to the Parish Church of Biddulph by Robert Heath, Esq., of Biddulph Grange, 1873
Walk back to the corner of Woodhouse Lane
Look on the opposite side of Congleton Road and note the gateposts of Spring Grove. These are some of the people who lived there:
The front view of Spring Grove House, Congleton Road, Biddulph
Walk to the Biddulph Arms Hotel
The Biddulph Arms Hotel, Biddulph 1960
[Staffordshire Past Track]
You can use your map to identify the owners and occupiers of the fields to the East of the Biddulph Arms (information from the Biddulph Tithe Survey 1840 which are identified on your map)
151 An inclosure owned by Thomas Gould and occupied by Hannah Lockett
918 Mill Meadow owned by John Bateman and occupied by Jane Goodwin
923 Big Gorsy Field owned by John Bateman and occupied by Jane Goodwin
994 Plantation of John Bateman
995 Big Stack Yard owned by John Bateman
996 and 997 Plantation owned by John Bateman
1411 Three Cornered Field owned by Rowland Mainwaring and occupied by Anne Stanway
1411a and 1141b Croft; House and Patch owned by Rowland Mainwaring and occupied by Benjamin Beech
1415 Three Cornered Piece owned by Rowland Mainwaring and occupied by William Bailey
1416 No information
1417 Gutter Piece owned by Rowland Mainwaring and occupied by Thomas Bailey (thatcher)
Now the whole of this formerly wooded area is covered in houses including the site of the Selectus Factory.
Walk to the start of the Inner Relief Road
Left: The original view south along Congleton Road towards the Town Centre, note the trees on the right which were felled for the new roundabout and left: At Congleton Road earth moving equipment clears the western side of the valley of the Biddulph Brook and a new retaining embankment is constructed.
You will pass one of the replaced milestones of the original Turnpike Road to Congleton. To build the Meadows Way the Department of Transport contributed two-thirds of the cost of the £10.5 million bypass, which runs for a mile west of the town centre. The county council is hoping to secure the remainder of the money from the company behind a residential and supermarket scheme for land off Walley Street. It was completed in the Autumn of 2003 by Alfred McAlpine.
Walk up the Meadows Way to the Mills opposite Station Road.
Alliance Mill, Whalley Street now Minster Mills
Stringer’s Street Mill This old two storey fustian mill was built in 1892 in Stringer’s Street and 10 or 12 cottages from the 1840s period were demolished in order to cater for the increase in demand for fustian velvet. Built for mill owner Henry Mitchell, it later had other owners as a fustian mill including the Platt brothers and United Velvet Cutters in 1912/16. Between 1959 and 1987 the textile company of William Stannards took over the premises producing clothing and small wares for a worldwide market.
Left: The original view along Walley Street to the junction with Station Road where the new road cut through Biddulph and right Stringer’s Street Mill - Between 1959 and 1987 the textile company of William Stannard’s took over the premises producing clothing and small wares for a worldwide market.
Walk back to the Chapel on Station Road
All the information in this walk guide is available on the website of the BDGHS or in the publications of the Society. This reflects the work of many members over the years who have devoted their time to recording Biddulph’s Past. Photographs of some of the sites mentioned will be included in the write up of the June Meeting 2022 in the meeting reports section of the website. The map for the walk can be downloaded from the website and laminated versions are available from Veronica at the Biddulph Victoria Centre and Matt and the staff at the Biddulph Library.
Chapel to Church Notes a guide to the walk to download and print.
Chapel to Church Map a map of the walk to download and print.
“The Manifold Valley and Railway” with Mr. Roland Machin - 16th May 2022
The May Meeting of the History Society was held on Monday the 16th of May 2022 in the Biddulph Victoria Centre. Mr. Roland Machin spoke on “The Manifold Valley and Railway.” The evening included readings by Geraldine Outhwaite from Mr. Eric Leslie’s book and a showing of Mr. Peter Durnall’s award winning film “The Manifold Valley - its History and Natural History.”
This remarkable image of the former railways at Waterhouses dates from 1933 when the little railway to Hulme End eight miles away was under threat of closure. This probably unique photograph featured in a recent article by Mike Fell in Railway Bye lines journal December 2020. On the left is the River Hamps and the main Leek - Ashbourne road. The narrow gauge train has arrived from Hulme End and passengers can join the standard gauge train on the right about to depart for Leek via Winkhill, Ipstones and Bradnop.
