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

Local and Family History for the Biddulph area

Current Meeting Reports - 2020

The BDGHS Annual General Meeting - 16th March 2020

Mr. John Berry "History of Mossley" - 17th February 2020

Mr. Mike Sharpe "Tracing your Potteries Ancestors" - 20th January 2020


The Annual General Meeting - 16th March 2020

The latest meeting of the Society would have been held at 7 p.m. on Monday the 16th of March 2020 when the Annual General Meeting would have been followed by a film show of a couple Peter Durnall’s films about Skomer and a small selection of the twenty three recently converted 8mm films of Alice Price. The committee decided that due to the changing nature of the restrictions introduced to fight the Covid-19 virus it was prudent to cancel the meeting.

Right: A Puffin on Skomer.

Chairs report on a year of progress:

The Biddulph and District Genealogy and Historical Society continues to thrive, a result of the splendid commitment, cooperation and goodwill we receive from members who regularly attend meetings and a proactive committee including: Elaine Heathcote, Adrian Lawton, Madelaine Lovatt, David Outhwaite, Mike Turncock, Kath Walton, Derek Wheelhouse and Gerald Worland.

Meetings have been very well attended often full to capacity at Biddulph Library.

A varied and informative program of presentations based on local research and wider topics has been delivered by a speakers who enthusiastically support the cause of local history and genealogy.

Extended links and collaboration with Staffordshire Film archive have enabled several initiatives including recording unique footage of a wartime biography, and digitising archive footage funded by a generous donation from a former Biddulph resident. Our archivist Elaine Heathcote has mounted an exhibition of a representative range of items in The Town Hall utilising the new display cases. We continue to support Bill Ridgeway in his historical play readings.

Our publishing platform Transactions (a direct link to James Bateman who founded The North Staffordshire Field club 1860) continues to promote research and reproduces out of print material that otherwise would become inaccessible.

The Secretary’s report from David Outhwaite: Publications, both recent and forthcoming. “We again pay tribute to David for his work enabling publication of member’s research and archive material. Also in maintaining/ updating the website, organising meetings, preparing minutes and writing accounts for the Chronicle and other journals.”

The Secretary’s Report: “The Society has 26 books which it has published about Biddulph and the surrounding area. They are all available to buy from Michael the Bookman or in the Library. There are also 14 Transactions available, with a fifteenth about to be printed. In the last year: Two booklets B08 and B09 were merged together as “The Surveys of Biddulph” written by Derek Wheelhouse as B08.

A new book B09 the “Biddulph Trade Directories” was added to the list. A new and very successful book written by Michael Turnock and Madelaine Lovatt on George Gerard Booth called “All in a Day” was launched. Roland liaised with John Hancock and John’s successful Transactions No 15 “The Railways of Biddulph” was launched in December and is still selling well. A Biography of Peter Biddulph written by Phillip Wheeler has been updated with new information from the Vatican and will be launched as a Limited Edition of 60 copies soon.

Right: An illustration from Adrian’s book: A North West Road Car Company FDB 596 at Well Street garage. This bus would have completed a journey from Manchester to Biddulph (C.O.) on service 52A. How many passengers would realise that C.O. was an abbreviation for Council Offices?

The much awaited “Buses of Biddulph” by Adrian Lawton is now edited and almost ready to be launched.There are two, and possibly three, new books on the local canals in the dry dock waiting to be floated, plus a copy of the Operation Neptune Guide and another of the 1971 Sale Documents featuring the Greenway Bank Estate. Finally, the Book pages of the web site have been updated and there is a member‘s only area which can be accessed by a password. There are also a number of new features but I can’t remember which ones have been added in the last twelve months.

Best wishes, David”

The Treasurer’s report from Kath Walton is available for scrutiny. Kath confirms that we are in good health and no changes are proposed in fees, the charge for non-members at £2 per meeting and membership remains at £5 annually payable from tonight.

The Accounts: “We had another successful year with a profit at the end. The sale of books has greatly helped us to continue this successful trend. Our biggest expenditure being for printing reflecting the number of publications which have been produced in 2019/2020. Our membership remains at £5 which is excellent value and we plan to keep this the same for the year ahead. The membership is slightly down this year but is still good and attendance is excellent. A copy of the financial statement will be available to view at our next meeting.

Kath Walton”

The Archivist’s report: An update from Elaine Heathcote including the Town Hall exhibition.

The Archives: “We haven’t had many deposits over the last 12 months. Some items courtesy of Gordon & Pam Lomas and also a few postcards and photographs from other members. At the beginning of the month I set up a display of items relating to Biddulph in the Town Hall. They are easily accessed for viewing by anyone. The display includes items from the 1840s to the 1970s.

