Meeting Reports - 2006
The History of the Red Cross School - 18th December 2006
Summoned by the Bells - 13th November 2006
Alternative History by Brian Nightingale
and Machin’s Bread by Roland Machin - 16th October 2006
The History of Biddulph Old Hall - 18th September 2006
The Annual Walk from the Talbot Inn to Elmhurst and High Bent - 17th July 2006
Researching your Ancestors - 19th June 2006
Aspects of Mow Cop - 15th May 2006
The AGM followed by Biddulph Voices from the Past - 24th April 2006
Turnpikes and Tramroads - Some Original Documents - 20th March 2006
Did Work Make your Ancestors Ill? - 20th February 2006
Voices of Biddulph Moor - A Format for Writing Local History - 16th January 2006
The History of the Red Cross School - 18/12/2006
Derek Wheelhouse welcomed everyone to the first December meeting of the Society and he then introduced the speaker, Mr. John Sherratt, whose talk was on “The History of the Red Cross School”.
The school was built at Red Cross. Knypersley cross roads was once marked by a stone cross or pillar, a copy of which can be seen in Biddulph churchyard. The building is opposite the present junior school on Newpool Road but is unfortunately falling into disrepair affected by both damp and dry rot. However, when the building was started in 1849 this was one of the first schools in the area. Grey millstone grit quarried on Biddulph Moor was delivered from Rock End and Lion’s Paw to fabricate the building which was built with an impressive clock tower. It is believed the bell fitted should have been used at Childerplay Mission. With funds of around £10,000 provided by the Bateman family of Biddulph, by 1857 it was a well-attended school where the achievement of the pupils affected the funding it received. Over the first few years, the children of the poor would be educated for free but pupils whose family had work, would donate towards the costs of the building and the provision of staff. Inspectors would visit the school to check on the progress of the pupils, pupil-staff and masters and check that any grant monies given were being spent wisely.
The school was also a Church school and on Sundays the three classrooms for boys, girls and infants would be used as the Parish Sunday School. Adjoining the school was the parsonage house which was extended in 1849 and was lived in by Miss Elizabeth Booth when a parsonage was built on Park Lane. Later it would be used as a camp school for pupils from Stoke on Trent and during the Second World War provided billets for the American and other officers stationed in Biddulph. More recently the school has been available for hire for use as a meeting place but the lack of investment in the building is leading to a steady decline in its fabric and its use.
John used one of the school log books to give the meeting some idea of the day to day running of the school in its earliest days. The log of the school masters from 1863 to the 1870s gives an interesting insight into the lives of the school, teachers, pupils and sponsors. Regular visitors to the school would be members of the Bateman and Heath families and vicars from the area - Reverend Metcalfe, Reverend Dobtree and Reverend Gordon from Biddulph Moor. The log recorded attendance, visitors, visits, activities, accidents and punishments. The subjects studied by the pupils included:- mathematics, composition, reading, writing, poetry, and sewing for the girls. Sports would include cricket played where Knypersley Post office is now and day to day activities in the playground - one of the favourites being sitting with your legs through the round holes in the school wall facing the junior school - there are signs of wear on these stones if proof is needed.
Many pupils would be absent during good weather in the summer when they would help with harvesting, some would be missing from school to nurse babies and some could only attend if the foundry was on strike - otherwise they would be working. The winter weather throughout the period of the log book was bad and sickness, measles and scarlet fever would lead to absence and in some cases death (in 1867 Jane Oakes died of Scarlet Fever). The log book records the success of pupils in the local examinations and the general state of the school following inspections. Days or half-day holidays would be given following the visit or return of one of the Batemans or Heaths. Empire Day would be celebrated by the whole school and various visitors singing patriotic songs. Families would send their children quite long distances - down from Mow Cop and
Biddulph Moor to attend between 8.30 a.m. in the morning and 4 p.m. in the afternoon.
Families in 1865 are recorded as leaving the area and seven pupils were lost when 2 families left for Jarrow and New Zealand in May 1865. Minor disasters - George Gaskill put his thumb out or another pupil falling down the stairs are carefully recorded. Some of the masters would record the use of punishment and a group of pupils were strapped for not returning to school one afternoon (they were busy skating on the pool opposite). In 1866 five tons of coal was ‘housed’ by a couple of pupils - this was often a punishment for failing to attend school. A more positive entry in the log would be the visits by Robert Bateman, Mrs. Bateman or Miss Self, etc. which are regularly recorded and they would usually end with a presentation of cake and nuts to the pupils.