The narrow gauge Leek and Manifold Valley Railway (L&MVR) opened in 1904 in the Edwardian climate of optimism but barely lasted thirty years closing in March 1934 under the austerity measures of the thirties. The line was authorised under the 1896 Light Railways act and local people subscribed to the share issue. It probably never paid much of a dividend because as one plate layer said: “It’s a grand bit of track that goes from nowhere to nowhere.” Had it reached Longnor the story might have been different. It did however enable Manifold farmers to get their milk to market in London overnight via Finsbury Park. It opened up a remote part of the district to walkers from a wide area, still much appreciated today. There was an abortive plan to continue the line to Longnor and even Buxton that would have improved its viability. Sir Vauncey Harper Crewe the reclusive owner of Warslow hall was never going to countenance even a light railway passing in front of his summer residence - thus the plan came to nought.
A note for rail enthusiasts on the main image of Waterhouses:
The narrow 2ft 6inch gauge LM&VR opened on 27th.June 1904 before the standard gauge line to Leek was ready. A Straker steam bus connected with Leek until the branch line opened the following July. The narrow gauge locomotive is ‘J. B. Earle’ one of two supplied by Kitson and company of Leeds, the other ‘E. R. Calthrop’ both named after the engineers of the line and were reminiscent of locomotives supplied to the Barsi railway in India. The narrow gauge railway closed in March 1934 and ‘J. B. Earle’ was sent to Crewe pending possible sale. ‘E. R. Calthrop’ was retained at Waterhouse and used on the demolition trains in 1937 when it was cut up for scrap; the carriages were burnt on site but the brass door furniture has survived!
The main line locomotive about to depart for Leek is LMS number 2042 originally NSR number 53 built at Stoke works 1914 as a new class C. It lasted until 1935 when it was scrapped as a non- standard design at a time when the government scrap and build policy provided work during the depression.
After the railway closed the track bed was presented to Staffordshire County Council by the Chairman of the LMS Sir Josiah Stamp in 1937. Today the site of the station is an excellent starting point to explore the tranquillity and history of The Manifold Trail either on foot or cycle. Much of the trail is traffic free apart from access to properties. The track from Redhurst Crossing to Ecton is open to light traffic. Now the track/trail can be explored from several access points including the car park at Waterhouses that occupies the site of the former station. The track starts a few hundred yards beyond the former station/car park. Here the old narrow gauge railway crossed the Hamps as it enters the Manifold Valley, then continues to run parallel with track crossing and re-crossing until there is a confluence with the river Manifold at Beeston Tor.
The trail continues and may be further accessed at Redhust Crossing from the village of Wetton. Wetton Mill is accessible from Butterton and Swainsley and Ecton from Warslow. The access at Swainsley is adjacent to the tunnel entrance above which is Swainsley Hall former home of Sir Thomas Wardle. The terminus at Hulme End is beside the road where much of the former infrastructure remains. At Hulme End the former Light Railway hotel is along the road where you can continue either to Hartington or climb the hill on the right and take the first left in to Beresford Dale and Isaac Walton’s fishing grounds on the Dove. Tea and refreshment during the season can be taken at Hulme End in the former engine shed, also at Wetton Mill and sometimes at Sparrowlee which is just over a mile from Waterhouses.
In order to get a sense of life in the valley in earlier times the late Eric Leslie’s illustrated “Manifold Valley an Anthology” is recommended. The cover shows the little train passing over the How Brook that enters the Manifold close by at Wetton Mill. The book is profusely illustrated with evocative line drawings and may still be in print or available on the net.
Eric Leslie’s “Manifold Valley Railway an Anthology” cover and one of over 30 drawings.
Geraldine Outhwaite then read two sections from the book, the first an advert for the railway which highlighted the glorious countryside that the railway gave access to. This was followed by a description of the last train to run on the final day of the railway, a part of which is below:
“Last Train Forever: Valley of Locked Stations from our Special Correspondent
Leek, Sunday Last night, one of the most picturesque and romantic railways in Great Britain went into retirement, and today, seven little stations lining a lonely, tortuous track through the lovely Manifold Valley near here are locked up.
Ever since June 1904 the Manifold Valley Light Railway has carried farmers and their produce to and from market, and borne holiday makers along the side of the famous ‘disappearing river’ at a bustling 15 mph. Road competition, mainly, has brought it to an end.
A staff of seven were employed upon it: tomorrow they will be finding their way to new homes and fresh tasks at LMS centres. The two locomotives and the rolling stock lie in their sheds at one or other end of the 8 miles of track.
The Fire Raked Out All along the line he has been locking up the waiting rooms and offices for the last time. Now we are at Hulme End. The driver and fireman rake out the glowing fire of the locomotive and run it into the shed. The guard locks up the last gate. Tomorrow he walks four miles to Hartington for a train to his next job at Uttoxeter!”
