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

Local and Family History for the Biddulph area

Meeting Reports - 2016

“The Historian’s Christmas Address – A History of Bank Farm” - 19th December 2016

“OAKIE'S WAR” a play written by Mr. Bill Ridgway. - 21st November 2016

The Hollow Hill – The Story of the Ecton Mines - 19th September 2016

The Saxon Hoard - Revisited - 19th September 2016

Further Developments at Biddulph Old Hall - 20th June 2016

Waterpower on the River Dane and its Tributaries - 16th May 2016

The Upper Biddulph Valley - 18th April 2016

Annual General Meeting - 21st March 2016

Biddulph Old Hall: A History Re-Discovered - 15th February 2016

Standing Stones and other features of the Staffordshire Moorlands - 18th January 2016


“The Historian’s Christmas Address – A History of Bank Farm” - 19th Decembember 2016

The December meeting of the Biddulph and District Genealogy and Historical Society was held at 7 p.m. on the 19th of December 2016 when Mr John Sherratt presented “The Historian’s Christmas Address – A History of Bank Farm” in Biddulph Library.

Mr. Sherratt’s talk was the usual tour de force of information, vellum documents and a slide show on the subject, this year, of Bank Farm. There were three properties in the Mill Heys area that were called Bank Farm, Bank House and The Bank. All that remains are some outlines of the brick bases of the three which straddle the present Childerplay Road. This road was a later development and was built to run along the side of an ash railway which came from Robert Heath’s works and is shown on the map and photograph below.

The Bank properties in question, which of a much earlier time, possibly from the C16th, are first shown on the maps of the Bemersley area from 1791. They became the subject of the scramble to extract coal in the area and the Bank House which was an early timbered structure was pulled down probably for the timbers. Mr. Sherratt produced many deeds and sale documents which showed the frantic trading in property, land and mineral rights. The Stonehewer’s had been tenants, Hugh Henshall Williamson, William Bentley, John Gresley, George Baddiley, P. J. Proby and James Bateman may have had interests in them. In 1729 even Mrs. James Brindley sold the property Bank House. One James Craddock sold the property to the Bateman’s even though he didn’t own it. This chequered history was followed in 1822 when Reuben Siboner and his wife bought the estate with a 1,000 year lease for £200. A Thomas Steel later had the Bank House for a time but by 1899 it was broken up.

Mr Sherratt then showed a series of slides which placed the three houses in the triangle created by the Bemersley Tip, the Matador Public House (now a builders merchants’) and Mill Hayes. He showed were the 10 foot coal seam broke the surface next to the new Childerplay Road and burned for ten years. His photographs also showed the former road which ran up from Black Bull, and it was well cobbled ran past the side of Bank Farm which is marked by a collection of silver birch trees.

Mr. Sherratt then talked of the many old deeds and documents he has in his collection and regaled the meeting with stories about the various Chester archive staff who helped with copying them and the cracking of the vellum as they were opened.

During a lively question and answer session Mr. Sherratt talked of growing up in Biddulph and Biddulph Moor, his altercations with some of the characters of the town as he delivered the Sentinel as a paper boy and the joy of eating ‘Fyecake’ which were pork scratching cooked in pastry.

Mr. Roland Machin thanked John for his usual Christmas entertainment and the many hours of work it takes to find and bring the documents and stories to the Society as a talk.

The next meeting the first in 2017 will be on the 16th of January 2017 when Mr. Jonathan Fryer will talk on “Local Small Mines in the Biddulph Area”.

“OAKIE'S WAR” a play written by Mr. Bill Ridgway - 21st Novembember 2016

The November meeting of the Biddulph and District Genealogy and Historical Society was held at 7.30 p.m. on the 21st of November 2016 when the Society produced the Play-reading of “OAKIE'S WAR” a one act play written by local author Mr. Bill Ridgway.

Mr and Mrs Oakes on holiday after the War.

All the following photographs were taken by Cristiana Cappelletti and Professor Ray Johnson recorded the play and copies of the DVD will be available in the New Year.

“The play tells the story of Dick Oakes’ part in World War Two. Dick and his wife Bessie lived most of their lives in Biddulph and Congleton. The play is based on my interviews with Dick and an extensive archive of war-time letters between Dick and Bessie” - Bill Ridgway (the writer).

Bill Ridgway who also accompanied the Choir and Audience on the piano.

“The play reading was by performed by members and friends of the Biddulph and District Genealogy and Historical Society. A share of the profits from the evening will be given to the British Legion Poppy Appeal 2016” - David J. Outhwaite (Secretary of the Society)

The cast: Philip Leese was Dick Oakes; Geraldine Outhwaite was Bessie Oakes; Brian Lear was the Sergeant; Gerald Worland was the Officer and Frank Harris was Giuseppi Merzetti. (Members of the Cast, particularly Frank Harris, took more than one role).

Front row (l-r); Gerald Worland, Brian Lear and Frank Harris. Back row (l-r): Geraldine Outhwaite, Thelma Williams, Antonia Kirkham, Anthea Howell, Jan Hill, Helen Tildesley, Elissa Coleman-Smith and Philip Leese

The Choir, Members of the Kingsfield Singers: Elissa Coleman-Smith, Jan Hill, Anthea Howell, Antonia Kirkham, Geraldine Outhwaite, Helen Tildesley and, Thelma Williams sang the following songs:

Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree - The Choir sang the first verse and the audience joined in.

Love Is The Sweetest Thing - Sung by the Choir.

Goodnight Sweetheart - The Choir and Audience together.

The Clouds Will Soon Roll By - The Choir sang the song once and then with the audience.

Whispering Grass - The Choir and Audience together.

The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise - The Choir and Audience together.

Shine Through My Dreams - Solo by Anthea Howell.

Midnight With The Stars And You - Sung by the Choir.

The Very Thought Of You - The Choir and Audience together.

We'll Gather Lilacs - The Choir sang the song once and then with the audience.

Who's taking you home tonight - The Choir and Audience together.

Dick Oakes returns to Bessie after five years of war

Roland Machin, Chairman of the BDGHS thanks the cast and audience for an excellent entertaining evening.

Elaine Rice and her colleagues provided tea and biscuits at the end of the play.

Thanks to everyone who braved the weather and after paying all the costs a donation of £80 was given to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal

The Hollow Hill: The Story of the Ecton Mines - 17th October 2016

The October meeting of the Biddulph and District Genealogy and Historical Society was held at 7 p.m. on the 17th of October 2016 when Mr Len Kirkham gave a talk entitled “The Hollow Hill – The Story of the Ecton Mines” in Biddulph Library. Mr. Roland Machin introduced the speaker by stating that there were very few shafts and mines in North Staffordshire and Derbyshire which Len Kirkham had not visited and tonight Len would be showing a film of his exploration of the complex of copper mine shafts at Ecton.