Pupil numbers at the school varied greatly according to the season, local working and weather conditions but in 1876 Thomas Law, one of the masters, recorded 48.4 boys, 48.3 girls and infants were attending. How the figures are calculated to give part children isn’t explained but the pupils numbers in this period are very similar. If the local policeman found you playing truant you would be returned to school directly.
Mr. Sherratt rounded off his talk by giving one of his exciting slide shows. It isn’t just the subject matter but the lottery of whether slides are the right way up and subsequent comments which adds drama to the presentation. The slides included pictures taken in the 1970s of a flourishing Sunday School and details of the rooms, bell tower and clock mechanism. It was sad to see the present run-down condition of the building.
A busy question and answer session followed the talk. Having given the vote of thanks Derek reminded the meeting that the next meeting will be on Monday January 15th when Mr. Roland Machin will talk about the Biddulph Valley Railway.
There was much animated discussion as the meeting closed with refreshments, mince pies and coffee.
Summoned by the Bells - 13/11/2006
Another well-attended meeting of the Society was held on Monday the 13th of November 2006 in Biddulph Library. The speaker was Mrs. Gwyneth Mitchell who entertained those present with a talk entitled “Summoned by the Bells” - a talk about people in service - those summoned by the bells. Nearly everyone who researches their family tree will find they have a relative who was in domestic service. In fact at the time of the Industrial Revolution more people, but especially women, would have been in service than in any other trade including mill workers. Employment would range from the maid of all work, usually a young girl working for a single family to the specialists in large houses employed as cooks, ladies maids or nursery maids.
The living conditions of a maid would have been poor - low wages combined with long hours - would lead to ill health and in a few cases to the death from fatigue or malnutrition. Most servants working in this way would aspire to gain enough experience to move to a larger House or Hall. A House may employ as many as 16 staff (8 male and 8 female) in occupations such as:- cook, butler, valet, ladies’ maid, coachman, nurse maid, groom and gardeners. A Hall may have a staff of 24 which would include a house steward, who ran the Hall and employed the staff, a house keeper, a male cook or chef, plus footmen in livery, labourers and whippers-in. In the 1890s the Duke of Portland at Welbeck Abbey had a staff of 320 people.
With such a large number of staff it was only the highest rank of servant who would ever set eyes on the family that employed them. A parlour maid, for example, seeing a member of the family would face the wall rather than be seen looking at them. As well as the practical need for people to work in the House and surrounding land, there was also a status element in the employment of the men and particularly the footmen. As there were no set wages for people employed by the ‘landed gentry’ it is difficult to say how much they were paid for often very long hours of service.
In George III’s time a tax was introduced to help pay for the troops and mercenaries used in the American Civil War. It was an attempt to try and force some of the staff from their employment in the larger Houses into the armed services. Even a graduated tax rising to £7 per male servant didn’t lead to a reduction in the staff at the larger Houses, there being even more status to be had from being able to afford them.
A series of slides from the late C19th showed the servants at Houses in various parts of the country. In some the servants would be related and often seek work for members of their family at the House or a local House when vacancies arose. Some of the parlour and house maids would be life cycle servants, in other words they would leave service when they married or gained promotion, usually to another house.
Mrs. Mitchell then looked at the working conditions of the servants in service. In a larger House the servants would have as rigid a hierarchy as the society of the time. Head staff - butler, cooks, and so on, would eat the main course of a meal in the Servants’ Hall but leave and process to there own room for pudding. A footman would act as a chaperon to a single lady from the House and accompany her on a shopping trip walking a few paces behind.
Most Houses would employ at least one lampman who would recharge and clean the Colza oil lamps and trim candles. At Longleat the lampmen were responsible for 140 candles in the Chapel alone, and around 400 lamps about the House. Earl Grey’s accounts for Hawick show that in 1867 he had paid 220 guineas for his staff wages and 160 guineas for candles and oil.
Women employed in the House were usually paid only half of the male wage but the amount of work would be as great. A housemaid usually pictured in a black dress and white apron would normally only dress that way in the afternoon, in the morning she would wear hard-wearing flowered or stripped cotton dresses when doing her main chores. Rising at half past five in the summer (six in the winter) she would be responsible for cleaning, polishing, buffing the steel surrounds and finally lighting all the fires throughout the house. There would also be hot water to take to the rooms four times a day and all the waste collected and returned to the slop room. All staff would be expected to be on call at any time and twelve to sixteen hour days would be a normal occurrence.