Mr Machin then asked members of the BDGHS to recall Peter Durnall’s splendid filming of The Hidden Valley as it is referred to in several writings. It is indeed almost silent at times and has benefited from a decrease in air pollution during lock-down being under the Manchester flight path. Peter Durnall then introduced his latest version of the Manifold Valley film which won a prestigious award in Birmingham recently. Peter’s film explains the history of the valley, geographical features, including Thor’s cave, and a seasonal guide to the Manifold Valley. Once again the tranquil nature of the Manifold Valley and its wildlife, disappearing water course and the flora and fauna were depicted for all to enjoy.
Thor's Cave from the old railway line
Mr. Machin thanked Geraldine for reading from Eric Leslie’s book and Peter for another stunning film which contributed to create an interesting and varied meeting.
At the end of the meeting Mr. Bill Ridgway played a short excerpt from a CD he has produced of the memories of late Annie Ethel Cook which he has adapted for the radio. There are eight episodes which are read by Geraldine Outhwaite. The proceeds from the CD which costs £5 will go towards the restoration of the School / Church Hall of Christ Church on Biddulph Moor.
There will be a book sale on Saturday the 18th of June 2022 in Biddulph Library from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will be the official launch of “Growing up in Biddulph” by Mr. Colin Rodgers. Mr. Rodgers, who now lives in Buxton, is hoping to attend and renew acquaintances with old school and family friends.
The next meeting of the History Society was held on Monday the 20th of June 2022 when Mr. David Outhwaite will lead a local walk entitled on “From Chapel to Church.”
The Society then takes its summer break before returning in September with a new programme of talks. More details will be available on the Society website when the meetings have been arranged.
Albert and the Centenary of Unveiling of the Biddulph War Memorial - 25th April 2022
The April Meeting of the History Society was held on Monday the 25th of April 2022 in the Biddulph Victoria Chapel, Station Road, Biddulph. Mr. Michael Turnock and Mr. Adrian Lawton presented a wide ranging and interesting talk about Albert and the Centenary of Unveiling of the Biddulph War Memorial which was performed by Corporal J. J. Gibson on 29 April 1922.
The talk began with a view of the Biddulph Valley of the 1920s and the fact that although Biddulph has grown the valley is very similar to what it was. The town has changed and Michael showed a series of photographs of the streets, chapels and shops that were there ending up in Albert Square. To reflect the humour of the troops at the time Adrian read “The Lion and Albert” by Marriott Edgar.
Photograph the unveiling of the St. Lawrence War Memorial
Unlike the service at St. Lawrence’s, which was a wet day a large crowd attended in the Square. When Albert was unveiled it was the work of Jonah Cottrell who had a monumental mason’s yard in Congleton Road, Biddulph. The business which had a shed with examples of the work was started by Jonah’s father Alfred in 1880.
Photograph of the unveiling of Albert
Cpl Jack Gibson of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, who was severely disabled in the Great War in the Battle of Somme 1916 performing the unveiling from his wheelchair saying, ”to the glory of God and to the memory of my fallen comrades, I unveil this memorial. “
At this point Adrian read the Reverend F. A. Ingham’s ominous warning in 1922. Which is part of Cllr. Gibson’s speech below.
Michael showed the recent refurbishment of Albert and showed pictures of some of the soldiers named on the monument. As an example he talked about Lance Sergeant Charles William Yorke and his life and service in the Great War. Charles was born 1879 at Madeley and served in the South Africa campaign of 1910. On his return he worked as a signalman for the North Staffordshire Railway along the Biddulph Valley. He married his wife Betsy nee Dale in 1907 at Odd Rode and they lived at the Station Cottages, Biddulph. On the 4th August 1914, at the start of the War he enlisted in Macclesfield and was placed with the Northumberland Fusiliers. Of the 73 named soldiers on the War Memorial they joined 35 different regiments. Charles was posted with the 12th battalion to France and his first major fighting was in the Battle of Loos in September 1915. Charles battalion were ordered south to a new battlefield and in June 1916 they prepared for the Battle of the Somme. A little more than a week before the opening battle of the Somme on 22nd of June, during more enemy shelling on their assembly area along with 5 other soldiers, Charles was hit and sadly lost his life. The Dartmoor Cemetery on the Somme is his resting place. There is a plaque at the foot of the grave stone which reads ‘as time passes the memory remains’ placed by his daughters Norah and Jane.
