Theatres and Picture Houses in Stoke

Majestic Cinema, Campbell Place, Stoke

© Dr Richard Talbot MBE

In the early 1950s children’s cinema matinees were the norm, no less that at the Majestic in Campbell Place, Stoke where no less than probably a thousand children from the town would pay their converted six pence for a seat in the stalls and for the better-off nine pence for the circle.

In the 1950’s the average weekly attendance to children’s cinema matinees was over 1,016,000 with 1735 cinemas holding cinema matinees for children. {Source: media statistics website taken from report from Wheare Committee

Cinema Clubs
The format of the Children’s Cinema Matinee varied slightly between Picture Houses. Some would be held on a Saturday morning others would be a Saturday afternoon. Some lucky children would attend two children’s film shows in a day at the local cinemas, providing them with a full mornings and afternoons entertainment.

Several cinemas especially ones who were part of the larger circuits such as the Odeon and The Gaumont Cinemas would have a club type atmosphere within their cinema matinees. The children would receive a badge and come up onto the stage when it was their birthday to receive a free ice cream or tickets to next week’s matinee. The notion of film clubs helped to develop the habit of going to the pictures from a young age which organisations like Rank and Odeon hoped would continue to turn young cinema goers into lifelong film fans.

The Children’s Film Foundation did its best to balance the gun toting thrills of American imports with good clean, very British adventures laced with morals and lessons in life.

Not one but two new theatres in Stoke in only four years.

By Dr Richard Talbot MBE

Two new Stoke theatres – first the Crown built of wood in 1896 and replaced in 1900 by The Gordon Theatre, probably the finest ever built in the pottery towns.

 As an historian I always find a challenge to put together a factual account of something of our past where little or nothing relating to a subject that has never been researched or written about before. So, the challenge of locating information regarding the first ever live theatre in the town of Stoke-upon-Trent, prior to Federation in 1910 has been a difficult process but as you will read, I have managed to locate sufficient information that will I hope to prove interesting and informative to the reader.

In the mid-nineteenth century there was a constant complaint by residents of the town that Stoke was not advancing in its growth with regards to that of its neighbouring towns. Very slow steps were taken towards the establishment of the various necessary public buildings that one expects in a busy manufacturing district. However, little public enterprise was shown, and Stoke seemed under the under cloud, whilst its near neighbour Hanley, was in fact assuming the position of metropolis of the potteries, a position that it has retained ever since but sadly at the time of writing (2023) it appears to be in serious decline as many shops and stores are closing and social changes in society are having a serious effect on the foot-fall of the town.

The first chance Stoke had of becoming an important town was in 1849, when the North Staffordshire Railway Company decided that their headquarters should be there. With this the town council had a great  opportunity of making itself the centre of a large and well populated district, both for business and pleasure, amusements and entertainment all ow which had been lacking until the turn of events in the 1890s.

Many years previous, a theatre was talked about for the town to be erected in Copeland Street, but little evidence of any firm proposal has been found. However, it may have been as a result of a series of Winter Entertainments where upwards of two hundred attended in what was then in the wooden Congregational Church which once stood in Copeland Street in the late 1860s, but nothing became of it. (I recall this being burnt down whilst in the ownership of Anco Potteries in the early 1960s) There was no doubt at the time that had such a place had been erected may have had a very powerful effect on the growth of the town, and certainly to some extent people would do their business and shopping where they also find places of entertainment and amusements.

It was a fact that for many years Stoke people were in the habit of going to Hanley for everything, as Stoke was so dull and the shops were few. Competition was greater at Hanley, and the goods therefore cheaper and better. When the steam trams commenced running many shopkeepers in the neighbouring towns would pay the tram fares for customers purchasing a certain quantity of goods from there shops. There was little pleasure in walking around Stoke to see the shops because few existed with little choice to offer.

Previous to the opening of the railway we had a handsome building in the town, and I believe the handsomest public building in the district at the present moment the town hall in Glebe Street replacing the old covered market and town offices above situated in Hill Street. This new town hall was erected in 1836 at a cost of £10,000 which was probably the first step in the growth of the town which seemed at once to become a place of some importance (Hanley at this period was a very small place known principally as Far Green). The lower portion of this noble edifice was used as a market and, although small, plenty of business was transacted and Saturdays which became a much livelier for the townspeople. It was thought at the time that Stoke was fast going to take the premier position; but it sadly the initial interest was but a flash in the pan, and excitement soon wore out. Very little building was going on, and not much public spirit shown in the town.