Larger houses would have special rooms - the stillroom being an example. Close to the main kitchen, here all the tables would be set out by the first kitchen maid ready for the cook or chef to prepare the food. The second Kitchen maid may also use this room to prepare the food for the staff, leaving the main kitchen for the cook. A kitchen man in charge of all the plates and cutlery and scullery maid may also be working in this cramped area.
As time ran out Mrs. Mitchell then showed more interesting slides of the servants’ quarters at Tatton including the servant’s bells - which were not only labelled but each has a different tone. Finally, Mrs. Mitchell informed the meeting to be careful when trying to ascertain if any of their own relatives can be found on the staff of local Houses and Halls. As the Census is taken in April many of the staff would be away from the Hall following the season and moving to
a London address in Spring.
Mr. Derek Wheelhouse, Chairman of the Society, thanked Mrs. Mitchell for her entertaining and absorbing talk.
Alternative History by Brian Nightingale - 16/10/2006
and Machin’s Bread by Roland Machin
Another well-attended meeting of the Society was held on Monday the 16th October 2006 in Biddulph Library. There were two entertaining short talks.
“Alternative History” A talk by Mr. Brian Nightingale
The premise of Brian’s talk was to ask that anyone who researches history should consider that established views and written articles may be open to alternative suggestions.
He then listed a number of local historical sites where there are alternative possibilities of interpretation. Recently the Society had heard of the dating of timbers at Biddulph Old Hall to the 15th century and the Hall being built in the 16th century. Does this mean that part of the Old Hall was built in the 15th century or that the builders used timbers from the earlier Biddulph Castle?
His second example was Bailey’s Bank, a road running parallel to the Congleton Road. Was the road the original access road to Biddulph Castle, or, as Richard Biddulph suggested part of a Roman road from Chester to Rochester, or, a Roman road from the Roman fort at Chesterton to the fort at Melindra (West of Glossop)? By taking a ruler to a map it is possible to dismiss the first two ideas and make a plausible argument for the third.
Another doubt surrounds the site and existence of a Mott and Bailey castle known as Biddulph Castle. A thousand years ago its possible site was surrounded on three sides by the River Inch (now known as Biddulph Brook.)
The next local landmark discussed is the Shepherd’s Cross. If it was a wayside cross for shepherds isn’t it very close to the start or end of the journey to Biddulph? As there were no churches on Biddulph Moor until the 1800s is it more likely a place to stop and rest or pray when carrying a coffin from Biddulph Moor for burial at Biddulph Church?
On Grange Road (near No. 19) there is a horse trough thought to have been installed by James Bateman around 1871. Isn’t it a very elaborate horse trough for practical purposes? An artist Brian found sketching it, believed the trough to have been built using part of the ruins of Dieulacres Abbey in Leek.
Finally, just to confuse the local historian, it is possible to find a Cornish Dunlin at Biddulph, unfortunately it was constructed in a field in Lion’s Paw Farm in 2005.
So the local historian has to be very wary of assuming history is always black and white and remember that there are shades of uncertainty.
“Machin’s Bread” A talk by Mr. Roland Machin
Roland’s talk on Machin’s bread started with John Machin a grocer in Biddulph who had twenty two children (and two wives), whose eldest son Fred Machin started the bake house behind No 44 High Street. Using local flour from Biddulph Mill, the bake house flourished with the name F. H. Machin. When his son Harry joined the Army at the start of WW1, second son Jack was put in charge - but he ran away and became one of the first members of the Royal Flying Corps. Brought back to run the business, he then ran away to be an apprentice engineer in Manchester.
The family employed many local Biddulph people and characters - Ernest and Cyril Machin, Jack Williams, Eddie ‘Current Bun’ Evans, Walter Lowe, Harry Basson, Donald Shawcross. Many of these people were relatives of members of the audience. The bake house always used coke ovens which at Christmas were used to cook the customers’ poultry - chickens, turkeys and geese. When the Biddulph Mill closed, bread flour was bought from Allison’s at Liverpool who delivered using Sentinel Steam wagons.
The bread-making machinery was bought in Loughborough and the Machins became expert in maintaining it. Bread was delivered by Bedford van in the 1950s to all the local areas - Biddulph Moor, Harriseahead, Packmoor, Knypersley etc. - at all hours of day and early evening. Roland described the time the bakery used Trojan vans and on one occasion one of the wheels fell off and they got the van home using a nut from each of the three remaining wheels. (Johnny Alcock was blamed for not tightening the nuts).
