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

Local and Family History for the Biddulph area

Meeting Reports - 2010

John Sherratt's Christmas Lecture - 20th December 2010

The Arnold Bennett Blooming Christmas Show - 9th December 2010

Mr. Bateman and Mr. Cooke - 15th November 2010

Domestic Servants in Staffordshire - 18th October 2010

Churches and Chapels of Staffordshire - 20th September 2010

A Summer Walk to Congleton Edge from Smokies Way - 21st June 2010

Methodism in the Biddulph Valley - 17th May 2010

The Caldon Canal and its Impact upon the Development of Industry in Stoke-on-Trent - 19th April 2010

AGM followed by The Necropolis of the Dead - 15th March 2010

Rudyard Lake - Past and Present - 15th February 2010

Photographs from Below Ground - 18th January 2010


John Sherratt’s Christmas Lecture - 20/12/2010

The December meeting of the Biddulph and District Genealogy and Historical Society was held on December 20th 2010. Mr. Roland Machin, welcomed everyone to a seasonally cold meeting thanking them all for braving the freezing weather and icy pavements. This year’s ‘John Sherratt Christmas Lecture’ had had various titles but can be summarised as ‘Some Historic Sites (and Sights) of the Biddulph Valley’. The talk reflected John’s attempt to come to terms with some of the field names found round Biddulph. It was a re-telling of some of his adventures this year illustrated from John’s own collection of documents and the familiar slide show.

John’s talks always include so many facts, figures and stories it is difficult to summarise the content, suffice it to say we roamed from the north to the south end of the valley. Information on the original names of the area will be found on deeds, plea rolls and of course the early maps including the 1775 survey, the 1822 plan and the 1840 maps of which three originals still exist kept in London, Lichfield and locally. There are numerous other sources of information which include the plan for the Tunstall to Bosley Toll Road of 1819 which gave details of field and lane names from Biddulph Hall to Dane End Shaw Bridge.

The derivations of field and lane names come from a number of sources. They may be geographical based on the local terrain, for example, Rock End. White’s Wood and Willetts Wood, which are both sources of Fullers Earth and coal, and Gorton’s Well and Stone are examples of the combination of the owners name and a geographical feature. The early industries of the valley can also be reflected in the names used locally, for example, near Knypersley Pool is a field called Forge Meadows. Another industry which is reflected in the local names was weaving which has been carried on since the 16th century when cloth was put in fields beside Biddulph Brook. The artificial water meadows that were created with a sluice gate to fill and drain them can also be seen from the Biddulph Valley Way at the sides of the Bosley Brook before it reaches the Castle Inn. A ridding is a store for tree stumps which have been removed when making a clearing in a forest. A final example from this little survey of those mentioned by John is Akesmore Lane which is a corruption of the words Hawks Moor a place where falconry was practised.

John then started a slideshow of his photographs of places of local interest showing local buildings, lanes, tunnels and fields. These included the tramway at Dead Man’s Pool, the site of a pit shaft at the rear of New Pool farm, the clough by Biddulph Old Hall, the 1828 date stone relocated by Knypersley Pool, the Serpentine on Mill Hayes Road, the tithe barn and two-seater ‘coal house’ at Hurst Farm, Jamaica Bridge near Gibson Acre Farm and finally the withy beds where willow for basket weaving was grown. It wouldn’t be a John Sherratt slide show if there wasn’t a problem with the projector – this year although brand new the focus of the slides failed and I expect the suppliers had their ears bent on Tuesday morning as John said “He’s got a duffer somewhere”.

Derek Wheelhouse, thanked John for his usual interesting and entertaining talk which had produced such a ‘rook’ of interesting information and photographs. The meeting enjoyed a warm drink and mince pie (or two) before braving the cold weather at the start of Christmas week.

The Arnold Bennett Blooming Christmas Show - 09/12/2011

The ‘Arnold Bennett Blooming Christmas Show’ was held on December 9th in the Biddulph Methodist Church (The Victoria Centre). This was an evening of song, dance and comedy with all the proceeds going to support ‘Biddulph in Bloom’. The bill included two dramatised Bennett seasonal stories produced by Mr. John Shapcott, the Leopard Spot Clog Dancers and the Kingsfield Choir. By way of thanking all the people who gave their time to support Biddulph in Bloom here is the running order of the show.

Mr. John Shapcott, a member of the Arnold Bennett Society, opened the evening by introducing the Kingsfield Choir. The choir with the accompanist Susan MacAllister started by singing ‘As Long As I Have Music’ and then ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’. Jean Tweats did a reading before the choir sang ‘the Rose’, then Edna Ferriday, Chairwoman of the choir, sang a solo ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ before the choir completed the set with ‘Standing in the Need of Prayer’.

The first of John Shapcott’s plays followed – the story of Mr. Nash Nicklin taken from one of Arnold Bennett’s short stories. It is a story of the rivalry between Nash Nicklin and the pompous Mr. Sworn for the hand of the fair Miss Mordey. The action was played out between St Luke’s Square and Toft End Brickworks as the two provided a regular spectacle on Trafalgar Road, Bursley over many years.

The first narrator was John Shapcott and the second narrator was Linda Shapcott. Mr. Nash Nicklin was played by Philip Lees, Mr. Sworn by Frank Harris, Miss Mordey was played by Geraldine Outhwaite, Mrs. Machin was played by Madeleine Lovatt, and Young Denry Machin was played by Roland Machin.

The Players

Two boards were added to the stage and to end the first half of the evening’s entertainment John Shapcott introduced the Leopard Spot Clog Dancers. The dancers, Sheila Crosby and Helen Hagan, danced to tunes played by Adrian Crosby. This was an uplifting musical experience and if you would like to book the dancers you can contact Sheila Crosby on 01270 626428.

The Dancers

The interval followed and Hilda Sheldon and her colleagues provided tea coffee and assorted cakes for everyone. Thanks also go to David Sheldon for helping to run a successful raffle.

The Leopard Spot Clog Dancers performed to start the second half. Three regional dances from the north of England to folk tunes ably danced by Sheila and Helen.

The second Arnold Bennett story was ‘The Railway Station’. It is a Christmas love story set at the Grand Junction railway terminus. The delay in the always punctual 6.20pm train leaving for Stoke-on-Trent guarantees the wedding of Churner and Minnie Muriel Murgatroyd can go ahead on Christmas Eve as the girl in the chocolate shop saves the day.

The first narrator was John Shapcott and the second was Linda Shapcott. Churner was played by Philip Lees, Porter, time keeper and sound effects were played by David Outhwaite, The Girl in the Chocolate Shop was played by Geraldine Outhwaite, the Ticket Inspector and The Driver were played by Roland Machin, the Guard was played by John Shapcott, Minnie was played by Eileen Elkins and the Old Gent was played by Philip Lees.