Thank you, Elaine”

Other news: An Award for Domestic Skills was presented to Adrian Lawton after his sterling work at the February meeting and there is a possibility of one being awarded for Janitorial excellence for those who stack chairs at the end of the evening.

Election of Officers:

Derek Wheelhouse is our honorary President.

The present officials of the committee have expressed their willingness to continue and until the next meeting will remain in post.

* Chair - Roland Machin.

* Secretary - David Outhwaite.

* Treasurer - Kath Walton

The meeting would have continued with two of Peter Durnall’s films and a small selection of the twenty three recently converted 8mm films of Alice Price.

Above: A still from one of the 23 short films of Mrs. Alice Price of a float which featured in the Biddulph Carnival Parade in 1970.

The committee hope that we can resume meetings later in the year and wish all the members and the wider population of Biddulph well during the coming weeks of ill-health caused by the Covid-19 virus.

JRM 16th March 2020.

“A History of Mossley - 17th February 2020”

The latest meeting of the Society was held at 7 p.m. on Monday the 17th of February 2020 when Mr. John Berry will gave a talk entitled “A History of Mossley.” Mr. Berry’s talk was a comprehensive look at the development of a C18th local source of peat to a growing suburb of Congleton with the changes as new roads, canals and railways crossed the Parish. It included a look at the coming of water and steam powered mills; the building of a workhouse; the use of Mossley Hall as a school; the building of the Church and Chapels; and the established Public Houses in the area. If you get a chance to hear John’s talk then do so as it featured much too much information for a short write-up.

One element that threaded its way through the talk was the effect of the Inclosure Act which became law in 1773 during the reign of George III. The Act is still in force in the United Kingdom and created a law that enabled the inclosure of land. Prior to the inclosures in England, a portion of the land was categorized as ‘common;’ ‘waste’ or not in use. ‘Common’ land was under the control of the lord of the manor and owners of certain nearby properties or on occasions in the ownership of all manorial tenants. ‘Waste’ was land without value as a farm strip, being often very narrow areas in awkward locations, and not officially used by anyone it was often cultivated by landless peasants. The remainder of the land was organised into a large number of narrow strips, with each tenant possessing a number of disparate strips throughout the manor, as would the manorial lord.

The Congleton Inclosure Map of 1795 (above) showing the characteristic tapered fields of the mossrooms. The Mossley area was divided into 35 lots of land by the Trustees. The main area was bounded by Biddulph Road, Leek Road up to and over the present railway bridge as far as, but not including the Moss Inn, and on the other side of Leek Road to Back Cross Lane. To the north of Biddulph Road near to Hightown there was an isolated lot together with one down Reade’s Lane adjoining the golf course. C. W. J. Shakerley the Lord of the Manor, also owned a large lot on the corner of Leek Road and Biddulph Road opposite the present church.

The Act required the procedure to start with a petition delivered to Parliament signed by the landowner, tithe holders and a majority of people affected. The petition then went through the stages of a bill with a committee meeting to hear any objections. The petition would then go through to Royal Assent after passing through both Houses of Parliament. Commissioners would then visit the area and distribute the land accordingly. The powers granted in the Inclosure Act were often initially abused by landowners who failed to hold preliminary meetings in public often choosing their own solicitors, surveyors and Commissioners. In 1774, Parliament added an amendment to the Act under the Standing Orders that every petition for enclosure had to be affixed to the door of the local church for three consecutive Sundays in August or September.

The system of common land allocation envisaged by the Congleton Inclosure Act of 1795 is thought to be unique. In Mossley the trustees added local wastelands which were transferred to the inclosed land and it was then let to local residents with the rent being used for the relief of poverty in the Town. The shape of the fields reflects the quality of the peat from the poorer quality to the good quality towards the center of the moss - the owners would have equal shares of good and poorer peat. The width of the strips varied, but the average was about six yards and the length about a quarter of a mile or 440 yards. Most of the mossrooms were privately owned but some were worked by the corporation of the old Borough. In the early days, peat cutting was labour intensive and huge ten to twelve foot shovels with sharp edges were used to cut the peat into blocks or strips to be rolled ready for carting.

Sewage disposal in the Congleton area generally was still in a primitive state even up to the first part of the 20th century. The early sewage filtering systems followed either the ‘Lichfield System’ (where the filtering was through coal dust) or the ‘Congleton Moss System’ (where the filtering was through moss peat). Biddulph Council adopted the ‘Congleton Peat Pail System,’ so there was a big demand for Congleton Moss peat from Biddulph for a number of years. A still from one of the 23 short films of Mrs. Alice Price. A float which featured in the Biddulph Carnival Parade in 1970.