Many of the shops the bakery delivered to were run by characters in there own right - Martha Anne Brown on Biddulph Moor where the doctor held a surgery or Polly Lovatt’s shop at Ridge Fold.
Both talks resulted in the meeting having some animated discussion about the local characters and local sites of Biddulph. It showed the importance of recording local history correctly for future generations.
The History of Biddulph Old Hall - 18/09/2006
The first meeting of the new season saw a packed Biddulph Library entertained by a talk on the history of Biddulph Old Hall by Messrs. Daly and Vowles. Mr Derek Wheelhouse introduced the speakers and having listed the many historic buildings that Biddulph has lost pointed out that fortunately the most picturesque, Biddulph Old Hall, was now in very capable hands.
Mr. Daly and Mr. Vowles are by profession involved in the restoration of old properties for clients. They began the talk by differentiating between the preservation of buildings like Little Moreton Hall and those like the Old Hall where a modern use as a home has to be found. When they bought the Old Hall some two and a half years ago, they embarked on a journey of discovery which still continues. The original intention had been to stabilize the old ruins and later renovate the old red sandstone farmhouse. However the early research, including dating of the timbers, found that both buildings dated back to the C16th. The Red House or farmhouse was dated to around 1520 and preceded the slightly later symmetrical grey building and ruins.
The restoration so far was then explained in greater detail starting with the Great Hall and the Staircase Hall. The first major problem to solve was the source of damp in the building and lowering the level of an access road was the first step in this process. When the walls were stripped of layers of 1930s waterproof rendering a large fireplace was revealed along one wall and a window with very thin Elizabethan glass was of an earlier date than expected. However, the space revealed didn’t appear enough for a great hall at approximately sixteen square feet. The wall between the hall and the parlour proved to be wood framed and appeared to be an addition to split the original Hall in two parts. However below part of the parlour a narrow passage with an entrance from the cellar was found which could well have been a ‘priest hole’. The slides to illustrate the talk showed this transformation of the Great Hall from a dark and damp mess to a welcoming living space.
The Staircase Hall was an even stranger area divided by two large arches and having a number of floor levels and steps. Clearing away amounts of dirt and rubble revealed evidence that this area had been a large kitchen with a spit, a high window for ventilation, a serving hatch and kitchen flue. An exterior door was also revealed at the first floor level with evidence of a floor which gave access to the ruined part of the house. All this area has been restored with new staircases to link the different levels and the final slide demonstrated the amount of careful restoration that has been undertaken.
The Old Hall was presenting a stranger structure than had been expected and the meeting was shown photographs of many of these features: the large but seemingly detached chimney; the extensions to the width and height of the wings; the addition of the porch; and the very plain extension built by the Batemans as a studio for their son. The ownership of the Hall was retained by the Biddulph family until the date of this studio extension and the present owners have begun to research how the family history has affected the buildings. The Biddulph family who lived at the Old Hall were Catholics, which involved the payment of additional taxes and being branded ‘recusants’. Although most of the early history was lost it is known that Richard remained and Simon Biddulph left the area and left the Catholic Church. Unusually when the male line of Biddulphs ended then ownership passed down the female line. There are links with Burton Park in Essex and Stonier Park in Henley as Mary Biddulph married into the family and retained ownership of her property. This appears to explain the appearance of Lord Camoys on the sale document to the Batemans in 1860.
The next step in the refurbishment which has been agreed will be the tower and the creation of a link to the house which will incorporate a small chapel to mark the hardship of the Catholic owners of the Old Hall.
Questions for and from the meeting were far reaching. Why had work stopped on the Old Hall? What happened to Mary Biddulph and her fourteen children, including her youngest son who became a priest? Did the family concentrate on the farmhouse as this was the working part of the Hall? Are the C20th Biddulphs all Protestants? Was it true a tunnel and tiled floor had been excavated in the ruins? Did a piano slowly disappear into the tunnel on one occasion? Did the glass in the windows originally come from a very early glasshouse? And finally, is the tower safe? The answer to this is ‘No’, as large pieces of masonry and glass fall, but when it is refurbished then people will be able to visit.
Mr. Roland Machin thanked Mr. Daly and Mr. Vowles for a most enlightening and spellbinding talk.