All of the soldiers on the Albert Memorial have been researched by the Great War Study Group of the Biddulph History Society (BDGHS). The work of the late Elaine Bryan, Elaine Heathcote, Michael Turnock and Kath Walton over the five year project can be viewed on the website: bdghs.org.uk.
Michael and Adrian repeated their performance in Biddulph Town Hall on Thursday 5 May 2022 at 2pm.
As the information used in the rededication relied on a one hundred year old newspaper report here is the dedication service with named participants so in 2122 it can be repeated and those taking part remembered.
Photograph of Albert by G. Crooks at the original unveiling in 1922.
Welcome to the Centenary of the Biddulph Town Cenotaph on Sunday 1st May 2022 at 11am
On 29 April 1922, the residents of Biddulph unveiled the Biddulph Town Cenotaph. This memorial was funded through public subscription, following the donation of the land at Albert Square by Biddulph Urban District Council. Corporal J. J. Gibson, late of the Grenadier Guards, unveiled the memorial. Studying the reports of the time, we have tried to recreate elements of this service today.
Today, we remember this historic event and those who gave their lives so that we may be free. In war, there are no unwounded soldiers and our thoughts are also with those who returned to our community.
Biddulph Town Crier: An introduction by John Robinson.
Hymn (all): ‘O God Our Help In Ages Past’
Text: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748 and Music: William Croft, 1677-1727
Prayer: Linda Reeves of the Life Stream Church
Reading: John 15 v.9-17- Councillor Tony Hall of the English Martyrs Roman Catholic Church
The Biddulph Male Voice Choir is also celebrating its centenary in 2022. There is a FREE concert taking place at Biddulph Town Hall on Saturday 18 June 2022 at 7.30 in the evening. Details will be available soon.
If you would like to know more about the history of the Cenotaph and Biddulph High Street 100 Years ago, please come along to a FREE talk at Biddulph Town Hall on Thursday 5 May 2022 at 2pm. Complimentary refreshments will be available and we look forward to seeing you.
Biddulph Town Crier: A Cry with historical information courtesy of Michael Turnock and Adrian Lawson of the Biddulph and District Genealogical and Historical Society.
A Reading by a local school pupil, Henry Amison, who is in year 5 of Our Lady of Grace School who read “There Stands a Soldier” by Audrey Waters.
“There stands a soldier, tall and proud and still guarding and protecting, the rights of all who will…
All who will remember, all who live so free in this great country, England, home for you and me.”
Re-dedication of the Cenotaph: Rev. Keith Jones, an alternative to the unveiling in 1922.
Unveiling of a new plaque: by Pte Alex Oakes of the Mercian Regiment. Also attending were Pte Derby the 32nd (the Ram and Mascot of the Mercian Regiment) with his handlers Ram Major Cpl Philip Thornton and Ram Orderly Pte Joe Holmes
Hymn (all): ‘For All the Saints’
Text: William Walsham How, 1823-1897, and Music: SINE NOMINE, by Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872-1958.
A Reflection from the Deputy Mayor of Biddulph, Councillor Jim Garvey. It is my great privilege to speak to you this morning on behalf of the Mayor of Biddulph, Councillor Sylvia Rushton, and my colleagues at Biddulph Town Council.
We are delighted that so many of you have come to see the rededication of the cenotaph and to experience a very similar service to the original ceremony 100 years ago.
Those who work to support the community in Biddulph are custodians of important memorials within our time. It is not wealth, social standing or our role within the Town Council that will ensure we are remembered, but our actions. We must ensure that we represent our communities and make decisions that will protect and enhance our town, as Councillors did 100 years ago.
The cenotaph in Biddulph town centre is known and loved by those who live in the town, and those who return to visit. In November each year, there are several hundred people who congregate here to reflect in their own ways on their families and friends who have been affected by war.
100 years ago, the Rev. Ingham addressed the crowd at the unveiling and delivered a dramatic and foreboding message: “When the youngest boy grows to be an old man, may this memorial stand where it stands now, and the names engraved thereon be as legible as they were at the unveiling.
He said, this monument has been erected in grateful memory. If ever the community forgot that memory, Rev. Ingham hoped the forces of the air would blast the monument to the ground, and as it lay in a thousand pieces, it would be a reminder to them of their base ingratitude.
He concluded that the men who left their homes went out to save our homes, and by the Grace of God and their lives, we had inherited a great future. As a result of what the men had done, that victory had given our lives an enhanced value.