Mr. Kirkham began with a short slide show to set the background to the film. Since Bronze Age times, there is evidence of the mining of the copper and lead deposits on Ecton Hill near Ecton. For over 3,500 years minerals, mainly copper were extracted with production finally ceasing in 1891. During this time fortunes were made and lost. In the 18th century the Duke of Devonshire made a profit of over £300 000, said to have financed the building of the magnificent Crescent in Buxton. Total ore production is estimated at over 100, 000 tonnes, mainly of copper ore.

Material mined at the Hollow Hill were copper converted to sheets at Whiston Copper Works and sold to protect the hulls of ships, lead for piping and lining water containers and zinc used in the production of many valuable products including glass. The film which followed the tour of the mine made by archaeologist Mr. John Barnatt and engineer Mr. Len Kirkham visited five of the shafts on Ecton Hill: East Ecton, the Dutchman Level, Waterbank Mine, Clayton Mine and Deep Ecton including the Salts and Boat Level. The diagram below shows how the deposits built up in the near vertical rock formation.

Some of the mining terms used in the film were:

Adit - an entrance to an underground mine which is horizontal.

‘Flop-jack’ Pump [Right] - which is a lift pump which uses a bucket of water to rock a beam.

Garland - a drain to catch water.

Horse Gin or Whim [Right]- a horse or man powered rotating drum which can lift water from a mine.

Launder which is a trough for holding or conveying water, especially one used for washing ore.

Sough, which is an underground channel for draining water out of a mine.

Mr. Kirkham explained that many of the mine sites that you will see in this film are no longer accessible as they require pumps to remove the water. The workings that were filmed during the making of the film are very extensive and require special skills and equipment to explore. However, certain sections of Salt’s Level could be visited, but for reasons of safety a descent of the ancient ‘ladderway’ as seen in the film is not possible.

If you would like a copy of the film which is a detailed record of this very important and historic mining site. It was commissioned by the EHFSA and produced by David Webb and last approximately 50 minutes. It is available by post at a cost of £13, a cheque should be made payable to "David Webb."

Mr David Webb, 3 Devere Gardens, Woodthorpe, Nottingham. NG5 4PH

An interesting question and answer session followed the showing of the film and the audience showed its appreciation of Mr. Kirkham’s talk before the meeting broke for tea and biscuits.

The Saxon Hoard: Revisited - 19th September 2016

The first meeting of the new season of the Biddulph and District Genealogy and Historical Society was held at 7.15 p.m. on Monday the 19th of September in Sainsbury’s Café. Following a misunderstanding BDGHS members and their speaker Staffordshire County Archivist Stephen Dean found themselves without a venue for the meeting and more than fifty members and guests were left standing outside the library at 7 p.m. A posse set forth into the town to locate a room and Sainsbury's and the Conservative Club both generously offered to accommodate the meeting. It was decide to accept the offer of Sainsbury’s upstairs cafe that was about to close.

Once the laptop and projector had been powered up the Chairman of the Society, Mr. Roland Machin, introduced Mr. Stephen Dean, the Principal Archaeologist for Staffordshire, who gave a talk on the “Saxon Hoard - Revisited.” The talk was an update of the story since Mr. Dean spoke on the subject at the September 2012 meeting of the Society.

He began by explaining that the Hoard was discovered in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield on 5 July 2009. Mr. Terry Herbert discovered the ancient gold and silver haul on farmer Mr. Fred Johnson's land. But the men have since fallen out with Mr Herbert claiming Mr Johnson wanted it all for himself and he has even said his find was a “curse” and blamed it for ruining his friendship with Mr Johnson.

When it was acquired by Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent City Councils the thousands of objects were still encrusted with soil from the field where they’d been found. Once the fund raising had raised the money to keep the Hoard in the Midlands the first task the Birmingham and Potteries Museums needed to undertake was to clean the objects so they could be studied and displayed. A conservation team to work specifically on the hoard was assembled at Birmingham in 2010 and the team have been working on the objects ever since, as part of the wider research project on the collection, with both the research and conservation funded by the museums and Historic England.

For the first three years, the focus was on cleaning. The team carefully removed the soil to reveal the objects, and to allow them to be recorded and stabilised where they were fragile. Because the gold is so soft, garden thorns (berberis) were used to remove the dirt to prevent scratching. In some cases, entirely new objects have been found hidden in the soil, such as a beautiful cloisonné decorated animal that probably came from a sword hilt. The initial count of 1700 items rose to over 4000 as more and more tiny fragments were discovered. [Right: Sword Pommel]

The Staffordshire Hoard Conservation Programme drew to a close in August of this year and six years of intensive work has successfully unlocked many of the secrets of this incredible treasure. Mr. Dean explained that the Staffordshire Hoard totals 5.094 kilos of gold, 1.442 kilos of silver and 3,500 cloisonné garnets and that there is nothing comparable in terms of content and quantity in the UK or mainland Europe. Many of the objects feature beautiful garnet inlays or animals in elaborate filigree and are probably dated to the 7th or 8th centuries, placing the origin of the items in the time of the Kingdom of Mercia.

Mr. Dean then outlined what we know and can now begin to question. It is still not clear why the hoard was deposited where it was, and whether it was Christians or pagans who left the treasure. It is known that the hoard was discovered very near Watling Street. One of the major thoroughfares of Roman Britain, it ran for about 250 miles from Dover past Wroxeter, and was probably still in use when the hoard was buried. The average quality of the workmanship is extremely high, and especially remarkable in view of the large number of individual objects, such as swords or helmets, from which the elements in the hoard came. The hoard contains mainly military items, including sword pommel caps. The pommel cap is the tip of the hilt of a sword that anchors the hilt fittings to the sword blade. Single pommel caps from this period are incredibly rare archaeological finds, and to find this many together is unprecedented.

The closest parallel archaeological find to the Staffordshire Hoard are the artefacts from Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. The great burial of a prince or king, the site was discovered in 1939. A large mound was found to contain a 90-foot-long wooden ship complete with a central burial chamber. This chamber was once furnished with textiles and contained the dead man’s possessions, including magnificent gold and garnet weapon fittings and a striking panelled helmet.