The Annual Walk from the Talbot Inn to Elmhurst and High Bent - 17/07/2006
The annual walk of the Biddulph and District Historical and Genealogical Society took place on a very hot Monday evening. The three mile walk was undertaken by 25 members and guests and was led by Mr Derek Wheelhouse.
The group assembled at The Talbot before making their way across fields to what was once a silk mill. Owned by the Rev. William Henry Holt, it was destroyed by fire in 1862. The occupier’s son, Edwin Harthen was later charged with arson. The group walked along Hurst Road up to Elmhurst. This grand property was built for Rev. Holt (Vicar of Biddulph 1831 -1873) who was also James Bateman’s uncle. The group made another stop outside the silk mill owned and occupied by William Stonier in 1840.
Just after the entrance to the quarry the group halted at the site of what was once a beer house - known as the Flying Fox that boasted of a carved image of a fox in the stone over the door. This would have been an ideal stop for the now very thirsty walkers had the property not been demolished as the quarry workings had extended.
Just over the road is the site of yet another very small mill. Once known as Folly Mill this has long since disappeared.
Spring House then came into view. Another magnificent property built in 1872 for the son of Rev. Holt, also called William. Young William and his brother Edward were potters’ sand merchants, extracting sand from the adjacent quarry. Progressing over the bridge, in the area aptly named in old documents as Plughole, local resident Sammy Stanway was on hand to referee discussions regarding gruel spout and the reasoning behind the naming of Elias Lane. At this point, a few members took advantage of the crystal clear cold water gurgling out of the spout - it tasted very good!
Turning left onto Elias Lane, we passed what was once the residence of Harry Bailey, a local cobbler up until a few years ago. The property must surely be one of the last few remaining ‘one up, one down’ properties in Biddulph.
We continued along the narrow lane, edged with hawthorn, bilberries and wild flowers and turned down the track to Beckfields.
The farm can boast the site of the first Wesleyan Chapel built on Biddulph Moor. It was thought to have been constructed in 1818 and was shown on the 1877 O.S. map. Ten years later, the stone from this chapel was transported to a site on New Road, where the New Road Methodist Church was built in 1888.
The walk continued through the fields to High Bent and followed the track down to the stream, the scene of a murder in 1845. Thomas Brough was murdered by his brother, John, one dark January night. The footpath led up towards Whitefields, home to John and his widowed mother, Hannah.
The track then continued alongside Boon’s Meadow Farm, Lancasters and Biddulph Park Chapel where members were astounded by the damage done to the stone wall by what was believed to be a Volkswagon Golf!
Through woodland, the walkers emerged at the Moor House, a stone’s throw away from The Talbot and much needed refreshment.
Members were indebted to Derek Wheelhouse, aided by ex-Biddulph Moor resident Len Kirkham, for a very enjoyable and informative walk.The weather was wonderful, if a little too hot, and the views stunning.
Researching your Ancestors - 19/06/2006
On Monday the 19th of June the meeting of the History Society was an Open Research Evening. Members and non-members of the Society turned up to make use of the Library resources to help trace and identify their ancestors. People new to researching their family history had members of the History Society willing to help them make a start.
Biddulph Library has a vast range of resources including local parish registers, directories, and a growing number of books published about Biddulph Valley people and history. Access to the Internet was also available and searching for family history information can now include the use of on-line census information. A number of web sites are also available and include ancestry.com which includes free access to the 1841-1901 Census information and the BMD (Births, Marriages and Deaths) sites for England. A wide range of information gathered by members of the History Society about their own family trees could be exchanged.
The next meeting of the Society on Monday the 17th of July will be the Annual History Society Walk. Anyone can join this short ramble, this year, over Biddulph Moor with frequent stops at places of interest. Mr Derek Wheelhouse is this year’s leader and you can join him by meeting at the Biddulph Moor Village Hall Car Park, Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor at 6.30 p.m. It is hoped that Mr. Len Kirkham of Biddulph Moor will be available to join the walk to add background stories and detail.
The History Society doesn’t have a meeting in August but will return for a first meeting of the new season on the 18th September 2006 with a talk on the History of Biddulph Old Hall. By September the Society hopes to publish a full list of the forthcoming events.
Finally, if you are interested in local history research the Border History Society has its annual exhibition at Audley on the 14th October 2006. Further details of this event will be published nearer the day or you can ask for more information during the July walk or the September meeting.
Aspects of Mow Cop - 15/05/2006
The May meeting of the Society was entertained by Mr. Phillip Leese with a talk entitled “Aspects of Mow Cop”.