Today, we make the commitment that the memory will not be forgotten. We will ensure that the cenotaph is maintained and that we will provide a place for our community to reflect, grieve and remember loved ones. We thank those in the Biddulph Urban District Council who strived 100 years ago to fund and install this memorial. We will remember them.
Floral tributes: wreaths of spring flowers to be laid by the Town Mayor of Biddulph, Cllr Sylvia Rushton, and the Biddulph Branch of the Royal British Legion represented by its Chairman, Elaine Rice. The Mayor was assisted by Knypersley First School pupils Charlotte Marsh and Sam Chandler. Also laying a wreath was LCpl Louie Marshall of the Mercian Regiment.
Biddulph Male Voice Choir: The Musical Director, Anthony Marks conducted the choir in singing ‘Mansions of the Lord’ and ‘My Lord, What a Morning’ accompanied on the piano by Wendy Brown.
National Anthem (all)
Last post played by Mr. Eddie Pollet
Final Prayers Amy Wyatt (Pastor of the Oasis Community Church)
Bugle Solo played by Mr. William ‘Billy’ Huskinson.
Community to lay spring flowers
All are invited to the Town Hall for refreshments, courtesy of Oasis Community Church.
The Annual General Meeting - 21st March 2022
Report of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the BDGHS held on the 21st March 2022. The Chairman of the Society, Roland Machin, began the meeting by explaining that the AGM in 2020 had been cancelled due to the outbreak of Corvid. Since then the committee have met and sustained and maintained the cohesion of the Society. The Society has continued with regular publications; book sales; website updates; a regular Newsletter; some small scale research; and, collaboration with Town Council initiatives including the cataloguing of the Biddulph Museum artefacts. In fact, by September of last year meetings recommenced with talks by Bill Ridgway, Michael Turnock, Peter Durnall, Geraldine Outhwaite, Andrew Van Buren and Jonathan Fryer.
This image dating from around 1900 shows the extended Horton family who were resident crossing keepers from 1864 and railway employees over several generations up until the railway closed in 1968 and who subsequently owned the property from 1971 and which featured in Mr. Machin’s talk (see below).
David Outhwaite, Secretary of the Society, explained that there had been two difficult years balancing concerns for our members’ health and still keeping the Society going. What helped was the Committee of the Society continued to have quarterly meetings but more importantly a Newsletter was produced throughout the period by Elaine, Kath and Madelaine with many members contributed information and articles and even acting as guest editors. Additionally, four new books by Mr. Colin Rodgers; Mr. Maurice Grocott and Mr Gordon Lomas; Mr. Adrian Lawton; and, Mr. John Hancock were published and even book launches were successfully held. A number of new books will be published this year starting with Mr. Michael Turnock’s “Bradley Green Village and the Bradbury Coal Masters” which is about to be sent to the printers and will be launched hopefully in April.
As Kath Walton has stepped down from the role of Treasurer, the Secretary outlined the key features of the accounts for the year ending 31st January 2020 and the two years ending on the 31st of January this year. They were that 2020 had been a successful year and that even though no membership fees were taken in the last two years the Society still had a healthy bank balance. The Society also managed to make a one-off payment to have Mrs. Price’s 8mm films converted to a digital medium and saved in the National Archive.
Elaine Heathcote, the Society Archivist, explained that although the Society had been gifted some large selections of material in the past two years it was the help with research for a number of Society members that had helped her through the Covid years. A large collection of local photographs have also been donated and added to the website. Elaine invited any of the members to contact her for information to aid their personal research in either family or local history.
The Chairman then thanked Kath Walton for her many years working as Treasurer of the Society as she stepped down from the role and was pleased Kath will continue as a member of the Committee. He then proposed the election of members of the Committee and all the present officers and the committee members were re-elected unopposed. Mr. Derek Wheelhouse as President; Mr. Roland Machin as Chairman; Mr. Michael Turnock as Deputy Chairman; Mrs. Rosalind Hulme as Treasurer (but not Committee member); Mr. David Outhwaite as Secretary and Webmaster; Mr. Elaine Heathcote as Archivist; Mr. Adrian Lawton; Mrs. Madelaine Lovatt; Mrs. Kath Walton; and, Mr. Gerald Worland as Committee members.
The Society then discussed the future venue for meetings and although there was sympathy for the idea of continuing at the Biddulph Library the vast majority of members voted in favour of meeting at the Victoria Centre. Finally, in any other business, Mr. Barry Stanway requested help with a project he had begun a number of years ago - the restoration of the Shepherd’s or Butter Cross outside Biddulph and it was agreed the Society would assist in this on receiving the documentation.