The famous Saxon poem Beowulf contains lines that experts believe may describe circumstances similar to the burial of the hoard: ‘One warrior stripped the other, looted Ongentheow’s iron mail-coat, his hard sword-hilt, his helmet too, and carried graith to King Hygelac; he accepted the prize, promised fairly that reward would come, and kept his word. They let the ground keep that ancestral treasure, gold under gravel, gone to earth, as useless to men now as it ever was.’ [Below: Sea horse with Inscription]

Some of the red garnets in the hoard came from as far away as India or even Sri Lanka and scientific analysis is being carried out to discover more. There are hundreds of pieces of silver foil in the hoard, which are thought to come from one or more helmets. A biblical inscription from an item in the hoard is written in Latin and is misspelled in many places, and reads ‘Rise up, O Lord, and may they enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face.'

The research so far shows that the two most striking features of the Staffordshire Hoard are that it is unbalanced and it is of exceptionally high quality. It is unbalanced because of what is missing. There is absolutely nothing feminine as there are no dress fittings, brooches or pendants and these are the gold objects most commonly found from the Anglo-Saxon era. The vast majority of items in the hoard are martial – war gear, especially sword fittings. The quantity of gold is amazing but, more importantly, the craftsmanship is the very best that the Anglo-Saxon metalworkers could do, and they were very good. Tiny garnets were cut to shape and set in a mass of cells to give a rich, glowing effect that is stunning. Its origins are clearly the very highest levels of Anglo-Saxon aristocracy or royalty. It belonged to the elite.

Most of the gold and silver items appear to have been deliberately torn from the objects to which they were originally attached, for example, there are nearly 100 gold and garnet pommel caps, and there also appear to be fittings from helmets. Mr. Dean explained that this is not simply looting as the swords were being singled out for special treatment. It is possible that the gold fittings were stripped from the swords to depersonalise them – to remove the identity of the previous owner and then the blades could be remounted and reused.

The Hoard looks like a collection of trophies, but it is impossible to say if the hoard was the spoils from a single battle, or a long and highly successful military career. Unfortunately we cannot identify who the original, or the final, owners were, who took it from them, why they buried it or when and how it came to be buried in the field in Hammerwich. It may have been a tribute to the pagan gods or concealed in the face of a perceived, but all too real, threat, which led to it not being recovered. Mr. Dean outlined more of the history of the period and put forward the idea that this may be an “angst” hoard when someone buried a large deposit of possessions on a ridge near to a major ancient road which could be found again after a battle. Perhaps the owner didn’t return. He explained that the ‘burial’ of the Hoard in Staffordshire at this time coincided with a time when there was a militarily aggressive and expansionist period under King Penda, Wulfhere and Aethelred in the heartland of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia. This material could have been collected by any of these during their wars with Northumbria and East Anglia, or by someone whose name is lost to history. [Right: Cheek Piece from a Helmet]

Finally, there is so much material in the Staffordshire Hoard that we may have to rethink seventh century metalwork. Despite their war-like nature, the decoration on these objects is superb. They are decorated with strange animals, interlaced around each other, their long jaws intertwined. Many objects are inlaid with garnets and, even covered in earth, the colour is still breath-taking and designed to reflect the maximum amount of light and give the owner “presence” as they strode across a room or battlefield. Whereas the seventh century has always been looked at from the point of view of East Anglia and Kent the Hoard shifts the historical research to the Midlands. Now the research and theories can begin….

The next meeting will be on Monday the 18th of September 2016 the Speaker will be Mr. Stephen Dean, Principal Archaeologist for Staffordshire, who will present a talk on “The Saxon Hoard Re-visited.“ The Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in Biddulph Library, Tunstall Road, Biddulph. As this will be the first meeting of the new 2016/2017 season the committee of the Society wish all the members and guests who attended this season’s talks a pleasant and relaxing summer break.

The items are presently housed at the Potteries Museum, the Birmingham Museum and the British Museum.

Mr. Machin thanked Mr. Dean for what had been a seventy five minute tour de force which presented a second comprehensive, interesting and exciting look at a collection of garnet and gold objects which Mr. Dean believes will “alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England”.

The next meeting of the Society will be on the 17th of October 2016 when Mr Len Kirkham will give a talk entitled “The Hollow Hill – The Story of the Ecton Mines” which will be at 7 p.m. in Biddulph Library.

Further Developments at Biddulph Old Hall - 20th June 2016

The latest meeting of the BDGHS was held on the 19th of June 2016 in Biddulph Library at 7.00 p.m. when Messrs. Nigel Daly and Mr Brian Vowles presented a talk entitled on “Further Developments at Biddulph Old Hall.” The Chairman of the Society, Mr Roland Machin introduced the speaker Mr Nigel Daly by welcoming him back to talk about the work they have been doing on the house and garden since the last talk on the 16th June 2014.

Mr Daly began by giving an outline of the subjects he hoped to cover in his talk and try to explain everything which had happened by answering the question “Where are we now after 10 years?” Then more particularly he hoped to update the society about what new information has come to light and what developments and changes have been made to the structure of the building and surrounding area. Both elements were broken down into three parts.

Part One: Things we have learnt through the renovation of the fabric of the inhabited house. This is the rather disparaging entry in Sir Nikolaus Pevsner’s “The Buildings of England – Staffordshire” published in 1973.

“BIDDULPH OLD HALL. A late 17th Century house of no pretension is attached to an Elizabethan mansion, sacked in the Civil War. The ruins stand up in considerable parts and ought to be examined. The house had an inner courtyard. The entrance (south) range was symmetrical with an archway with tapering pilasters dated 1588 or 1589, a window with tapering pilasters left and right, and five-eighths bay windows in the end bays. The kitchen in the range is recognizable by a huge fireplace. The north range was probably the hall range, although evidence here is confusing. The high tower with ogee cap no doubt contained the staircase. Was there a long gallery on the top floor with a polygonal bay window in the tower?”

Mr. Daly explained that the inhabited house is not a unified structure built after the Restoration in the late 17th century. It has had three distinct phases of construction:

1. An early single cell feasting hall with kitchen below built around 1490 – 1520.

2. A late 17th century addition partly constructed with materials from the ruined mansion.

3. An early 19th century double storey wing constructed as a Catholic chapel in about 1840 and later adapted by Robert Bateman as an artist’s studio.

This is one of many architectural drawings and family trees used to illustrate the talk.

Part Two: Things we have learnt about the Elizabethan Mansion through restoration of the tower, documentary and scientific research, and investigation of the ruins. The tower itself was an addition to the body of the building begun in about 1530 and was to be matched by a second tower as witnessed by the different plinth height and corbelling of the flues. The north side of the mansion was three storeys high. The tower originally had 3 or 4 floors, but was re-floored after the attack with 6 floors and a staircase. The top floor room was accessed off the ‘leads’ and was a small double height space with a fireplace and a viewing gallery. The floor at the middle ring of windows formed a bay off the long gallery of the mansion which took up the whole north side at third floor level. The lower section was used as service accommodation which accounts for the ‘porthole’ windows which were originally unglazed.