Phillip Leese, from Kidsgrove, along with other members of Kidsgrove History Society, had chosen Mow Cop as their most recent subject of study. Having found very few books and documents on the area they chanced upon a poem by a David Oakes entitled ‘Mow Cop’. This long, carefully constructed, narrative poem gave his society a number of lines of enquiry as it mentioned many prominent people and events in the area.
These included the links with Mow Cop of ‘Old Thorley’; the Wilbraham family; William Jamieson the quarry manager for Squire Sneyd from Keele; the introduction of religion to the miners with the building of the Church and chapels; Hugh Bourne’s association with the area and with Primitive Methodism; and the introduction of schooling in 1851.
Research into David Oakes had been undertaken and it is possible the poem was written in the late 19th century when he had been invalided from a local pit. Another poem by David Oakes details the men and incidents that occurred at ‘Moss Colliery’. Both Mr. Leese and the Biddulph Society would like to know if there are other poems, released as one penny handouts, which still survive.
Having catalogued all the work of the Kidsgrove Society on the Mow Cop area Mr. Leese gave the meeting the choice of a large range of subjects. These included the Castle, fustian, quarries, grinding stones, transport, water and wells, chapels, the shops - cloggers and wheelwrights, the radar station, and so on.
The first subject discussed was mining - as there is a long history of mining the outcrops and later deep pits around Mow Cop. Pits at Moss, Trubshaw, Harriseahead, Stonetrough and Towerhill employed many miners who came to the area from all over the country. However, a group of miners from Flintshire was of particular interest as they had built cottages on Welsh Row. Most of the pits had been small scale affairs with the managers handing responsibility of mining the coal to butty colliers (contractors). The poor wages and conditions of the men led to many disputes with the mine owners. The closure of many of the pits in the 1880s saw Mow Cop’s population fall by almost 1,000. Robert Heath then stepped in and picked the most productive collieries to supply direct to the Birchenwood coking plant.
The second subject was unanimously decided to be on drink and drinkers. The meeting heard how a cottage industry of brewing as a part time job led to the establishment of up to eleven named pubs in the area. Many of the cottage brewers survived but the established public houses also bought beer from Parker’s Brewery in Burslem. One popular tipple being ‘Parker’s Purge’ a strong ale delivered by horse drawn drays in 56 gallon barrels. The consequences of the drinking appeared to be the popularity of brass bands, drunkeness and fighting.
In overtime, the meeting listened to the sad story of Hannah Dale. Born to a poor mining family she grew up to be known as the ‘Queen of Giantesses’. At five years old she had weighed 164 lbs and her family allowed visitors to meet Hannah and charged one penny each. Just before she was due to travel to the United States Hannah contacted bronchitis and died aged eleven in 1892. Buried in Mow Cop Church she is believed to have then weighed 5 cwt and that it took thirteen men to carry her coffin. Her father having acted as a ‘showman’ for Hannah had returned to the pit by 1901.
David Moore thanked Phillip Leese for his enthusiastic and animated talk on behalf of the Society.
The AGM followed by Biddulph Voices from the Past - 24/04/2006
This A.G.M meeting was well attended. It was an opportunity to look back over the previous year. We have been entertained by speakers on subjects as diverse as Doug Pickford’s “Staffordshire Ghosts” and Mrs G. Mitchell’s “Living in a Country House”. Our own members have provided excellent talks - Arnold Gibson on “The Water Supply to the Trent and Mersey” and John Sherratt on the “Saracens and Greenway Moor”. In July, Derek Wheelhouse and Roland Machin took us on a walk which culminated in a visit to Biddulph Old Hall which was wonderful. We had an open meeting in September, which was well supported.
In October the Society hosted the “Border History Fair” at the Town Hall. The event was very successful with 34 stalls and over 200 visitors. It was the perfect venue to launch Volume II of St. Lawrence Churchyard Memorial Inscriptions. This is the result of two years of hard work by members in transcribing and checking memorials. Our thanks go to Kath Walton who organised the group and who typed up the transcriptions.
Thanks also go to David Moore as he continues to do an excellent job in maintaining our web site.
Retiring Chairperson Irene Turner was thanked for her contribution since the Society was founded four years ago. Irene has devoted a great deal of time and effort into the smooth running of the Society and has consistently produced an excellent programme of speakers. Hopefully, we will be able to build on Irene’s achievements.
New officials were elected : Chairman - Derek Wheelhouse, Treasurer - Brian Nightingale and Secretary - David Outhwaite.