The Chairman then pointed to the various essays and articles that had been written by members in the last two years, some of which had been published in the Newsletter or on the website. A number of projects were then presented. Mr Machin began by expanding on his work, assisted by Elaine Heathcote, into the family that lived at Forge or Horton’s Level Crossing, North of Biddulph on the North Staffordshire Railway (NSR).
Then Michael Turnock described four projects he had been involved with or that were about to start. Firstly, his work on the Biddulph Gas Works, which can be found in the Essays section of the website, has led to a close working relationship with members of the Whalley family. A recently acquired photograph from the family is of a wedding party sitting in Thomas Street, Biddulph (see below).
Wedding photograph taken in Thomas Street off Congleton Road near Charter Vets. The Marriage of Morgan Jones and Annie Holland took place at St Lawrence’s Church in 1916.
A second project which has taken all the lockdown period is “Bradley Green and Bradbury Coal Masters” which will be published soon and that will be Michael’s sixth publication for the Society. Michael’s third project was working with other members of the Society on cataloguing of the Biddulph Museum artefacts given to the Biddulph Town Council by the late Robert Worrall’s estate. A large spreadsheet was created by Adrian Lawton which can be seen in the Society Archive. Amongst the many tens of photographs which have been scanned from the collection is the one below. Can you tell where the photograph was taken?
Can you identify where the above photograph was taken.
The fourth and final project Michael is working on is the story of Albert – once again with other members of the Society - the name given to the soldier on the war memorial which celebrates its centenary in April when the Society meeting and a talk in Biddulph Town Hall will broadcast the research which is currently taking place.
Finally, Madelaine Lovatt described the 1921 Census Project and sought volunteers from the membership to assist in collating, copying, comparing and describing the main features of the survey. The aim is to use a grant from Staffordshire Moorlands Art Panel to download information from the 1921 Census and compare it to the situation in 1911, to track the changes in the population, the workforce and the families as they were affected by the First World War and the virulent Spanish flu which followed. The Society hopes to look at the Biddulph High Street and some adjoining streets and create a record of the changes that were taking place.
The Next Meeting of the Society will be held on Monday the 25th of April 2022 and will start at 7 p.m. in the Biddulph Victoria Chapel, Station Road, Biddulph. Mr. Adrian Lawton and Mr. Michael Turnock will talk about Albert and the Centenary of Unveiling of the Biddulph War Memorial which was performed by Corporal J. J. Gibson on 29 April 1922.
“Sneyd Pit Disaster - 21st February 2022”
The latest meeting of the Society was held on Monday the 21st of February 2022 in the Biddulph Victoria Chapel, Station Road, Biddulph at 7 p.m. Mr. Jonathan Fryer introduced Professor Ray Johnson’s film about the “Sneyd Pit Disaster: January the 1st 1942.” After a successful book launch for his book “The Small Mines of the Biddulph Valley,“ organised by the Society in Biddulph Library the previous Saturday, Mr. Fryer kindly returned on Monday evening to give the members some background to the film by way of introduction and then answered questions at the end of the film show.
In introducing the film Mr. Fryer outlined a number of major disasters that have occurred in the area and the nature of the Sneyd Colliery Disaster where the cause was an ignition of coal dust, possibly caused by a failure on the tramway running tubs of coal to the pit head. The commemoration of such disasters throughout the Staffordshire Coalfield is important but Mr. Fryer wanted to stress that it was the total death toll from the coal industry that should also be remembered and considered. For those of you who want to see the names of the many thousands of miners who died in the main pits of North Staffordshire then you can consult Mr. Mark Caswell’s “Index to Mining Deaths in North Staffordshire 1756 - 1995.” From his research Mr. Fryer reminded the audience this book may not include the fatalities that occurred in some of the many bell pits, drift and small adits that would have been found along the edges of the Biddulph Valley.
Sneyd Colliery - Shaft 3 is to the left of the chimney and is where all the bodies recovered from the disaster were buried.
Ray Johnson’s film, available from the Staffordshire Film Archive, looked at the Sneyd Pit Disaster. It is a documentary dedicated to the memory of the 57 men and boys who lost their lives on New Year’s Day 1942. A day most superstitious miners would not normally work on - but this was wartime. The explosion at Sneyd is put into the context of war with explanations by experts from Apedale Heritage Centre and local historians. There are many interviews with local people involved in the incident, family members and friends of the men lost and tributes to the rescue team. Film, photographs and memorabilia - and a memorial service at Hamil Road Methodist Chapel - give insight into this fateful tragedy. Most moving are the personal memories of people who witnessed the events of January 1st as the explosion ran around the galleries of the whole colliery. The film ends with arguments for the need for a public memorial to the tragedy, and when the required funding was eventually raised by Keith Meeson, a memorial was unveiled in 2007.