Mr Daly then discussed the Smythson influence? In the book by Mark Girouard “Robert Smythson and the Elizabethan Country House” the trade mark features of an Elizabethan house are given as being: a small central courtyard; offset corner bays on a symmetrical composition; a kitchen in the lower ground floor which was unusual at the time; balustraded near flat parapets giving access to banqueting rooms. The architect Smythson had worked almost exclusively for a close circle of people with connections to his key patrons the Earls of Shrewsbury, mostly in the north and east Midlands, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. Set the challenge of proving a link to Smythson Mr. Daly and Mr. Vowles had found that members of the Biddulph, Gifford and Talbot (later Earl of Shrewsbury) were related by marriage to each other. In light of the family connections, and its architectural characteristics they believe it highly probable that Robert Smythson was involved in the design of the mansion. Having put the evidence to Mark Girouard the house may be included in any update or revision.

A before and after view of the windows installed in the former Chapel to the east side of the building. Internally the features are to follow those used at Stonor Park chapel where Mary Biddulph lived, but that like the love story of Robert Bareman and Mrs. Wilbraham is another story, “The Lost Pre-Raphaelite: The Secret Life and Loves of Robert Bateman by Nigel Daly.”

The mansion was also not a single phase, symmetrical build Mr. Daly believes and that the date stone of 1580 on the porch represents the last phase of construction of a plain symmetrical building begun around 1520-30. He believes the east side was probably timber framed, as there are no upstanding ruins and the ground-penetrating radar survey findings are much more fragmented and incoherent. The tower was an addition and it was planned to add a second one.

Mr. Daly’s talk was obviously not as dry as this report suggests being littered with anecdotes, particularly the visit of the Buddhist monk and tactile Sally, his family connection to the one completed Burne Jones tapestry - part of which was produced with a flourish at the meeting - and the finding of a priest hole, shaft and tunnel. More recently, the pair have been working on the garden by planting roses, have restored a Buddhist meditation cell, replaced the Roman Catholic Chapel wall with windows (see above) and researched an early Bateman work the Clough.

It wasn’t surprising therefore that the third section of the talk - discoveries relating to the artist Robert Bateman and his association with the house had to be held over to a future talk which Roland Machin, Chairman of the Society proposed. Mr. Machin then asked for questions from the enthralled audience and asked the audience to thank the speaker again for such a memorable and enjoyable evening. He also reminded the Society that we are lucky to have such dedicated residents at the Hall who once again this summer are prepared to show people around there home and continue to care and maintain this unique asset.

The next meeting will be on Monday the 18th of September 2016 the Speaker will be Mr. Stephen Dean, Principal Archaeologist for Staffordshire, who will present a talk on “The Saxon Hoard Re-visited.“ The Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in Biddulph Library, Tunstall Road, Biddulph. As this will be the first meeting of the new 2016/2017 season the committee of the Society wish all the members and guests who attended this season’s talks a pleasant and relaxing summer break.

Waterpower on the Rive Dane and its Tributaries - 16th May 2016

The latest meeting of the BDGHS was held on the 16th of April 2016 in Biddulph Library at 7.00 p.m. when Mr. Tony Bonson presented a talk entitled on “Waterpower on the Rive Dane and its Tributaries.” The Chairman of the Society, Mr Roland Machin introduced the speaker by recommending that the audience should try and find a copy of Mr. Bonson’s book “Driven by the Dane” as this was the definitive study of the subject in North Staffordshire and Cheshire taking over twenty years to research.

Mr. Bonson started his talk by outlining the history of water power in the area over a period of nine hundred years starting with the early corn mill of the 1086 Domesday Book when a mill at Brereton was recorded. Over the years Mr. Bonson working with the ‘Midland Wind and Watermills Group’ has found seventy eight sites and over fifteen industries which used water power. The first peak in watermill use was in the 1340’s as the population of the quiet wooded shires in the north grew. The map below shows the situation of the mills in this area. This number fell away rapidly due to the “Black Death” which was a bubonic plague pandemic that reached England from China in 1348, and killed perhaps one third of the population, dying down in 1349.

The second peak in the use of watermills was at the start of the Industrial Revolution, Mr. Bonson pointed out that many “first’s” attributed to other areas of the country, for instance, the first factory or use of cast iron frames for buildings were seen in the area before or contemporaneously in the North Staffordshire/ Cheshire area.

So what did the watermills produce? As the area had plenty of wood for charcoal and iron deposits then bloomsmithies developed which could produce small iron ingots. But the iron wasn’t hot enough and couldn’t be easily hammered to reduce the impurities to produce the better iron, that ideas stolen from Sweden had produced. So water power was used to blast air (blast furnace) into the molten iron and it could be hammered by turning the circular motion of the waterwheel into a vertical one.

These bloomsmithies and furnaces would be lit and then operate for four or five months to produce the required amount of iron which led to new patterns of working for the men who operated them. So a twelve hour day and night shift over the full week became normal practice. One early blast furnace was at Church Lawton and the next development was at Congleton on the River Dane where a rolling mill was installed which also required the cutters to be water powered. Other industries developed from these improvements in rod iron production and so nail makers and saw makers would take the iron bars and produce finished articles. Whereas the blacksmith could produce a few items they could be produced in there thousands and then shipped around the country.

The production of much cheaper and better quality iron around 1680 to 1750 saw a large industry grow in the area with three furnaces and twelve forges involved in the merger of the Staffordshire and Cheshire Trade Groups. The trade was to go into a rapid decline when the process switched from charcoal to coal and Coalbrooke Dale produced even better and cheaper iron products. In Derby at around the same time the iron beams were used to build the first silk mill based on ideas stolen from Holland. The machine used, which were rotated by water power, were twenty feet tall and sixteen feet in diameter and in the original Derby Mill were side by side. Mills were built in Congleton amongst them the Old Silk Mill of 1752. Below is a picture of and the wording on the plaque to be found on the site of this innovative mill.

“The Old Silk Mill, 1752 and Plaque

The Old Silk Mill, which was located alongside the Rive Dane and Mill Green was one of the first water-powered textile factories in the world. This five storey silk throwing mill was built in 1752 by john Clayton and Nathaniel Pattison to produce silk thread. The engineer James Brindley, constructed all the machinery for the mill.

In 1830 the new owner Samuel Pearson extended the mill and introduced steam power. The stone scrolls (above the commemorative plaque in Congleton) are from the steam engine house built at that time.

The mill was operated throughout the 20th century by R. H. Lowe & Co. Ltd. and their successors for various textile manufacturing processes. They extended the business by building Roldane Mill in 1935 on the other side of Mill Green near the town wood.