The Kingsfield Choir closed the evening with a set of Christmas songs. ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Silent Night’ were separated by a reading by Jackie Leech. ‘White Christmas’ was followed by Geraldine Outhwaite reading a Yorkshire Prayer before the choir was joined by all the audience to sing in unison the carol ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’.

The Choir

John Shapcott thanked the audience for their enthusiasm, the performers for their time and commitment, and the sudden change in the weather which permitted the evening to go ahead.

Two weeks later at the book launch of Elaine Heathcote’s ‘Old Gillow’ in Biddulph Library, Mr. John Shapcott the writer, Mr Roland Machin on behalf of the players and Mr. David Outhwaite on behalf of the History and Literary Society handed a cheque for £550 to Hilda Sheldon made payable to ‘Biddulph in Bloom’. These were the proceeds of a most enjoyable evening which will be long remembered by all those who attended or performed.

Thanks go to Craig Pickering of the Literary Society and to the Town Hall staff, the Library staff and staff of Brammer’s shoe shop for selling tickets for the evening. Thanks to the Biddulph shops who displayed the poster and to Veronica Moore at the Biddulph Victoria Centre for the discount on the cost of the Hall.

Mr. Bateman and Mr. Cooke - 15/11/2010

The November meeting was held on Monday November 15th 2010 at 7pm in Biddulph Library. Sometimes on a cold November evening it is difficult to venture out but on the night the packed audience was treated to an entertaining and highly interesting play about the eminent Victorians Mr. Edward William Cooke and Mr. James Bateman.

Mr. Roland Machin introduced the three players. The Narrator, played by Geraldine Outhwaite, started the proceedings quoting from Cooke’s diary of the May 13th 1847. “Went to Kew and saw a new hot house. Met a Mr. Bateman there. He came back with me to look at my ferns and orchids before returning to stay with a Mr. Skinner.” James Bateman meets Edward Cooke for the first time.

Edward Cooke was played by Bill Ridgway Snr. “I found Bateman an interesting fellow. He tells me that for these past seven years he’s been busy creating what he calls a world garden in a place called Biddulph, near the Staffordshire Potteries. He led me to believe he is the owner of a substantial residence, called the Grange, which he is still developing. He made his fortune from coal, apparently. I felt he was in need of a little help with his project, though he didn’t choose to say so in so many words. I have his card. I must write and offer him advice on the design of the rockwork he is proposing for the site. He told me the quarries lay close by and the procurement of stone is an easy matter”.

James Bateman was played by John Shapcott. “I was visiting Kew when I had the good fortune to meet Mr. Edward Cooke, who has recently built up something of a reputation as a painter of coastal scenes. I was never acquainted with his father George, though I knew him by repute. He was an engraver by profession, and executed some fine plates of flowering plants for Loddiges’ Botanical Cabinet. Edward confided to me that he was married to Jane Loddiges for little more than two years before she passed away. This was a great sadness to him, coming so soon after the tragic death of his young daughter, and his two young sons must be a great consolation. He told me he will shortly be undertaking a painting expedition to the Continent. I shall write to him on his return and invite him to the Grange. There are some details, mainly of design, he might care to look at with an artist’s eye”.

The three players then told the story of the two men and for the next hour the meeting listened to the stories of two lives that linked to Biddulph, the Biddulph Grange and Biddulph Moor. Edward William Cooke was born in Pentonville, London, his father George and uncle, William Bernard, were both well-known engravers and Cooke was raised in their wide artistic circle. He was a precocious draughtsman and a skilled engraver from an early age, displayed an equal preference for marine subjects and published his ‘Shipping and Craft’ - a series of accomplished engravings - when he was 18, in 1829. Cooke began painting in oils in 1833, took formal lessons from James Stark in 1834 and first exhibited at the Royal Academy and British Institution in 1835, by which time his style was essentially formed.

He went on to travel and paint with great industry at home and abroad, indulging his love of the 17th-century Dutch marine artists with a visit to Holland in 1837. He returned regularly over the next 23 years, studying the effects of the coastal landscape and light, as well as the works of the country’s Old Masters, resulting in highly successful paintings. He went on to travel in Scandinavia, Spain, North Africa and, above all, to Venice. Cooke was particularly attracted by the Isle of Wight, and on his formative visit of 1835 he made a thorough study of its fishing boats and lobster pots; above all he delighted in the beaches strewn with rocks of various kinds, fishing tackle, breakwaters and small timber-propped jetties.

A painting of Bonchurch Beach painted by Edward William Cooke. It features a rocky outcrop, the type of scenery he would paint on Biddulph Moor

He also had serious natural history and geological interests, being a Fellow of the Linnean Society, Fellow of the Geological Society and Fellow of the Zoological Society, and of the Society of Antiquaries. In the 1840s he helped his friend, the horticulturist James Bateman, fit out and design the gardens at Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire. His geological interests in particular led to his election as Fellow of the Royal Society in 1863 and he became a Royal Academician the following year.

James Bateman was born at Redivals near Bury in Lancashire, he matriculated from Lincoln College, Oxford in 1829, graduating from Magdalen College with a BA in 1834 and an MA in 1845. He took great interest in collecting and cultivating tropical plants and was a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1838 and a Fellow of Royal Horticultural Society, published writings on orchids and other horticultural subjects. He was a collector of and scholar on orchids, President of the North Staffordshire Field Society, and served on the Royal Horticultural Society’s Plant Exploration Committee. He had a number of notable sons who grew up at Biddulph Grange, including the painter Robert Bateman.

Bateman was a collector and scholar on orchids and he sponsored expeditions to Mexico and South America enabling collectors to gather rare specimens. He published three lavish books about orchids. He pioneered ‘cool orchid cultivation’ which enabled them he be grown in this country. The naturalist, Charles Darwin received a box of orchids and a letter from Bateman in January 1862. Bateman was also responsible for laying out the Arboretum at Derby, the first public park in England. His gardens are a rare survival of the interim period between Capability Brown landscape garden and the High Victorian style. The gardens are compartmentalised and divided into themes.

In 1861 Bateman and his sons gave up the house and gardens, and he moved to Kensington in London. He later moved to Worthing in Sussex, where he died in 1897.

The Chairman of the Society, Mr. Derek Wheelhouse, thanked all three players for a wonderful evening. He thanked Mr. Bill Ridgway Snr. for writing such an interesting story and for the insights it gave to two eminent Victorians and the background to the building of Derek’s favourite Garden, Biddulph Grange. The Victorians gave gardeners in England a taste for exotic plants from round the world, a thirst for technology in the garden and a love of bold statements and Biddulph Grange, in Staffordshire, is a classic example of all these elements. Derek thanked Bill Ridgway, John Shapcott and Geraldine Outhwaite again for their success in bringing history to life.