Rescue workers and the families waiting for news
This is a list of the fatalities on the day and the list includes fathers and sons, neighbours and miners from all over the area and not just the close community which lived next to the pit near Moorland Road in Burslem.
The information in this table has been merged from the brass plaque which is now in the Hamill Road Clowes Methodist Church, where an annual remembrance service is held on the first of January, and the stone plaque on the monument opposite the Queens Theatre in the Market Place at Burslem.
To aid family history research you can download this table as an Excel spreadsheet and sort it by job title, address and age by clicking the link below.
Names of Casualties at the Sneyd Pit Disaster
The Next Meeting of the Society will be held on Monday the 21st of March 2022 in the Biddulph Victoria Chapel, Station Road, Biddulph at 7 p.m. Mr. Roland Machin, Chairman of the Society will preside over the Annual General Meeting and then three short talks will follow. These will introduce the recent work of both Roland Machin and Michael Turnock, and then Elaine Heathcote and Madelaine Lovatt will also describe a new project based on the 1921 Census which members of the Society will be able to join and research.
“The Hospital Where Everybody Smiles - 17th January 2022”
Biddulph and District Genealogy and Historical Society held a meeting on Monday the 17th of January 2022 in the Victoria Chapel, Station Road, Biddulph. The speaker was Geraldine Outhwaite with a talk entitled “The Hospital Where Everyone Smiles: When Biddulph Grange was a Children’s Orthopaedic Hospital.” An interesting talk on this subject began which included many facts and figures which fully illustrated and illuminated this unusual period in the Grange’s History and that first appeared in her book published in 2020.
This write-up will cover a small part of the evening’s entertaining journey covering only five key areas based on the characters that peopled the talk. Geraldine began by quoting a sentence from a book written in 1983 by Anne Ferris sold to help the Grange League of Friends to raise funds to restore the gardens, vandalised when the hospital closed, which eventually came under the control of the National Trust in 1991. “Much has been written concerning the gardens at Biddulph Grange, rather less about the house or those who have lived in it and very little about the hospital.”
The first character from the talk, who Anne Ferris also wrote to when compiling her book was Sir Harry Platt. The Lancashire Education Committee (LEC) purchased the hospital for the nursing and treatment of the crippled children of East Lancashire. It was the first dedicated orthopaedic hospital for children provided by a local authority and the county had a great need for such an institution. Sir Harry Platt was a pioneering orthopaedic surgeon who had been at the helm of the Grange hospital from its beginnings when under the auspices of the LEC. In 1914 he was appointed surgeon to Ancoats Hospital, Manchester, where he organised the first special fracture department in Great Britain.
Photograph: Sir Harry Platt with patients, nurses and colleagues at the Grange.
On the outbreak of the First World War he became a Captain RAMC and was appointed by Sir Robert Jones, the then Army consultant in orthopaedics, to be surgeon-in-charge of a military orthopaedic centre in Manchester. It was there that he acquired his considerable experience of nerve injuries and undertook studies in bone-grafting. He showed great organising ability and later described himself very truthfully as a contemplative man, more of a physician, and “not naturally a great craftsman.“ He later fostered many other institutions - the Ethel Hadley Hospital, Windermere, and the Children’s Hospital at Biddulph Grange. In 1920 he became consultant orthopaedic surgeon to Lancashire County Council and surgical director of the Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, Oswestry, and in 1932 orthopaedic surgeon to the Manchester Royal Infirmary, subsequently to become its first Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery in 1939. He held all of these posts until his retirement and, with the inception of the NHS, he also served on the Board of Governors of the Manchester Royal Infirmary from 1948 to 1963.
In 1871 it was Robert Heath, a local industrialist who bought The Grange. Robert Bateman and his sons had by the 1860s used up their savings creating the gardens. Heath and his family lived there for over twenty years. In 1896 a catastrophic fire burned down so much of the house that it had to be restored with the aid of the architect Thomas Bower. After WW1 the house became unsustainable for the Heaths to run.
In 1921 Heath Jnr. offered the house to the North Staffordshire Cripples’ Society for conversion to a hospital. However it wasn’t until 1928 when Lancashire Education Committee took it over that it began to function as a dedicated children’s orthopaedic hospital. So, the history of the Grange as an orthopaedic children’s hospital got off to a shaky start initially. It was not until the LEC took it over that its hospital life began. Then it had 90 beds and 3 wooden wards for the crippled children of East Lancashire.