The Old Mill, which closed in 1998, was demolished in 2003 after providing employment for the people of Congleton for 250 years.

Mr. Bonson outlined the building and construction of this mill; and then the history of Mr. Charles Roe of Macclesfield and the copper mills at Havanna and at Bosley; the development and recession in the silk industry when the water mills could keep going longer as they hadn’t converted to coal powered steam production; the importance of Fustian in the Congleton area and the precarious nature of the small mills that couldn’t reap any benefits of scale; the use of water power at Swettenham Mill in the 1920’s to charge batteries amongst other operations; and then finally, the search for the use of water power at Swythamley Chapel. As you can see this was an interesting and entertaining talk which was well illustrated by numerous photographs.

Mr. Machin thanked Mr. Bonson for a spell-binding talk and after a few questions the meeting broke for tea and coffee.

If you would like to visit a working water or windmill in the Midlands area then the Library have a copy of Mr. Bonson’s leaflet “Midland Counties Windmills and Watermills Open to the Public 2016” or you can visit the website: or you can look nationally at

The Upper Biddulph Valley - 18th April 2016

The latest meeting of the BDGHS was held on the 18th of April 2016 in Biddulph Library at 7.00 p.m. when Mr. Peter Boon presented a talk entitled on “The Upper Biddulph Valley.” Mr. Boon had a wide ranging talk to present to the Society and this is just a small part of the information that the meeting heard. The area covered by the Upper Biddulph valley was defined as being bordered by Congleton Edge on the west and Biddulph Moor and Biddulph Park on the east, and stretching from Grange Road in the south to the Castle Inn just within the Cheshire border in the north.

Mr. Boon explained that he had found at least 29 different ways that the name Biddulph has been spelt over the years. In the Domesday Book of 1086 it was spelt Bidolf and one popular origin of the name reflects of the presence of the rocks with coal and ironstone deposits as ‘Bi’ means near, and ‘Delf’ or ‘Dolf’ means ‘diggings’. A second explanation comes as ‘Bi–d–ulf’ can also mean ‘home of the wolf’ as in 1281 Edward the First gave a Peter Corbet permission to hunt and destroy all the wolves he could discover in the heavily wooded district. It is interesting to note that the arms of the Biddulph family in 1664 are a green shield with a displayed silver eagle surmounted by a wolf. In the case of the present Lord Biddulph of Rodmarton Manor near Tetbury in the Cotswolds, who Mr. Boon had visited, the eagle shield has a wolf on either side as supporters and a wolf in the crest above.

Rodmarton Manor, the home of the Biddulph Family today, near Tetbury in the Cotswolds.

Mr. Boon then outlined the physical geography of the valley which was created by the same earth movements that produced the Pennines. The rocks were folded into ridges and valleys which run in a north–south direction. Weathering exposed the millstone grit on the ridges and then the valley’s coal measures which are the northern border of the North Staffordshire coalfield. During the Ice Age, the Mossley gap and a glacial lake were formed and the water from the valley which had previously flowed south turned northwards. With this erosion sand and boulder clays were found and became important, providing sand for the glass and other industries and clay for the numerous brick works of the 19th century.

From the 12th century up to the middle of the 18th century, iron was produced in small quantities at local ‘bloomsmithies’ or forges – where iron in the form of a thick bar or bloom was produced to be transferred for further rolling in an iron works. The Biddulph Valley had a ready source of ironstone within the coal measures and plenty of wood and water power. An early record of iron working is in the Biddulph Manorial Court Rolls for 1539 which record that Richard Biddulph was allowed to occupy a plot of land called Smithy Place on payment of 6d per year. Lee Forge has had a long association with the Gosling family, whose name first appeared in the district in 1529. In 1560 Sir Thomas Gerade sold his land to John Leigh (Lee) and Leigh decided to evict one of the tenants John Geslynge (Gosling) who had rented the messuage and 80 acres of the land for 31 shillings a year. The Gosling family, who had lived on the land for over 30 years, sued Leigh and they were presumably successful as the forge was occupied by the Gosling family for many years afterwards.

On the 1597 map a bloomsmithy is sited at the confluence of the Biddulph Brook and the stream which flows down the Clough from the then Biddulph corn mill. Evidence of Elizabethan glass making, dating from 1580 to 1610 overlies the site, indicating iron making must have been carried on a long time before that date. Iron rich slag has also been found in Whitemoor wood, on the outcrop of the Two Feet or Little Row coal seams. There appear to have been five buildings on the site and there was an artificial water leet (artificial waterway) cutting between two points on a sweeping bend on the Biddulph Brook to provide a head of water. The leet would have been constructed to provide water to turn an undershot waterwheel. This bloomsmithy was still in use in 1644.

Samuel Gosling, surgeon and owner of Lee Forge Mill

On Yates map of 1769 – 1775 a forge and pool at Lee Forge are marked. These probably superseded the Whitemoor bloomsmithy because Lee Forge was in a better position to harness the water power. The Rev. Jonathan Wilson of Biddulph Church described in his diaries that between 1775 and 1776 he stayed at the forge for a couple of hours with Frank Gosling at Forge House. In those days the forge was half a mile from the main Congleton Road which went via Overton and Grange Roads. On 31st August 1787 it is recorded in the diary of Reverend Jonathan Wilson of St. Lawrence Church, Biddulph, and Headmaster of Congleton Grammar School that William Eardley had drowned in the Flint mill pond (Lee Forge). Iron working at this time had stopped and they were grinding litharge (found in silver bearing lead ore).

In 1786 the forge was converted into a flint mill and from 1788 to 1800 was occupied by Anthony Keeling, who in 1803 was joined by his brother Enoch. They must have been tenants as the property was still owned by the Gosing family. In 1811 Francis and George Gosling leased the flint mill to two Burslem potters for 11 years. In 1819, however, Francis Gosling terminated the lease and compensated the potters when he learned a new turnpike road was to be made which would pass by Lee Forge and would be a great advantage to the works. Land had been leased from the Castle Inn in 1818 for the construction of a tramway by John Wright, who at that time owned Biddulph Hall colliery at the northern end of the Biddulph estate. The route followed the line of the Biddulph Brook through Whitemoor and the Dane–in–Shaw Brook within the Congleton Borough, passing close to the Castle Inn. The tramway is shown on the Macclesfield canal map of 1825, and coal was taken to a depot on the Mossley – Leek turnpike road at Dane–in–Shaw. The track probably survived at least until the partition of the Wright estate in 1838.