Domestic Servants in Staffordshire - 18/10/2010

The October meeting on Monday October 18th 2010 at 7pm in Biddulph Library. The Chairman of the Society, Mr. Derek Wheelhouse, introduced the speaker Ms. Pamela Sambrook talking on the subject “Domestic Servants in Staffordshire”. Pamela has done a lot of research into the people who were in service at Shugborough Hall and was involved in a number of surveys of the available records to measure how many people in the 19th Century were domestic servants. Her talk was illustrated by old photographs and an excellent series of sketches by the children of the owners of Shugborough Hall - admittedly they were of older retainers who would have the time to sit still long enough to be sketched.

Some of the servants at Shrugborough Hall in the 1800s

Although this photograph and current television programmes like “Downtown Abbey” give the impression that most domestic servants were employed at large rural houses this is a misleading picture. Using primary sources of research - census, correspondence, diaries, auto-biographies, wills, court reports, newspapers, illustrations, country house records, and so on, in 1851 in Staffordshire the resident domestic servants were:

  1. Working in small businesses - 60% ran farms, shops, pubs and other craft workshops.
  2. Most servants worked in small servant households - 86% worked with no more than two other servants and 48% worked alone.
  3. Most servants were female - 92% of resident servants.
  4. The majority of the servants were young - 71% were under 25 and 14% were under 15 years old.

In Staffordshire in 1851 there were 40.4% of the population working in domestic service and 42% in manufacturing. The high point for those in service was 1871 when the main benefits were the chance of a respectable living, a home, training in housewifery, opportunities for meeting marriage partners, a long term career if not married (if you did well) and the chance of care in ill health and old age. Less than 5% of domestic servants worked for landed households, more typical was a photograph showing the widow of the landlord of Red Lion at Leek who had four servants to help run the business.

These results came from a sample survey of 23,000 households in Leek, Hanley, Newcastle under Lyme, Stone, Lichfield, Walsall, Tipton and Longnor taken from the 1851 census by local history enthusiasts who published their results in Staffordshire Studies in 2006. This survey found that 12% of the households had a ‘living in’ servant - many others would be living at home. Quite a number of problems with definitions had to be agreed, for example, how did you classify shop assistants, apprentices, self employed servants, school servants, kin servants (relations with a young relative), bar maids, dairy maids and gardeners. In many cases the servant was taking the place of a wife who was working. Differences between the towns was also interesting, for example, Hanley had a high proportion of servants working for traders and in hotels; in Lichfield the majority of the town’s servants lived in the square around the Cathedral and for a mining area Rugeley in a later survey had a higher proportion of servants than other towns and it was a product of the large number of solicitors and lawyers working there.

Finally, newspaper articles, court reports and advertisements give an interesting insight into domestic service in the 1850s. Pamela had press cuttings showing how many young naive girls with few positions would travel around the area, often by canal, looking for work. They stole from each other and often from their employers - in one case taking part of a fur to make a collar for her own coat. Servants also stole from their employer, especially, towards the end of the year - until the 1840s and 50s most servants were paid retrospectively for twelve month’s work, although they did have food, board and lodging. Other adverts were thinly disguised requests from widowers looking for a new partner. Other employers attempted to avoid paying taxes by employing a groom who may be needed to occasionally wait on table (employers would pay tax for those waiting on table). Middle aged experienced servants would also advertise for positions where their experience ensured they had some security in later years.

An interesting question and answer session followed and when Mr. Wheehouse gave a vote of thanks to Pamela for an enjoyable evening he also mentioned Pamela’s more recent work which was published last year on the history of the Staffordshire Oatcake. Unfortunately oatcakes not being available the meeting broke up for tea and biscuits.

Churches and Chapels of Staffordshire - 20/09/2010

Mr. David Outhwaite, Secretary of the Society, opened the September meeting on Monday September 20th 2010. He started with the notices for the new season which included the change in the Societies website to; the appointment of Mr. Michael Turnock as the society’s events organiser; an outline of speakers for the next three months; and, finally an apology. The strength of a society can be due how it deals with adversity and in this case the problem was the failure of the evening’s speaker, Mrs. Patsie Jarman, to arrive having been delayed in traffic.

It was agreed to bring forward the tea and coffee to the start of the meeting and then Mr Roland Machin asked Mr. Bill Ridgeway to speak on the involvement of Mr. Bateman of Biddulph Grange in the search for plants for the far corners of the world. This included the voyages of Mr. Cooke and other plants men who risked there lives to find new species for the rich landowners and nursery men of the time. Mr. Ridegway’s short talk is a taster for the November meeting of the Society when he intends to have a narrator and two speakers to play the parts of Mr. Bateman and Mr. Cooke. Whilst Mr. Ridgeway spoke Mr. Paul Durnall went to collect a computer, sound system and projector and Mr. Mchael Turnock went to collect a slide show presentation he has created to show the demolition of the old buildings of Wharf Road as the new Sainsbury’s store is being built. This presentation was then shown to the meeting. The Society wishes to express their thanks to all three gentlemen for volunteering and saving the day.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Patsie Jarman arrived and she was able to begin her talk on the Churches and Chapels of Staffordshire. The talk was a beautifully illustrated journey through the county visiting a number of religious buildings and adding details and anecdotes. These are just a few of the churches and chapels that were visited.

St. Mary and St. Chad at Brewood: The parish church of St Mary the Virgin and St Chad, a grade I listed, dates, at least in part, from the 13th century. The Domesday Survey of 1086 listed a priest. The church is unusually large for such a small village. Major restoration works were carried out in 1878-80 under the direction of G E Street, with further changes within the chancel in 1902 and 1911. The tower and spire were probably built in early 16th century. Their overall height is 169 feet and as the church stands on the crest of an east-facing ridge it is visible from a wide area. A plaque on the north wall commemorates Colonel Willaim Carless (or Carlos) from a nearby village who stayed hidden in the (Royal) Oak at Boscobel (3 miles to the west) with King Charles II after the battle of Worcester in 1651. Col Carless is buried in the churchyard. The church, unusually, has two fonts. A 16th century font was lost for many years but was found being used as a bird bath and restored in 1927 which made the Victorian font redundant. The tower contains a peal of 8 bells which are rung regularly before the main morning service and before Evensong.

All Saints Church at Sandon was well established before 1130, and at that early date also had one or more dependent chapels, and could even have been built by Hugh Lupus, the Earls of Chester being notable patrons in Staffordshire, but has always been traditionally assigned to William or Hugh de Malbanc. By the close of the 13th century the Church was found to he too small. The Norman structure was removed and replaced with the addition of the present Nave and Chancel by 1310, at which date the list of Vicars, Patrons and Monarchs in the Outer Porch begins. Where the North wall had stood Octagonal Pillars were erected from which rise Early English Pointed Arches. The greater antiquity of the South Aisle is shown by its being wider than the Nave and Chancel. At this stage, the Church must have looked like two large stone barns joined together with their Western Gables in line but the north side extending east to form the Chancel.