View of the railway station before the bridge was built and the signal box was demolished. When the railway company was pushing through the line after abandoning the attempt to go through the town it offered £150 for the freehold of a piece of Trustee land at the top of Dog Lane (Canal Road). This is now the railway bridge and cutting at the top of Canal Road. Before the construction of the railway, Dog Lane continued in a straight line down Moss Road.

In 1921, the Boundary Lane culvert collapsed and the hole which developed near the junction of the lane and Congleton Edge Road was a danger to pedestrians. Once again, the Trustees decided they were not liable. Eventually they agreed to the repairs as the Inclosure Trust realized that it would be able to sell the land on the north side of Boundary Lane for building purposes. A great deal of discussion ensued and it was suggested that Boundary Lane might become part of a by-pass round Congleton from the Potteries.

The old workhouse at Hightown is mentioned frequently in the minutes of the Inclosure Trustees. It is now the H. J. Lea Oakes Pet Store. In 1730 the Town Council had decided to convert the Lower Chapel on Mill Bridge into a workhouse. By 1810, this building was deteriorating and the Council decided to lease land on Mossley Moss from the Trustees to erect a new workhouse. It was designed to hold between 90 and 100 paupers but there was no supply of water on the premises. In 1834, the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed and Assistant Poor Law Commissioners were ordered to group parishes into Unions. The Congleton Union was formed in 1837 as Congleton was the largest township. At the end of 1837 the Poor Law Commissioners leased a nearby canal wharf on Canal Road to enable boatloads of stone to be landed for breaking by the male inmates of the Mossley Workhouse. At the same time three rooms were rented to provide accommodation for female paupers to be engaged in wool-picking.

By the early 1840s the Mossley workhouse could no longer cope with the demand and the Congleton Union Board of Governors began to look locally for a suitable replacement and after a great deal of discussion and argument the Board decided on a site at Arclid.

Mossley Hall (above) is a late 18th / early 19th century Georgian-style building with three storeys and a large glass front door with portico. It was built on Inclosure Trust land and the forty acres of gardens and fields which were obtained from Messrs. Whitfield and Martin are probably today the golf club. The Trust’s last remaining site on Manchester Road, Lower Heath was sold in April 2018 and the development of this particular land enhanced the charity’s investment portfolio generating on-going additional funds for grants towards local good causes.

The first meeting of Inclosure Trust Trustees, originally there were 87 trustees, took place on 5th June 1795 and included Charles Watkin John Shakerley, Lord of the Manor of Congleton. More recently, local Solicitor David Daniel MBE was Clerk to the Trust from 1978 until retiring and he is now the President. Trustees are elected on a five year cycle with a Chairman appointed annually presently it is local farmer Ken Wainwright. Since 1994 it has been governed by a Charity Commission scheme and has made makes grants of over £1.25 million towards projects of benefit to the community in the Congleton area. For details of the current work and charitable donations of the Trustees visit their website at: A copy of the detailed book a History of the Congleton Inclosure Trust written by David Daniel and Peter Boon is available at Congleton Library.

Mr. Roland Machin thanked Mr. Berry for an informative evening and the answering of questions that arose from the talk before the meeting broke for refreshments.

The Next Meeting of the Society will be held on Monday the 16th of March 2020 when the Annual General Meeting will be followed by a series of short films by Mr. Peter Durnall and the late Mrs. Alice Price.

“Tracing your Potteries Ancestors - 20th January 2020”

‘Tracing your Potteries Ancestors‘ was the title of January’s talk given by Michael Sharpe who travelled all the way from Bromsgrove to Biddulph on Monday evening. Mr. Sharpe is an experienced family history researcher, writer and lecturer focusing on Britain’s industrial heartland: Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

The talk commenced with a discussion of the polymorphic growth of the six towns, industrial diversity, the impact of non-conformism, transport and population growth and the effect that this has had on the development of the Potteries. The brief history was followed by a wide and varied discussion of the archives, key online sources and further resources relevant to researching Potteries ancestors.

Mr. Sharpe began with the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives - currently held on an upper floor of Hanley Library, Bethesda Street. An archive service reader’s ticket is required and it is advisable to book a place in advance. Opening hours are limited: all day on Wednesday and 9.30 a.m - 2 p.m. Thursday, Friday and 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturday. Telephone 01782 238420 email:

Key sources to be found here include parish records, education records, census returns, directories, newspapers, maps and electoral rolls. It may be necessary to book either micro-fiche or film readers. It is vital that researchers view original documents whenever possible to minimize errors by transcribers and to glean as much information as possible from the resource.