The A.G.M. was followed by “Biddulph Voices from the Past”. Derek Wheelhouse recorded this collection of memories during the 1960s and 70s. Of those people recorded, some were born as far back as 1882.
There were memories of miners striking. Smashed windows ensued and at Whitfield, the miners were greeted by a ‘revolver’ which had the effect of ‘scattering ‘em abite a bit’. Hosepipes were turned on the demonstrating miners and then the ‘bobbies were called’. A fascinating insight was provided by one gentleman who as a small child, witnessed the lightning strike at the Sandhole, off Bogs Lane, when one of my husband’s ancestors, Bob Heathcote, was killed.
There was a tale of a ‘jed pig and a jed cow’ and a song about Rhubarb Dumpling - a miracle food and cure for all ailments. Tales of working life in the mines and the iron works were interspersed by tales of an atheist police man who produced a poem on ‘Parsons’ and the tale of the witch, ‘Nelly Longarm’.
Many of these tales were told in dialect. Humour was gentle, speech was measured and in the background of nearly every recording was the poignant ticking of a clock.
Our thanks go to Derek for providing an evening that was both entertaining and informative.
Turnpikes and Tramroads - Some Original Documents - 20/03/2006
The Society was pleased to welcome back Mr John Anderson as the evening’s speaker. The talk was entitled “Turnpikes and Tramroads - Some Original Documents”.
Mr Anderson began by establishing the area under consideration - from Dane-in-Shaw in the north to Ford Green in the south. Most of the documents he was using referred, not surprisingly, to the transport of coal. The period covered was that from 1740 to around 1860 - from packhorses to railways.
Stressing the importance of contemporary sources, John discussed an interview with a ‘Ralph Lee’, taken from Simeon Shaw’s History of Staffordshire 1829. This was conducted in 1813, when Ralph was aged 83 years. As a youth he was employed, by John Taylor of Hill Top, Burslem. His duties were to look after the horses used for collecting coal. We can assume that the conditions he described and costs mentioned refer to the 1740s.
Bills from the period give further clues as to the methods and costs of transport. A bill from Childerplay colliery to Eaton Hall for the supply of ‘coal and slack’, priced 100 tons at £25-2-4d in 1838. Every few days cartloads of coal must have left Childerplay for Eaton Hall, most of the journey being by road. By the 1830s, many roads had been improved by the turnpike trusts. The investments of local landowners made to improve the roads was recouped by the collection of tolls. A document of 1840 showed the tolls paid for the delivery of items to Eaton Hall by John Bosson.
Documents totally unrelated to the topic of transport can be extremely useful. A plan dated 19th January 1841 of the chapel which is now a house, opposite to the Castle Inn, is a marvellous example. This describes the chapel plot in relation to the actual toll gate thus helping to identify the position of the gate.
Tramways and railways were of great importance to the Biddulph area. The first short lengths of track were from the collieries to the roads, effectively taking the pithead to the major means of transport. A length of track was on display with an ‘oval’ profile which supported the concave groove of the wheel. Apparently this type of track was developed in Welsh slate quarries but unfortunately was prone to wearing out quickly.
The ‘Staffordshire Advertiser’ was a source of numerous sales of leases of mines. These often identified proximity to roads and access to rail.
John concluded by stressing the importance of transport to the development of places such as Biddulph and Mow Cop. It enabled industry to prosper which in turn had an enormous impact on local economy.
A lively question and answer session followed after which Mr R. Machin thanked Mr Anderson for his fascinating talk. Members were then able to spend time looking at the original documents on display.
Did Work Make your Ancestors Ill? - 20/02/2006
The History Society was pleased to welcome back Mr Alan Jones, who gave a talk entitled: “Did Work Make your Ancestors Ill??”
Having worked as a factory inspector for many years, Mr Jones is an authority on occupational illnesses. Fortunately, his passion for family history has enabled him to present this topic, in a manner relevant to those of us wishing to find out more about the daily grind endured by our ancestors.
The discussion was divided into five areas : poisons, physical working conditions, dusts, skin problems and infections.
Poisons could be inhaled, absorbed or ingested. The oldest form of poisoning, linked to work, is that of lead poisoning. Many industries in the past, could be a source of lead poisoning - from smelting, glass making, textiles, colour grinding and printing. The use of lead glaze in the pottery industry was another example. When the glaze on overalls or as spillages on the floor dried, the resultant dust produced was highly toxic.