St. Paul’s Church at Burslem stood in a cemetery of three acres, between Burslem, Longport, and Dalehall. It was a large and handsome Gothic edifice, with a lofty tower. The first stone was laid June 24th 1828 and the fabric was completed by the close of 1830. St. Paul’s Church was built in 1828.

St. Paul’s Church at Burslem

As it was being constructed, Enoch Wood had chambers built into the walls that he filled with pottery made by his family. The pottery included printed and painted earthenware, and figures. In 1974 the church was subsiding and had become dangerous and St. Paul’s Church was demolished. Enoch Wood’s pottery was discovered and a portion of it was given to the museum. Another potter, Josiah Wedgwood, was born in the house next door which belonged to the Shaw family.

Swan Bank Methodist Chapel

Swan Bank Methodist Chapel: as a sample of the changes in the Methodist tradition in Staffordshire these are the key dates in the history of the Swan Bank Wesleyan Methodist Society. John Wesley recorded on March 31st 1784, "I reached Burslem, where we had the first society in the county, and it is still the largest, and the most earnest." The society was considerably weakened, however, by the formation of the Methodist New Connexion in 1797. In 1801 a new chapel was built in Swan Square and enlarged in 1816. The society again suffered a setback in 1836 on the division of the Burslem Sunday school. In 1851 it was still the strongest chapel in Burslem and seated 1,290; attendance then averaged 500 in the morning on Sundays and 800 in the evening. The chapel was again extended and improved in 1870 when a new front with a portico was added. Vestries were added circa 1884. In 1949 the chapel, which has always been the centre of Wesleyan Methodism in the area, became The Central Methodist Church and formed a single church circuit. The 1801 church building was demolished in the late 1960s and a new modern church of concrete and brick was designed by Hulme, Upright and Partners and completed in 1971.

Mrs. Jarman added stories about the churches of Cheadle including one the Society hopes to visit this season - A.W.N. Pugin’s awesome St Giles R.C. Church which is described as a revelatory vision of colour, decoration and delight. Finally, she gave the meeting a version of the feud between the Reverend Spenser, vicar of St. John’s Church, Burslem and Margaret Leigh (Molly Lee), known as the Burslem ‘witch’. She died in 1748 and her grave unusually set north to south can still be found by the church door.

A Summer Walk to Congleton Edge from Smokies Way - 21/06/2010

Mr. David Outhwaite, Secretary of the Society, led the summer walk of the Biddulph and District Genealogy and Historical Society on Monday June 21st starting at 7:15 p.m. from the Smokies Way car park. The theme for the guided walk was “What would you have seen in the Biddulph Valley in 1890: Visit the Falls Colliery, Congleton Edge Chapel and Gillow Heath”.

The thirty members and guests of the Society started the walk from Gillow Heath Station and Mr. Outhwaite reminded them that although the railway existed in 1890 they had just missed one of only two passenger trains to Stoke each day, the 6.55pm. Many walkers had come from Bradley Green down the station road past the Albion Fustion Mill which in 1890 had been working for six years. The first destination of the walkers was the complex of mines adjacent to the Falls Colliery. By walking up the Biddulph Valley Way and turning right at the ‘White House’ they turned left and crossed Akesmore Lane before turning first right onto the site of Falls Colliery. Here Mr. Outhwaite described the number of pits and shafts that had been sunk within a one mile radius which included collieries at Bradley Green, Falls, Lower Falls, Holly Lane and Moody Street with 14 marked shafts, plus a sand quarry, brick works and gas works. Elaine Heathcote, archivist of the Society, described the sad death of two boys who fell into one of these shafts and succumbed to the effects of ‘fire damp’ despite the attempts of the many local people who went to their aid.

The party then began the long climb up to Congleton Edge glad of the shade of the trees in the hot sun. There was a slightly hazy view of the Cheshire Plain when the walkers arrived on the top of the ridge. Here Mr. Outhwaite outlined the various landmarks that existed in 1890 down on the plain:

 1220 Beeston Castle - Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester
 1450 Little Moreton Hall - Richard de Moreton
 1480 Gawsworth Hall remodelling in 1701 Lord Fitton (Richard’s Family)
 1602 Original (Great) Moreton Hall
 1708 Rode Hall - Randle Wilbraham
 1754 Mow Cop Castle - Randle Wilbraham
 1831 Macclesfield Canal - Thomas Telford
 1837 Crewe Railway Station
 1843 Great Moreton Hall - Mr. Ackers
 1850 Peckforton Castle - Lord Tollemache
 1862 Astbury Church by Sir George Gilbert Scott (Saxon and C14th)

And those which came later:
 1924 Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool [First Service 1940, completed 1978]
 1950s Astra Zeneca, Alderley Park (former home of Stanley family)
 1957 Jodrell Bank - Sir Bernard Lovell
 1960 Vauxhall Motors Plant, Ellesmere Port
 1960s Astra Zeneca, Macclesfield
 1967 Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King - Sir Frederick Gibberd
 1971 Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station - CEGB and now Scottish and Southern Energy

After walking down part of Mow Lane the group turned left to walk the overgrown path round the old quarry and through the nearly ripe bilberry bushes down to what is sometimes called ‘Congleton Bear Pit’. Joining the Gritstone Trail the walkers enjoyed the views across the Cheshire Plain and Biddulph and Derbyshire Hills before descending to Congleton Edge Chapel. The chapel was built in 1833, was refurbished in 1889 but is due to close soon as a place of worship. Excellent refreshments were kindly provided by Mrs Avril Waghorn, Treasurer of the Chapel. She also explained the imminent closure of the chapel and the work required to keep access to the graveyard. Many thanks, Avril.

Photograph of Congleton Edge Chapel

The walkers, rejuvenated, then returned to the Gritstone Trail before turning right down the Bridle Path and ‘drovers road’ which passes through Mount Pleasant and then turned right by the nurseries onto another hedged track to reach the ‘Staffordshire Knot’ at Gillow Heath. Here Elaine Heathcote handed out an excellent set of notes on the history of Gillow Heath which certainly ‘whets’ the appetite for her forthcoming book on the village.

If you would like more information about the ‘White House’, the railways and collieries of the Biddulph Valley then please visit our website [type BDGHS into any browser to find the web site]. You can contact Mr Outhwaite who can eMail a copy of the Society’s Transaction 2 which contains an article on all three subjects and can be purchased for £2.