The Staffordshire Record Office, Eastgate Street, Stafford has access to parish registers, nonconformist and Roman Catholic registers, marriage bonds, wills and inventories, census returns, electoral registers, poor law records and a wealth of maps and plans. Telephone 01785 278379 email: It is closed on Monday and open Tuesday – Friday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. and on the 3rd Saturday of the month 9 - 1 p.m. As with the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives, a reader’s ticket is required and it is advisable to book in advance.

Lichfield Record Office was once the repository for tithe maps and awards, bishop transcripts, wills and inventories but these have been transferred to Stafford and the Lichfield office is now closed.

The William Salt library, also in Stafford, holds books, pamphlets, newspapers, paintings and prints relating to Staffordshire history. Telephone 01785 278372 email: and opening times are Tuesday - Thursday 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 2 - 4 p.m.

Records for all of the above archives can be searched using ‘Gateway to the Past’ Guides to sources can also be downloaded free of charge.

Newcastle-under-Lyme Library holds an excellent Local Studies collection as does Keele University. The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery may also prove useful when attempting to build a picture of the life of our Potteries ancestors.

Moving on to on-line resources, Mr. Sharpe outlined the collaboration between Staffordshire Archive Services and Find My Past. Having been given access to many genealogical resources, FMP has digitalized many and they are now available as the ‘Staffordshire Collection‘. Free access is available from libraries and archives in Staffordshire. The collection includes Anglican Parish Registers for Staffordshire 1538 - 1900, marriage allegations and bonds, wills and inventories proved in the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Lichfield and the courts of various ‘peculiar jurisdictions‘ 1521 - 1858.

Another very interesting on-line resource is the Staffordshire Name Indexes which brings together archive indexes created by volunteer groups. A copy of the original document can be ordered - costs vary. The indexes cover: quarter sessions 1779 - 1921, Police Force Register 1842 - 1920, wills, apprentice lists, workhouse admission and discharges, Stafford Gaol Photographs Index 1877 - 1916, Sentinel Newspaper Great War Index 1914 - 19 and much more.

Civil registration for the area can be searched for free using www.staffsbmd - part of the Local BMD Project. The county‘s Family History Societies are collaborating with local Registration Services to make the indexes to these records freely searchable via the internet. Although the indexes are not yet complete, what is available is extremely useful. Births, marriages and deaths for Staffordshire can be searched and copies of the certificates can be ordered.

Newspapers and directories can be a rich source of information for the family historian. The Staffordshire Daily Sentinel, The Staffordshire Advertiser and Staffordshire Sentinel, and the Leek Post and Times are all titles we are familiar with. Using the British Newspaper Archives makes searching easier but requires a subscription. Directories can also prove to be a valuable resource and many can be found on Leicester University’s Historical Directories site - part of their special collections.

Pre 1700 sources can be discovered through the printed material of the Staffordshire Record Society where it is possible to explore transcribed subsidy rolls, militia lists and Hearth Tax records.

Mr. Sharpe is involved with ‘Midland Ancestors’ - a part of the Birmingham and Midland Genealogy and Heraldry Society . The Staffordshire Burial Index is a brilliant online index. Monumental inscriptions for many of the Potteries graveyards and burial grounds can be purchased also from the BMSGH shop.

Other more general, but equally important web sites include Steve Birk’s which Mr. Sharpe praised highly, the Potteries Heritage Society, Victoria County History for Staffordshire, Staffordshire Past Track which includes photographs, prints, engravings and artworks and

Other sources that spring to mind not mentioned by Mr. Sharpe but which may prove valuable to the researcher include: Index to Mining Deaths in North Staffordshire 1756 - 1995 by Mark Casewell, Staffordshire Advertiser Index to Births, Marriages and Deaths 1795 - 1820 by the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service and The Distinctive Surnames of North Staffordshire by Edgar Tooth - all should be available in local libraries. The Staffordshire Parish Register Society should also be considered It may also be necessary to consider archives in adjoining counties such as the Cheshire Record Office at Chester.

Chairman Roland Machin thanked Mr. Sharpe for an excellent and informative talk.

Publications by Michael Sharpe:

Tracing Your Potteries Ancestors: A Guide for Family and Local Historians

Tracing Your Birmingham Ancestors: A Guide for Family and Local Historians

Family Matters: A History of Genealogy

The Next Meeting of the Society will be held on Monday the 17th of February 2019 when the Speaker will be Mr. John Berry who will give a talk entitled “A History of Mossley.”

[Written by Elaine Heathcote]

Local and Family History for the Biddulph area

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