Sometime in the next ten years Francis and his son George died and their estate was inherited by George’s son Samuel Franceys Gosling who was born in 1823. As Samuel was a minor the forge was run by the executors of George’s will, George Campbell and Samuel Franceys. Samuel was trained and qualified as a surgeon and when he took over responsibility for the forge he appointed a forge manager. By 1834 the mill was manufacturing iron bar, spades, shovels, iron arms, etc. having returned to its original function of iron working. In the latter part of the 19th century drainage tools, cable and chains, iron pans, ladles etc. were also manufactured at the forge. In 1840 the tithe map shows Bloomsmithy Field in the valley below the ruins of Biddulph Old Hall with the Biddulph Brook running through it (five feet of fused iron rich slag has been found on this site).

Former home of the Gosling Family, Lee House on Fold Lane

In 1853 Samuel Gosling was working Biddulph Hall colliery on land owned by Lord Camoys who had inherited the Biddulph Hall estates in 1839. Gosling also worked Lee colliery which was situated directly in front of Lee House on his own land on Fold Lane. In 1863, the colliery was put up for sale and Samuel Gosling ceased mining in the area. Samuel Gosling died in 1885 but his brother–in–law, Robert Forrester, continued running the forge until 1907. By that time the forge consisted of seven different buildings and a triangular mill pool. Samuel Gosling’s wife still continued to live at Lee House on Fold Lane until her death in 1912. With the death of Mrs. Gosling the family died out. The Gosling family had been in the upper Biddulph valley area since 1529.

In 1917 Mr. Ashton from Manchester brought the mill and set up a colour dye business concentrating on the development of the colour ‘Prussian blue’. Water supplies came from the Biddulph Brook and an artesian well. Afterwards the mill had a number of owners until it closed in 1981. It has now been demolished and the area is overgrown and heavily contaminated with dyestuffs; the blue colour is still evident. (For further information see “Driven By the Dane” by Tony Bonson and the BDGHS meeting notes of October 2015 “The Dye Works” by Bruce Wright.)

As Mr. Boon was reaching his conclusion that “the history of the valley from the Castle Inn to Grange Road, a distance of about three miles, is packed with interest” he felt faint and had to be helped to sit down. The Society would like to thank the lady who handled our 999 call, and the paramedics and ambulance crews for their extremely prompt response. Mr. Boon recovered and was taken home by his son – the latest news being he feels much better.

Annual General Meeting - 21st March 2016

The third BDGHS meeting of 2016 was held on the 21st of March 2016 in Biddulph Library at 7.00 p.m. when Mr. Roland Machin welcomed everyone to the BDGHS Annual General Meeting beginning with the Chairman’s Report. He stated that the BDGHS continues in good health, a result of the excellent commitment, cooperation and goodwill we receive from the Committee Elaine Heathcote, Madelaine Lovatt, David Outhwaite, Mike Turncock, Kath Walton and Derek Wheelhouse.

He said the committee are most grateful for the regular attendance of so many people and the large number who have committed to membership. For many years the Society has been very well served by the expertise of David Moore who has continued to service our website in–spite of ill health. The meetings and speakers have again embraced a wide spectrum of local history with the last meeting in the summer of 2015 being a presentation by Helen Wilshaw and Daniel Atherton on their work and the development of the Geological Gallery at Biddulph Grange. In June of last year the Society enjoyed a vintage train ride in restored NSR carriages at the Churnet Valley Railway (a short film of the event will fbe shown at a future meeting). This season’s programme began in September with a presentation on a Family History “The Foden’s of Sandbach” by Mr. Allan Littlemore. The October meeting welcomed Mr. Bruce Knight who gave an illustrated talk with aerial photographs on the ‘History of the Dye Works’.

On Monday the 16th of November the Society saw a change of venue to the Victoria Centre for Bill Ridgeway’s play reading “Till the Boys Come Home”. A capacity audience were entertained by a number of local Thespians! The evening raised over £300 for the British Legion. December brought the return of John Sherratt and his regular seasonal contribution entitled “Things you didn’t know about Biddulph”. January 2016 saw the return of another welcome regular contributor journalist Geoffrey Browne who left us to ponder the meaning and relevance of the Standing Stones of the Staffordshire Moorlands. In February the Society was entertained by Mr. Philip Wheeler’s talk about Biddulph Old Hall and the English Civil War.

The Secretary’s report including update on publications produced over the past year. David Outhwaite explained that a number of books had been published including, just in time for Christmas “Victorian Biddulph” compiled by Mr. Richard Dean which is an Atlas of the Parish of Biddulph using the 1876 Ordnance Survey plans. The book includes the early history of the Ordnance Survey; the mapping of the United Kingdom; and, the ‘Book of Reference to the Plans’ which details the measurement system and the field use of the area. Victorian Biddulph has 61 A4 pages and costs £6.95.

‘Marriage in The Biddulph District’ which was jointly produced with Geraldine Outhwaite and is still available for sale in Biddulph Library at £7.95.

‘A Guide to St Lawrence’s Church, Biddulph’ published in September 2015. The new A5 guide to the Church includes a guided tour of the Church; an early history and information on the important local families and has 36 pages including 4 pages of colour photographs. The Guide is also available from the Church. The Church Guide to St. Lawrence’s has 36 A5 pages and costs £2.50.

‘Transaction 11’ of June 2015 ‘Early Rail Transport in the Biddulph Valley’ written by Mr. Paul Blurton and based on research by Mr. Derek Wheelhouse (31 Pages). The information has been updated and extended with all photographs in colour.

‘Transaction 10’ of April 2015 is an ‘Early History of Chatterley Whitfield Colliery’ written by Mr. James Jack in 1935. (35 Pages) Converted from Mr. Jack’s hand written notes, this is a personal view of the development of one of the largest local collieries.

‘Transaction 9’ of April 2015 the writings of Mr. Harry Page (53 Pages) which is a tribute to a Founder Member of the Biddulph History Society who died on the 6th of January 2015. It includes details of the trips Organised by Mr Harry Page as ‘Excursion Secretary’ of the Biddulph History Society; extracts from “Biddulph by the Diggings” and, extracts from “The Biddulph Players 1950 -2000”.

The Treasurers Report to be circulated by Kath Walton is still to be audited and will be available at the April meeting. Kath Walton explained that the general situation is that funds have fallen since last year as a result of the all the extra publishing costs but these will be recouped in the next twelve months. It was decided that there was no need to make changes to the charge for non–members at £2 per meeting and that membership will remain at £5 annually payable from tonight.

The Archivists Report followed and Elaine Heathcote updated the situation regarding a number of items given to the Society in the last year. Elaine also asked for any items for the newsletter and reminded the group of our links with Border History.