Methodism in the Biddulph Valley - 17/05/2010

David Outhwaite welcomed everyone to the May meeting of the Biddulph and District Genealogy and Historical Society on Monday May 17th at 7 o’clock in Biddulph Library. He introduced the speaker Mr. John Anderson with his talk on ”Methodism in the Biddulph Valley”. Mr. Anderson is presently the owner and curator of the Mow Cop Methodist Chapel Museum and has a large collection of artefacts and papers relating to the history of the area and Methodism in particular.

Mr. Anderson started his look at history of Methodism in the valley by saying there were just too many chapels to cover the whole subject and that he had decided to talk about the early development. This followed on from two previous talks when he had discussed the introduction of coal mining and iron making, particularly at Mow Cop, which led to the rapid increase in population in the valley in the 19th century. He quoted John Woolford from the biography of Hugh Bourne who wrote of the vast improvement in North Staffordshire as a result of the introduction of Methodism. He describes the area in the time before the influx of new people and new religion as a barren uncompromising landscape with rough irregular stone built huts and rough irregular people. The increased population in the neatly built cottages with their well attended chapels were a pleasing sight. Hardworking parents and neatly dressed educated children who peopled the valley were a revelation. This increased population included, for example, Richard Conway a Welsh Methodist Minister who brought over seventy people into the area and settled them at what was to become Welsh Row - the cottages including a chapel.

Station Road Wesleyan Methodist Church Choir c.1920. [A photograph given to the Society by Mr. Norman Machin

So where did the Methodism spring from that brought these changes? In the colleges of Oxford University in the 1730s a more radical and evangelical version of Christianity developed. This was to become known as Methodism because of the evangelical zeal of the members. Amongst the theologians were the brothers John and Charles Wesley who preached in the pulpits of the existing Church of England but wanted to make it more relevant to the ordinary population. They started meeting groups and discussion groups which were formed initially into classes. When these classes developed in an area they were formed into circuits and a minister would go round each class sharing scripts and sermons with the lay preachers who usually held meetings in their own homes. The ministers would usually work in a circuit for about three years before being moving on.

The picture in Biddulph was clouded by the fact that it was the meeting point of three different circuits - Leek, Burslem and Macclesfield. In the 1760s Biddulph had an itinerant preacher, John Bennett who had been a dissenter or non-conformist who travelled through Cheshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire. The first known meeting group in the area met at Astbury - the main church in the area. Wesley preached at Biddulph in 1761 possibly at the Parish Church at the invitation of William Stonier, who was involved in many of the chapels set up in the Biddulph Valley and Congleton. The circuits in the area further sub-divided, for instance, the South Cheshire Circuit in 1770 included Macclesfield. In 1782 there was a group of Methodists at Bradley Green with 13 members - these are not the numbers attending the meetings but the organisers. A lot of local names are mentioned including Thomas and Judith Booth, William and Mary Rigby, Hannah Ryder and Sarah Walley.

In 1807 this steady growth of Wesleyan Methodism was ‘interrupted’ by the work of Hugh Bourne. Born in Bemersley he held a ‘camp meeting’ at Mow Cop which was a rallying call for a new Methodism - the Primitive Methodists. As each group settled down to persuading the people to join them a spate of chapel building began. Bourne, for example, registered two meeting places under the Religious Toleration Act, at Gillow Heath and Bradley Green. James Hancock meanwhile was preaching at one of the Harriseahead chapels (where there have been three Methodist Chapels) and Thomas Boon opened a chapel with 78 members at New Pool including Hannah Bailey. It appears that the ‘camp meeting’ led to an increase in the membership of both the Primitive and Methodist Chapels. In 1810 Bradley Green Chapel was transferred from the Burslem to the Congleton Circuit. A first Methodist Sunday School was opened in Gillow Heath in 1812 in a line of cottages that belonged to William Lawton. The chapel at Bradley Green was built in 1833 and was combined with Gillow Heath in a new chapel in 1853.

The spread of Primitive Methodism wasn’t uniform, for example it was a late development in Mow Cop even though it had been the venue of Bourne’s ‘camp meetings’ as there wasn’t a chapel here until the 1830s. Many more chapels were built in the 1860s so much so that Thomas Allen who laid many foundations stones (and paid for the privilege) had a fine collection of silver trowels. The ceremony of laying the foundation stone often attracted crowds of up to two hundred people. The chapel on Station Road, Biddulph was Primitive Methodist from 1829 and the new building of 1853 on a plot of land next to the original was a most ornate building. Mr Anderson showed a series of slides of the decorated interior. Sadly now gone, the building was paid for by a mortgage and its running costs would be met by selling the pews of the chapel by the yard. Biddulph lost a beautiful building when the chapel was first altered.

Derek Wheelhouse thanked John for this interesting insight into the early development of the two Methodisms in the area and hoped that John would be able to talk about the development from 1850 until the amalgamation of the Methodist Churches in 1932. An interesting question and answer session followed with many comments on the provision of education by the Methodist Church both on Sundays and during the evening when writing skills could be taught. The meeting then broke up for the usual tea and coffee break.

The Caldon Canal and its Impact upon the Development of Industry in Stoke-on-Trent - 19/04/2010

Roland Machin welcomed everyone to the April meeting on Monday the 19th at 7 o’clock in Biddulph Library. He introduced the speaker Mr. Basil Jeuda and his talk on “The Caldon Canal and its Impact upon the Development of Industry in Stoke-on-Trent”. Mr. Jeuda has been an expert and collector of images of the railways of the area for many years and has regularly published books and articles about them. However, he was recently commissioned to write about the local canal system and his talk is based upon his early research into the Caldon canal.

The Trent and Mersey Canal or to use the engineer Brindley’s name the Grand Trunk Canal links the River Trent and the River Mersey. One of its prime movers was Josiah Wedgwood who with Erasmus Darwin and Thomas Bentley promoted the canal and the Trent and Mersey (T&M) Canal Act was passed in 1766. Building of the canal was completed in 1777 and it attracted all kinds of trade including clay and flints from Dorset, Devon and Cornwall brought by ship to the Mersey and taking pottery away without the breakages of the rutted local roads. Burslem was initially the centre of this pottery trade but a branch of the T&M was also proposed and this became known as the Caldon Canal (although other spellings including Cauldon were used) and it came into use in 1778/9. The main reason for the building of the canal was to transport limestone from the Caldon Low Quarries near Froghall where a network of tramways connected to the terminus. A later extension to Leek which included a feeder from Rudyard reservoir changed the shape of the canal and in 1811 the canal was extended down the Churnet Valley to Uttoxeter. In 1845 the T&M and its Caldon Branch were taken over by the North Staffordshire Railway but trade continued on the canal until the early 1900s when a railway was run to Froghall and continued often using the old canal bed down to Uttoxeter.