There was quite a demand for this type of dedicated hospital for children, as the numbers of children, for various reasons, suffered bone and osteo problems. Throughout the 1930s, Lancashire continued to improve and maintain the house, hospital and gardens.
Then in October 1933, following another nation-wide outbreak of poliomyelitis, an extra ward was added to help with the rehabilitation of those extra sick children, affected by the disease. In Sept 1937 work commenced on the building of a new hospital with supporting services: this consisted of 3 wards, 1 on the ground floor and 2 on the upper floor with an operating theatre in between. (The original operating theatre was in the present tea room.) The total number of beds available at this point was 96. So by 1939 the modern children’s hospital was opened.
The next two characters in this story are the Matrons Rochelle and Cleator. Matron Rochelle (later Mrs. Titley M.B.E.) took up her duties in 1928 and remained in post until 1951. She was from Hanley originally but was a former school nurse and health visitor working in Rochdale. She maintained the highest possible standards. Under her tenure The Grange was a close community of nursing, medical and domestic staff, many living in the upper floors of the house as well as working together.
Everything was done to make the children’s stay in hospital a happy one with activities taking place that did not occur in other hospitals. e.g. Santa came at Xmas with presents, there were pantomimes, Nativity plays, May Day celebrations, outings to the sea-side and Rudyard Lake, Brownie and Scouts to join and many more activities. There was a boy’s ward, girl’s ward and babies’ ward and a teaching staff employed to teach the children. Her Senior Sister was Sister Bateman.
Matron Cleator (on the left) and Matron Rochelle
When Matron Rochelle retired in 1951, she was succeeded by Matron Cleator. She carried on Matron Rochelle’s work with its concentration on the education of the children and keeping them occupied in their hospital stay, as well as getting better of course, but as well as running The Grange, she also ran a pre-nursing course for nurse cadets. She also enjoyed the social gatherings that The Grange put on for the staff at Christmas and in the summer including the pantomimes and summer pageants.
A most moving part of the talk occured when Geraldine introduced Mr. William Mason from Lancashire who had been a patient in the hospital for 2 years when a child. Geraldine read William’s notes of his stay which outlined his time as a patient. The outdoor wards, the teaching sessions, the walks in the grounds and looking forward to the visits of his parents and grandmother travelling down from Lancashire by train to Congleton. There are other reminiscences in Geraldine’s book of former patients. Geraldine would like to thank Mrs. Rosemary Rogers for getting in touch with information about William and escorting him to the meeting.
Our fifth character is a composite of a number of head gardeners. When Biddulph Grange became a hospital the gardens near to the house over time did undergo drastic changes which have been regretted by the garden enthusiasts. The upper terrace, the Eastern terrace with its music room, the rose parterre, the verbena parterre, the cherry orchard and the dahlia walk were all lost during the course of time as ward extensions were built to the East of the house and the terraces to the South were simplified.
However, the rest of the gardens continued to be maintained to a high standard, for the next sixty years, by three able, successive Head Gardeners, namely: - Bill Shufflebotham, Fred Hancock and Eric Bowers and their respective staff. Much is owed to their dedication and they enabled the National Trust to see how much of the lay-out of the original Victorian gardens remained.
Eric started work at the Grange when he was 14, in 1943, and was still working there (then as head Gardener) in 1991 when the NT took over. Robert (Bob) Hudson began work at The Grange on the 1st of October 1978 as a young apprentice and is still working up to the present time. He spoke however about his memories of the Grange when it was still a functioning hospital and up until The National Trust took over the gardens to restore them to their Victorian splendour. Eric Bowers was the head gardener when Bob started at The Grange. Geraldine also spoke to Nigel Bowers about what he remembered about the work that his father Eric did. (Eric passed away in 2015.)
A lively question and answer session followed the talk which included the memories of many of the audience who had relatives that had been patients when the hospital became a male orthopaedic one. The hospital began taking general cases as the health of the number of children in Lancashire improved with better diet and care under the N.H.S.
The Chairman of the Society, Mr. Roland Machin, thanked Geraldine for her illuminating talk, shining a light on a long chapter in the development of the history of the Grange.
The Next Meeting of the Society will be held on Monday the 21st of February 2022 in the Biddulph Victoria Chapel, Station Road, Biddulph at 7 p.m. Mr. Jonathan Fryer will introduce Professor Ray Johnson’s film about the “Sneyd Pit Disaster: January the 1st 1942” and answer questions about his new book “The Small Mines of the Biddulph Valley.”
Local and Family History for the Biddulph area
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