The Election of Officers: Mr. Machin explained that as the present officials of the committee have expressed their willingness to continue and no other nominations having been received he then asked for the required a proposer and seconder to confirm that Mr. Derek Wheelhouse remains our Honorary President and the following remain in office:

  • Chair, Roland Machin
  • Secretary, David Outhwaite
  • Treasurer, Kath Walton

Mr. Machin again asked the meeting if there was anyone who would like to join the committee to approach him during the course of the meeting.

Although a number of activities had been planned the meeting spent the rest of the evening in various discussions. Firstly, about a number of photographs which have been given to the Society by Mr. and Mrs. Lomas which were taken by George Plant in the 1960 and 1970’.

Two sample photographs to identify:

If you know these buildings you can let the staff in Biddulph Library know and they will pass a message to the Society. The Society would also like to thank the Library for hosting our meetings and selling our publications.

Discussion also took place around the Archivist’s table where a number of documents and maps were on display; around John Sherratt’s table with local history documents on view; around some A3 and A5 photographs of Selectus works outings from the late 1940’s and early 1950’s which came from the collection of Mr. Michael Turnock; around Mike Dawson’s book stall which was stocked with all manner of local publications; and, around the display boards where a comprehensive history of the bus services in Biddulph had been prepared by Adrian Lawton.

Biddulph Old Hall: A History Re-Discovered - 15th February 2016

The second BDGHS meeting of 2016 was held on the 15th of February 2016 in Biddulph Library at 7.00 p.m. when Mr. Philip Wheeler presented a talk entitled on “Biddulph Old Hall: A History Re–Discovered”.

Mr. Wheeler began by stating that although Biddulph Hall was not of any militarily significant it was the scene of an important siege in the English Civil War. Although only a small part of a National upheaval Biddulph had all the properties of the wider history. A battle between parliament and the King; a playing out of the English Church against the Roman Catholic and importantly was something which divided families and found fathers and sons on opposing sides. This report is going to concentrate on only three of the elements of Mr. Wheeler‘s talk – what did the Hall look like at the time; what Royalist families were involved; and, a look at the leader of the Royalist side. Biddulph Old Hall. It is now a shell of its former self but it is known that the architecture of the Hall and Lord Brereton’s house near Holmes Chapel are very similar being almost certainly designed by the same architect and in the same period of time 1580–1590. Camden in his “Britannia Descrtiptio” stated of it that it ‘added much credit and honour to that place by a magnificent and sumptuous house that he had there built’.

The interior of Biddulph Old Hall is likely to have been similar to the Brereton House and some features of Brereton’s interior that survived the extensive re–modelling of 1829 are likely to be representative of how Biddulph would have appeared had we been there. The principal features that have survived are some cornices and the focus of any home the fireplace of the 16th and 17th centuries. The first floor of the Brereton Hall has 8 bedrooms and 6 other rooms which are now bathrooms. The Drawing Room at Brereton has a fireplace in honour of Queen Elizabeth I the Royal Arms being dated 1585. Other features of a Tudor room would be ceilings with strap–work plaster decoration and the walls would have wood panelling. But the cornice of the Drawing Room at Brereton consists of the crowns and shields of 43 European principalities with their names in a plasterwork scroll. But importantly at either end of each scroll is a red and a white rose; the Tudor Rose, a prominently displayed badge of loyalty. This may also have featured at Biddulph Old Hall. Details of John Biddulph’s Will of September 1640 stated that the ceiling and wainscoting at Biddulph Old Hall had “Hall Chambers and other rooms” which were to be exempt from being included in any payments to settle his debts. One can only wonder given the level of surviving decoration of these main rooms, how impressive Biddulph may have been. There is another room in Brereton Hall which is called Lord Brereton’s Dressing Room, which later became a bathroom. The fireplace here is dated 1633 and celebrates the marriage of William the 2nd Lord Brereton and Elizabeth Goring.

This is the couple who with their young son, were sieged at Biddulph and then made prisoners when it surrendered in 1644. The Brereton motto is “Opilulante Deo” which can be translated as ‘Win with the aid of god’ or ‘With god’s help’ and at Biddulph Old Hall there would have been the Biddulph Coat of arms a white eagle on a green field and on the other support the three gold stirrups and leathers on a blue field in a lozenge the arms of Isabella Giffard of Chillington.

One of the Leaders at the Siege of Biddulph Old Hall: On the Royalist side was William 2nd Lord Brereton of Leighlin (1611–1664). At the time of the siege he was aged 33. His concern for the safety of his wife and family at Brereton Hall potentially led to the situation precipitating the first Battle of Middlewich in March 1643. When arriving in Middlewich on Saturday 11th March the royalist, Sir Thomas Aston received a letter from Chester, concerning proposals received there from Lord Brereton requesting a “convoye for his ladie, children and goods to Chester, and then he would bringe in his men”.

This painting is of William’s sister Jane, Lady Jane, and you can see the family resemblance in her young nephew, the future 3rd Lord Brereton (below). It is a believed in the siege of Biddulph Hall that Brereton’s wife urged him to surrender, after a cannon–ball had struck a beam and the reverberations felt throughout the Hall. She was the Elizabeth Goring, mentioned earlier and the sister of the notorious Royalist cavalry commander George, Lord Goring.

It was for Lord Brereton to surrender Biddulph Hall and not its owner Francis Biddulph as Francis was subject to Lord Brereton’s decisions in terms of their respective military and social rank. Mr Wheeler believes that if after the battle of Nantwich in January 1644 had Lord Brereton surrendered at Brereton Hall this would have protected his family and Biddulph Hall would not have been attacked. As a result Brereton Hall is the intact building you see now Biddulph after a 4 week siege was badly damaged. During his captivity Lord Brereton petitioned Parliament, for an exchange in 1644, which was refused. Certainly by 1645, he was in Holt Castle on the River Dee writing to Major William Booth, another ex–prisoner from the Biddulph siege. He was eventually taken when the garrison of Worcester surrendered in 1646 but at the Restoration he became MP for Cheshire and sat on the Quarter Sessions bench.

Mr. Wheeler ended by reminding the audience that when you engage on researching a subject to keep an open mind as following the most unlikely of avenues may result in the revelation of a unique and unknown of piece of information. Mr. Machin thanked him for his far reaching talk and reminded everyone that the hard back copies of Mr. Wheeler’s book on the Hall is still available. He also said that the paperback version is sold out but, if you find a copy treasure it. A number of questions were discussed before the meeting broke up for tea and coffee.