Mr. Jeuda began his talk with a map of the canal dated 1838 which showed clearly the junction of the T&M canal at Etruria where the Caldon began its winding route through Ivy House, Milton, the arm to Leek, Cheddleton, Froghall, Oakamoor, Aston, Rocester and Uttoxeter. When the supporters of the T&M canal where planning the route of the canal they had seen the early development of the potteries being dependent on the turnpike road and the two main sources of clay at Fenton and Trentham. The arrival of the canal saw the expansion of Burslem (which had its own canal branch) and to the east of the junction at Etruria which was the start of the Caldon branch. Industry developed which included boat carrying company wharves, coal wharves. flint mills, power stations and potteries. The first article which Mr. Jeuda is writing is on this short stretch of canal, perhaps two miles from the junction but with various old photographs he first outlined the major uses of the original canal branch.

The primary use was the transport of limestone from the Caldon mine to the rest of the country. In fact, the first effect of the canal was a growth of village limekilns and burners along the route where limestone would be reduced for spreading as a top dressing for agriculture and to be daubed on the internal walls of houses. Local collieries would connect to the canal usually by tram roads and each village would then have its own coal wharf for domestic use as well as the factories, potteries and coal fired power stations near Etruria. As already mentioned the canal had cargoes delivered from across the country - clay and flint for the making of porcelain. As an example flint from Dorset would travel by sea to the Mersey, be loaded into barges and brought down the T&M canal as far as Podmore’s Flint Mill at Consall, here it would be ground and loaded on the barges to be taken to the Potteries.

This photograph shows a pleasure boat working down the staircase lock at Etruria. None of the industry at the foot of the lock remains

As well as the movement of raw materials round the country, the finished products of many firms would also be taken by canal. Pottery from the Wedgwood factory would be packed into barges and taken up the canal to the Mersey and be loaded on to ships at Liverpool to be exported round the world. Thus factories were built along the Caldon Canal which produced earthenware, for example, at Vale Pleasant; ground flints at Vale Flint Mill and ground bone at Jesse Shirley’s Bone Mill. Other factories especially for pottery developed along the canal and Mr. Jeuda showed photographs of a number of them with the characteristic bottle ovens - they included Ridgeway’s, Caldon Place Works, Moorcroft, Meakin’s Eastwood Works, Bullers Factory and Johnson’s who had a number of sites which had a barge service to transport goods.

This photograph is of the Milton Princess one of the last boats that worked on the Caldon Canal ferrying goods between the Johnson Brothers’ factories from 1979 to 1996

As well as private canal carriers, the No. 1s, a number of the firms had their own fleet of boats - Johnson’s (one of their later boats can be seen above) had three boats as did Meakins. A larger fleet would have been operated by Anderton boats which had daily services between the wharves at Stoke, Etruria, Port Vale, Longport and Tunstall (Brown Hills). Many would still be transporting goods into the early 20th century including coal which was delivered to the much expanded Hanley Electricity Works (which provided power to all the amalgamated towns when previously they had their own sources of power).

It is important to make a record of the growth and use of the canal and the factories on its banks as the regeneration of the canal corridor through Caldon is removing the bottle ovens and wharves. In fact only a few factories will remain to show the scale but perhaps not the grime and back breaking work that this stretch of canal created. Fortunately some factories will survive. That of Emma Bridgewater off Lichfield Street is one example whereas Elijah Cotton’s Jug Factory, Taylor Tunnicliffe and Buller’s will be gone forever.

Both Mr. Roland Machin and Mr. Derek Wheelhouse, Chairman of the BDGHS, thanked Mr. Jeuda for his talk. Mr Wheelhouse expressed his admiration of Mr Jeuda’s ability to remember so many dates and names without the use of notes. The outcome of Mr. Jeuda’s research will be published in the Archive magazine and will be of great interest to canal, railway and local historians alike.

AGM followed by The Necropolis of the Dead - 15/03/2010

Derek Wheelhouse welcomed everyone to the Society’s Annual General Meeting on Monday March 15th promptly at 6.45pm. The AGM started with Mr. Wheelhouse thanking the members of the Committee of the Society for their hard work throughout the year, Mr. David Outhwaite as Secretary of the Society and Mrs. Elaine Heathcote as Archivist. Mr. Brian Nightingale was thanked for his hard work for the Society both as Treasurer and book salesman. However, Brian is now stepping down from the committee and Mrs. Kath Walton will be taking his place as Treasurer. Mr. Roland Machin and Mr. John Sherratt were thanked for being committee members. Derek also hoped Mr. John Hancock and David Sheldon who joined the committee this year will be able to continue as Committee members. Derek asked for a volunteer from members of the Society to act as an Excursion Secretary to run a couple of trips per year to places of interest. Mr. David Moore was thanked for updating the web site. Judith Mason was thanked for auditing Brian’s accounts. He also thanked Irene Turner for the use of the Library facilities and book sales with particular thanks to Jayne for setting out the seating and providing refreshments.

The retiring Treasurer of the Society then outlined the audited finances for the year ending on February 28th 2010. The main points were:

  1. A slightly reduced bank balance as the Society sales of books had fallen. Hopefully new publications will be available soon as the Society has the funds to finance further local history publications.
  2. The Society has purchased the ‘remaindered’ stock of Mr. Derek Wheelhouse’s Pictures of Biddulph Book 2 as an investment for future sales.
  3. Moderate sales of the Societies existing publications
  4. Members of the Society will continue to pay £5.00 annual membership from 1st of March 2009. It was agreed members would continue to have free entry to meetings with non-members paying £1.00 per meeting.

After a short break the March Meeting of the Society began at around 7.00 p.m. The evening was given over to an interesting, amusing and well illustrated talk by Mr. Steven Birks on the history of cemeteries in Stoke on Trent from the middle of the 19th century. The 1860s were an important turning point in the burial of the people of the five towns which had seen a massive increase in the population as the Pottery and related industries grew and drew people from the outlying countryside. Before 1860 most people would be buried in the local churches and by this date many churchyards were full. One vicar, at St. Matthew’s Church near Etruria, enjoyed the income from the burial of eight hundred souls between 1849 and 1865. Many burials of the poor and paupers would be in unconsecrated and unmarked ground. An example of this would be at land at the rear of the Westcliffe Hospital at Chell. Before looking at the proposed solution to the problem Mr Birks gave the example of the death of ‘Owd Rafe’ who was laid to rest in the churchyard at Burslem. Whereas the modern funeral is often a sombre occasion ‘Owd Rafe’ was wheeled down to the Church from Burslem by a party, who liked to take a drink or two. In fact they acquired a few barrels to consume on the journey and managed to drop and break the coffin open before they arrived and had to make repairs before ‘Owd Rafe’ reached his resting place.