The felt hat industry had it’s own poison - mercury. The use of this in the felt making process led to the saying ‘as mad as a hatter’, as mercury had dire consequences for the brain and mental ability.
The final poison discussed was that of Phosphorus. Used in the matchmaking industry, it resulted in a condition known as ‘phossy jaw’.
Physical working conditions had enormous consequences for the health of the workforce. Mr Jones discussed briefly ‘heat cramps’ as suffered by miners and others working in cramped and hot conditions .These were much worse than the cramp that may occasionally wake you up in the night. Profuse sweating and loss of salt could lead to dreadful cramps so severe that people had to sit on the sufferers to straighten their muscles and joints.
Another injury related to working conditions was that of ‘bursitis’. This was a lump that could appear through repetitive action, for example, housemaid’s knee. The ‘Billingsgate hump’ was a lump on the back of the neck caused by carrying fish boxes suffered by fishmongers at Billingsgate Market.
Silicosis is an example of a dust related illness. Sufferers were to be found in the pottery industry, especially fettlers and in the cutlery trade. Bisenosis, a similar condition was found in the cotton and flax industries.
Skin problems could take the form of dermatitis - caused by contact with an oil or grease or similar. Contact with soot caused a cancer prevalent in chimney sweeps and mule spinners contracted another form of cancer from the oil used to grease and clean the machines.
Infections could be from animal to human - as with Weils Disease from rats and anthrax from the sorting of fleece. Infections could also be spread by human contact. The act of ‘shuttle kissing’ by textile workings rethreading their shuttles led to the spread of T.B. Oddly, this action was not outlawed until 1952.
Mr. Jones ended his talk by considering sources available to the family historian when looking for evidence of occupational illnesses. Death certificates are the obvious source, although these do not always record death as being due to occupational illness. Coroners reports, if they still exist, would be an excellent source - but it might be easier to find newspaper reports of coroners reports. It may also be possible to find documents relating to benefits paid under the Workmans Compensation Acts 1897 - 1945.
As expected, Mr Jones presented members with a talk that was fascinating and at times gruesome. It was well illustrated, with slides of those unfortunates who had suffered from some of these awful illnesses.
Voices of Biddulph Moor - A Format for Writing Local History - 16/01/2006
Around 40 members and guests were present to listen to Mr Ridgway, who has recently published his book - “Biddulph Moor - Within Living Memory”.
Mr Ridgway began by outlining his childhood upbringing and education. As an evacuee during the war, his family moved from London to Stoke-on-Trent to stay with relatives. After a number of jobs, he decided to train as a teacher and remained in this career through to his retirement. His writing career began whilst teaching, when he produced a series of almost 100 educational books. After his retirement from teaching, he began to write monthly articles for the Evening Sentinel publication ‘The Way We Were’. These articles were subsequently published as a ‘Potteries Lad’ by Churnet Valley.
His decision to produce a book on Biddulph Moor was kindled by an interest in the area in which he has lived for the last forty years. Bruce Richardson of Churnet Valley Books, also spurred him on by producing an immediate contract upon hearing his idea!
Mr Ridgway spent some time discussing the reasons for today’s interest in nostalgia - from the importance of recording the memories of people who have lived through what we perceive as fascinating times, to the pace of life which we live today. With issues over the environment, political upheaval and moral and ethical dilemmas, it is little wonder that many look back to their history and roots in order to find something stable and comforting. Success of the ‘Biddulph Moor’ book seems certain with 800 copies being sold in the first two weeks.
It took Mr Ridgway 14 months to compile the book. He takes great pains to state that it is the book of the contributors - he was only instrumental in putting it together.
He began by constructing a scheme - a number of headings of what he thought might cover relevant topics. These were: school, employment, music and entertainment, shops, church, the war years, transport and development. More eye catching headings for each chapter evolved. Numerous interviews were then taped of people’s memories of life on Biddulph Moor. With interviewees born between 1912 and 1944, a wide range of memories on the above topics were accumulated. To these, Mr Ridgway added photographs and extracts from school logs to produce a fascinating glimpse of life on Biddulph Moor. The finishing touch was the use of a painting by Charles W. Brown, a Biddulph Moor man, for the cover.
If anyone in the audience was contemplating producing a local history book, then they must have been spurred on by Mr Ridgways fascinating talk.
“Biddulph Moor - Within Living Memory” compiled by Bill Ridgway and published by Churnet Valley Books is priced at £8.95. www.leekbooks.co.uk
Local and Family History for the Biddulph area
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