Footnote: Mr. Eric Whalley “I had an uncle whose name was Aaron Machin who owned a house in Moody Street Congleton. Sometime in the 1950s he and my cousin Brian were renovating the house, which dated back to the reign Elizabeth the First. Because the house was a listed building they were only allowed to alter the interior of the property and not the exterior. The walls were ‘wattle and daub’, and they were replacing this material with plasterboard; while they were doing this they found what they thought were eighteen copper discs; they took them outside to look at them as someone who worked for the Congleton Chronical joined them. They realised that the discs were actually gold coins from the times of ‘King James the First’ and ‘King Charles the First’.

When they reported the find, the law required that an inquest be held on the coins. At the inquest one expert witness stated that in his opinion, the coins had been hidden during the ‘English Civil War’. He believed they had been hidden by someone fleeing from Brereton Hall on the way to Biddulph Hall. The gold value was estimated to be £360. And my uncle was awarded 40% of the gold value; but the historical value of the coins was believed to be worth more! The collection was taken to be displayed in a Museum in Chester; and Congleton Museum could only have them for two weeks each year. They aren’t displayed at all now; the ones in the Museum at Congleton are only replicas”.

Standing Stones and other features of the Staffordshire Moorlands - 18th January 2016

The first BDGHS meeting of 2016 was held on the 18th of January 2016 in Biddulph Library at 7.00 p.m. when Mr. Geoffrey Browne presented a talk entitled “Standing Stones and other features of the Staffordshire Moorlands”. Mr. Browne began by explaining that some may find his talk controversial as over the years the archaeological study of the Staffordshire stones has not been able to come to a satisfactory conclusion about what all the stones, circles and barrows were and which peoples built them. It is therefore possible to put forward another view of why the stones were placed as they were and for what purpose with an equal claim to be the correct interpretation.

He said it was important to realise that the stones were not placed in a haphazard way and that these early people were not the ignorant peasants of the Middle Ages. They were placed according to a set rules of navigation; an understanding of astronomy; the seasons and the sciences. Biddulph is extremely lucky to have a number of standing stones nearby – the Bridestones (see photograph on the left), the Troughstones and those on Congleton Edge. Many of the crosses found in local churches have been moved from being boundary stones or guide stones for travellers who traversed this area of Britain looking for minerals, including copper and salt.

Other features mentioned by Mr Browne were tumps which are hills which are separated from the adjacent landscape. Usually they have a height difference of at least 30 metres on all sides. Shutlingsloe is a clear local example but would have been a place from which to view the surrounding countryside or an aid in navigating through the Cheshire Plain. A second feature was tumuli, which are defined as is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli also are known as barrows, burial mounds, or kurgans, and may be found throughout the British Isles. A cairn, a third feature, which is a mound of stones built for various purposes, might also originally have been a tumulus. Tumuli are often categorized according to their external apparent shape and the Bridestones was a long barrow or a long tumulus constructed on top of several burials known as passage graves. To mark the barrow in some areas there may be a dolmen usually a large top stone supported on three vertical stones.

One important site from the Neolithic period is Arbor Low is a well–known and impressive prehistoric monument, which is sometimes referred to as ‘the Stonehenge of the North’, owing to its henge bank and ditch, stone circle and cove. It bears more of a passing resemblance (though on a smaller scale) to that other great Neolithic monument, Avebury, in Wiltshire. That the long barrow of the Bridestones, of a similar age, has been grubbed out is a sad reflection on local people who didn’t realise how important a feature it was.

Many of the features in the Staffordshire and Derbyshire area are not from the Stone Age but the Bronze Age and the reason for this is likely to be trade. Tin and Copper were two vital minerals to the ancients because it was needed in the making of bronze. Bronze was an alloy, a mixture of two or more metals. Copper tools and weapons by themselves were too soft and did not long remain sharp. Tin made the copper harder and also made the molten metal fill the mould more completely when it was cast into useful objects like axe heads, hammers, and jewellery. So many useful articles were made of bronze in ancient times that no civilization could thrive very long without a supply of it or the copper and tin needed to make it.

The Phoenicians discovered the tin deposits of the British Isles through their own exploring and seeking out of new products and markets for them. They kept the knowledge of the Cornish tin mines a closely guarded secret so they could control trade in the metal and charge a high price for it. After the Punic wars, Carthage, the one remaining city of the Phoenicians, became less and less an important economic power. With their well – known efficiency and thoroughness, the Romans counted access to the British tin mines as one of the advantages of conquering the island. Julius Caesar knew of the importance of British tin when he invaded the island in 55 to 54 B.C. After the conquest of Britain during the reign of Claudius, the Romans were in control of most of the world’s supply of the metal. Hence, the closely guarded treasure secret of Britain’s tin passed hands from the Phoenicians to the Romans.

A similar trade in copper from Derbyshire brought the Phoenicians to this part of the British Isles, travelling overland from the Mersey Estuary in search of this important mineral. There are a number of stone circles of this period; one of the most complete is just over the border into Derbyshire and known as the Nine Ladies. A small early Bronze Age stone circle traditionally believed to depict nine ladies turned to stone as a penalty for dancing on Sunday. It is part of a complex of prehistoric circles and standing stones on Stanton Moor.

One theory for the Saracen–like people who live on Biddulph Moor was not that they returned to the area after the Crusades but were Phoenician traders who could no longer trade after the Romans destroyed there fleet in the second Punic War. Mr. Browne had read the work of Kevin Kilburn and he believes there is no reason why this could not be true. A number of Hebrew and Northern Welsh words are remarkably similar and may be a product of the Phoenician traders as they travelled across country from the Wirral.

One stone locally which Mr. Browne mentioned was the Troughstone which appears to have a navigational use as it is aligned North and South and can be seen to align with Boundary Lane. Stones like this often align with local geographical features, give the basis of a measurement, for example, or give an ancient representation of the Solar System.

Other stones which may be described as boundary stones include what is usually called the Preaching Cross or a Viking cross in St. Edward‘s Churchyard, Leek. Originally this appears to be more like an ancient fertility symbol, one of many of similar design which can be found on alignments running from Derbyshire across the Moorlands into Cheshire. Clulow Cross, near Wincle, is almost identical and the three stones on display in Macclesfield Park originally stood on the same alignment. These columns may have been carved to guide the Phoenician traders.

This is a small part of Mr. Browne‘s talk and it is recommended that if you get the chance to hear him you may better understand more of the formation of Stonehenge; the link between Joseph of Arimathea and Glastonbury; whether the Star Stone on the Cloud could explain the end of Atlantis; and, whether quartz rock can be made to vibrate and move.

The Chairman of the Society, Mr. Roland Machin, thanked Mr. Browne for his entertaining talk and for clambering up to the Troughstones at the weekend to take the series of photographs included in the talk.

Local and Family History for the Biddulph area

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