The 1860s and 1870s saw the planning and building of a number of the large municipal graveyards in the Potteries. The councils at this time were choosing between building a park or a new graveyard and because of the demand the graveyard won. However, the design of the graveyard usually on the side of a sloping hill with paths and trees gave them the appearance of a park. Local people were expected to walk around the graveyard meeting friends and visiting the dead. So graveyards were built at Hanley in 1860, Tunstall in 1868, Longton in 1877 and Burslem in 1879 and later in the case of Hanley in 1897 a park was built. One of the most fascinating parts of the talk concerned the fact that as the social classes did not mix in life they didn’t do so in death, the ground was divided into first, second, third and fourth class graves for three religious denominations - the Church of England, the Non-conformist and Roman Catholic.

The diagram shows the Hartshill Graveyard with the first class graves on the high ground and the fourth class in the flooded, marshy and unkempt land at the foot of the hill. The councils also had long debates about the arrangement of chapels and in nearly all cases two linked chapels for the Church of England on one side and the Nonconformists on the other were built. These demarcations of class and religion led to a number of interesting situations which were illustrated by Mr. Birks with a series of slides. Colin Minton Campbell and his family are buried in the Church of England (C of E) first class graves at the top of the hill in a neat triangle of grass (he contributed £500 towards laying out the graveyard). His wife isn’t buried with him in the family grave as she was Roman Catholic and is buried nearby in the Roman Catholic first class area. The first class graves are marked by large monuments with added crucifixes in the Roman Catholic (RC) area. Sometimes you will find a large monument in the second class area, one such is that of Hugo Boswell a rich gypsy who was not allowed in the first class area. Between the first and second and lower third class area there is usually an unused, often tree lined, area of land. Third class graves tend to have headstones similar to those used today and in the ‘bog at the bottom’ would be the unmarked fourth class. The difference between the first class C of E and RC graves and those of the non-conformists is typified by the difference between the large casket that marks the resting place of Josiah Spode and the simple tablet that marks that of Josiah Wedgwood.

Mr. Birks showed pictures of the ornate dual chapels of the cemeteries and the other work in the area of one of the main architects Mr. Charles Lynam who also designed The Villas, beautiful housing in Stoke on Trent between 1851-55; the Minton Hollins Tile Works of 1869 an innovative design which followed the flow of production: Stoke Library and Baths of 1878; Maw & Co. tile works at Jackfield of 1883; Christchurch, Fenton of 1891 ("the magnum opus of Charles Lynam"). He also recovered the stone, some from the bottom of the local canal and rebuilt the arch of the old church in Stoke on Trent and was responsible for the excavation of the site of Abbey Hulton.

This is the Fenton twin chapel of 1887 which was unfortunately demolished in 2001.

Finally, but no less interestingly Mr. Birks asked his audience to do what their forebears did and take a walk around the graveyards. Here is a short list of some of the interesting graves to be found which aren’t already mentioned above. The large Celtic cross on the grave of Mr. William H. Goss with his coat of arms on the base; the monument of the Stringer family in a second class C of E area. (Joseph Stringer was an accountant with Minton’s and acted as their historian as well as being secretary of the Stokeville Building Society). Look, also, for the two Frenchmen, Louis Marc Emanuel Solon and Leon “the man who made Minton’s” Arnoux who lived in ‘The Villas’ and joined Minton’s pottery works in 1867.

The grave of Thomas Hulme the owner of James Maclntyre and Co. Ltd. which has a large collection of decorated tiles. (He also gave money for the creation of the Burslem School of Art). The memorial to the Mossfield Colliery disaster of October 16th 1889 in Longton Cemetery which also lists a dozen names of miners not recovered from the fire. Look for the grave of Timothy Trow, aged 21 years, a tram conductor who lost his life by drowning in an heroic attempt to save that of a child at Boothen, Stoke-on-Trent on April 13th 1894. There is also a monument with the same lettering in the Potteries which links the drowning to the canal from Sir Nigel Gresley’s mines near Newcastle-under-Lyme. Martha Hawley of Sun Street, Shelton who died on December 23rd 1886 has an unusual cast iron headstone. John Livesley died fighting with the 6th NY Cavalry during the American Civil War on October 23rd 1867. The graves of the Dudson family; that of Jesse Wilfred Shirley of Etruria and the monument with the inscription “Here lie the ashes of Enoch Arnold Bennett Author Died 29th of March 1931”. One of Mr. Birks favourite graves is that of Herbert Stansfield, a mason, late of Middlewich who died January 17th 1799, aged 64 years which as well as a great many masonic symbols includes the following lines:

"Time was I stood as thou doth now.
To view the Dead as thou doth me
In time thoul lie as low as I
And others stand and look on thee"

Derek thanked Mr. Birks for a fascinating look at the graveyards of Stoke-on-Trent and a short question and answer session followed. If you see Mr. Birks talk “The Necropolis of the Dead” advertised then please attend you will be rewarded with an enjoyable evening. In the meantime you can visit his website

Rudyard Lake - Past and Present - 15/02/2010

Mr Derek Wheelhouse welcomed everyone to a packed meeting (standing room only for one or two members of the committee) in Biddulph Library for the February meeting of the Society and introduced the speaker Mr. Peter Durnall with a multimedia presentation entitled “Rudyard Lake - Past and Present”.

The Lake Today [All photographs and postcards are from Peter Durnall’s collection

Peter began with a short film showing the lake in spring with the wild birds and water fowl enjoying the quiet tranquillity of the early morning. In the following slide show presentation the meeting was taken on a good ramble through the history of the valley; the building of the reservoir to supply water to the Caldon Canal to feed down to the Trent and Mersey; its exploitation by the North Staffordshire Railway when the regatta’s, funfairs and golf course where in full swing; the slow decline when the railway was closed and the present rebuilding and refurbishment of the tea rooms and boathouses; before a final glance at the history of the village.

Rudyard Lake was built as a reservoir by the engineer John Rennie (1762 - 1821) for the Trent and Mersey Canal company in 1797/98 when boats had been stranded on the Caldon Canal for a number of summers. It was originally planned three hundred metres further south (near the garage below Rudyard and entrance to the narrow gauge railway). Although the depth of the dam wall was raised a further metre at a later date it has never required any major maintainence, except to the valves, since it was built. When the flow of water from the Dunnsmoor Brook was found inadequate a feeder canal was built to take water from the River Dane when it was in flood.

For the first fifty years the lake was ignored and unvisited except by the landowners - on the west bank John Haworth who built Cliffe Park Hall and the Earl of Macclesfield on the East. On June 26th, 1846/47 the North Staffordshire Railway successfully took over the canal Company and lake as part of one of its Acts of Parliament that resulted in the formation of the North Staffordshire Railway (NSR). Then, in 1849, the North Staffordshire Railway Company built a railway along the east bank of the lake which linked North Rode with Leek and Uttoxeter.

Fanny Bostock inherited the Haworth estate and didn’t like the thousands of people attending the regattas. She started legal proceedings which lasted five years and at a cost of £3,000 managed in 1856 to secure an injunction to stop the lake being used for anything more than sedate pastimes of fishing and sailing. The North Staffordshire Railway ‘ignored’ and fought it, seeking permission from local magistrates to hold special events. Before long it became a weekend mecca for day trippers, with a constant stream of excursion trains from Manchester and the Potteries disgorging thousands attracted by the beautiful surroundings and the many activities laid on for their pleasure. In 1864 Blondin, the tightrope walker famed for crossing the Niagara Falls, walked across, 50 feet above the valley and he would carry people across on his back. Captain Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel, was a disappointment to the crowds, only swimming for a few hundred feet and mainly underwater. More popular were Mr. and Mrs. Beckwith who challenged people to races when the main winner was their dog.

In 1890 the Cliffe Park estate was split into plots and sold when the original estate wouldn’t sell as a whole. The plots could be used for holiday homes and the Davenport’s of Leek had William Sugden build a house called ‘The Lady of the Lake’. In 1898 Horton Lodge boathouse was built and in 1904 the NSR overturned the Bostock injunction against commercial exploitation. Rudyard Lake station, renamed the Cliffe Park Halt in the 1930s, was built in 1906 at the north end of the lake to add to the original Rudyard Station built by the dam wall. The Rudyard Hotel was built originally as a two storey house for the water bailiff in 1850. It was extended and included a popular roller skating rink which cost one shilling and at which smoking was not allowed.

Boats on Rudyard Lake in 1912

thirty thousand fish were stocked in the reservoir and fishing tickets were issued to eager anglers. A regular regatta started in 1905 with a fleet of old life boats, a cafe was built and stalls and a dance floor were placed across the top of the dam wall. There are many staged and picturesque postcards (the same people appear) produced by the NSR to advertise the facilities which included a nine (and later 18 hole) golf course with Cliffe Park Hall as the palatial club house. The building was later used as a Youth Hostel before being bought as a private house as visitors declined. As well as taking a boat to the golf course the NSR laid a wide path around the whole lake for visitors, the path on the east side of the lake being referred to as ‘Lovers Lane’. A claim to fame is that John Lockwood Kipling and Alice Macdonald met here on a trip from Burslem and they liked the place so much they named their son after it.

Crowds on the Prom at Rudyard Lake

The lake remained popular until the closure of the railway in 1964 when the area was neglected. Permanent housing was allowed on the west bank and some of the facilities disappeared. Those that remained were taken over by a Trust in 2000 and they are responsible for the cafe, facilities block, visitor centre and refurbished Earl of Macclesfield’s boat house that you can see today. The water bailiff’s house was sold to British Waterways in 2009. The other modern attractions are the Rudyard Lake Steam Railway which runs narrow gauge steam trains that operate up the east side of the lake on many days throughout the year. The lake is home to Rudyard Lake Sailing Club and North Staffordshire Rowing Club. The Rudyard Lake League of Friend’s are also responsible for a refurbished captain’s cutter of 1942, named ‘Honey’ which has been decked out to be similar to the steam launch ‘Lady Alice’ which ferried passengers along the lake.

Peter concluded his talk with a second short film showing the lake in its autumn colour and mood. A short question and answer session followed before Derek thanked Peter for sharing his collection of film, photographic and postcard images before hoping everyone was ready for a cup of coffee or tea.

Photographs from Below Ground - 18/01/2010

Mr Derek Wheelhouse welcomed everyone to a packed meeting in Biddulph Library for the January meeting of the Society and introduced the speaker Mr. Paul Deakin with a presentation of his “Photographs from Below Ground”. With a large area of Biddulph’s town centre disappearing at the moment to make way for new buildings it was apt that the first series of Paul’s photographs showed the north Staffordshire area during the heyday of coal mining. A set of pit head views of the collieries in alphabetical order had the common features of a smoky landscape with distant conical pit wastes all across the valley. So starting from Meadow Pit, Adderley Green the meeting was taken to pit heads at Florence, Kimball and Sneyd. As well as showing the photograph of the colliery pithead and winding gear, Paul showed his knowledge of the subject, by detailing the dimensions and depth of the shafts and the various coal seams that were worked at each site. In many cases the colliery stood among green fields with only occasional houses now most of the sites are known for the industrial estate or supermarket chain that has been developed there. For instance, this photograph of the Wolstanton Colliery shows the pit before it was replaced by the Asda and other stores on the retail estate and the A500.

Wolstanton Colliery c1959 Photograph: Mr. Paul Deakin

Paul then used a series of maps and photographs to show working conditions underground. The pictures, which were well lit and clear, belied the conditions in which the miners worked. Although surface equipment like pumps and winding gear were kept spotlessly clean in the shafts, at the coal face the dust and grime was evident on the faces of the miners. Three major themes recurred in this pictorial history; the problem of pumping or draining water from the workings; the removal of methane gas which was collected and piped into a gas main to local industries like the steelworks and Michelin; and, the faults, fissures and varied depth of seams from which the coal was extracted. Whether the coal was taken from seams up to 1100 metres underground or from the sloped entrance of a drift mine underground it was dark, hot and dirty.

Mr. Kevin Pritchard cutting coal on the Ragman 3s at Siverdale Colliery - note how well the photograph is lit in such a dark environment. Photograph: Mr. Paul Deakin

The photographs continued with a trip above ground to look at some of the changes made at the various collieries by way of increasing the number of shafts and new winding gear. One of the most unusual pictures was of a lady cutting the first sod standing with five local gentlemen in a white circle at Parkhouse Colliery in 1917. Then back underground to pictures of miners at the Apedale and Haying Wood including the drilling of holes and laying of explosive charges. Having seen the planning, hard work and danger of sinking and driving shafts to extract the coal reserves under the Biddulph Valley a number of photographs of the last days of some them - Hem Heath, Holditch and Victoria - were all the more poignant.

By way of a contrast to coal mining Paul showed a collection of photographs he has taken in mineral mines in Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. The contrast - deep colourful mineral deposits and pools were stunning. The same problems of keeping water from the workings, transporting the mineral - be it copper, lead or blue john, the need to support the roof and find suitable ways of getting it to the surface were similar to those of the coal miners. However, knowing you are seeing an eerie coffin shaped shaft looking at the pick marks of a roman miner added to the spectacle. So the meeting was taken to the extensive mineral mining that has occurred at Ecton, Alderley Edge and the like and in some cases found they are still being worked.

An interesting question and answer session followed before Derek thanked Paul for sharing this collection of mining images before hoping everyone was ready for a cup of coffee or tea.

Local and Family History for the Biddulph area

These web pages are hosted by 1and1, and the site was originally

Created by the late Mr. David Moore