From this time the town became dormant with little or nothing of improvements to mention. However, by the mid-1870s things started to improve with the erection of houses on land called the allotments which belonged to Frederick Bishop of the Mount in the form of a group of people encouraged to purchase and build their own terraced home. This was followed by the building on established Glebe land belonging to the Rector of Stoke church. First Lonsdale Street was built, then shortly after, Campbell Road came into existence, and now all the land on both sides of this long road was fast being built on. In fact, it was recorded at the time with these significant developments Stoke has undoubtably gone ahead. Several new streets had been then opened on what was the west side of London road and what was once a playground for the kiddies later to become Campbell’s busy tile factory but now the car-park for Sainsbury’s Supermarket. Then at last Walker and Carter’s old factory in Church Street was demolished and replaced with a new row of fine shops under the heading Campbell Place. Following this further advance were made in the town.

It was later a great improvement to the town for where the market now stands next to the new town hall at the top end of what is now Kingsway stood Cannister Hall, a large house erected by Thomas Wolfe, the Potter, after whom the name Wolfe Street was given. This old house was for many years uninhabited, and the open ground in front was utilised in summer for Stoke wakes. Here came shows, roundabouts shooting galleries, boxing booths, Sally dolls, and a host of other things that go to make up that curious festival known to this day as Stoke wakes. We should think that everybody felt glad when this kind of thing was crowded out of the town to find a home in obliging Hanley. But even the Hanley folks are tired of accommodating Stoke wakes, and it looks very much as if the wondering show man will have to clear out for good be before long.

Folks thought it somewhat of a folly because they never expected good big shops to pay and Stoke, but time has proved that the initial step of demolishing the former factory from what is now Campbell Place became the focus of improvements in the town. So, what next for the town of Stoke?

No town is complete that has not some form of public amusement or entertainment, and a theatre had become a necessity in such busy manufacturing towns as Stoke with an increasing population. After the hurry and scurry of business during the day, it was natural to look for recreation in the evening, and for something to cheer and brighten the workers for the next day’s struggle. And, more than this, it is also necessary that the towns folk should have not too far to go for our enjoyment, for if this necessitated a journey of several miles, one half the pleasure was lost with a feelings of misery having to face a slow, dreary return home either by foot or tram.

At the time it was the opinion that there was no doubt that had a good theatre being erected in Stoke about 20 years ago, the town would have been in a much more flourishing than it was just before the end of the 19th century despite their being some advancement in the last decade.  But what was lacking was a good place of amusement; something to bring people into the town, and to centralise it. If folks got into the habit of going to a town full enjoyment, one may be almost sure that they would do their shopping there to the loss of the tradespeople of their own borough.

However, things were about to change when two businessmen Messrs, Crichton and Carlton, (there were a number of theatres built under the name of Crichton including Davenport and Walsall ) first came to Stoke with the idea of building a theatre, many people laughed at them, remarking that such a venture would never pay in Stoke, as they had one in Hanley where everybody went. Fortunately, these plucky gentlemen were not deterred, and very soon acquired a good central site in Wolfe Street,(now Kingsway) and plans were obtained from Mr Lynam, and the present wooden structure soon came into existence.

I have tried to locate either a photograph or the plans without success. Even searched Mr. Lyman’s sketch books at the Stafford Archives and a BA dissertation at Keele listing his achievements without success. But fortunately, a few notes have survived that gives us an insight to the Crown Theatre itself.

With regards to the theatre being build of wood no one has ever challenged why and not that of brick and tiled roof. The answer to this was it was a trial theatre to see if there was sufficient demand for a theatre in Stoke whereas there was already one in Hanley and a number in Longton. But the plans nearly failed to pass the General Purposes Committee at Stoke Borough on the 28th November 1896 as we can read.

Mr Yoxall referring to the clause in the report relating to the proposed theatre urged that the plan submitted to be approved. He did not see that the ratepayers of Stoke should be debarred from a theatre in their own town and obliged to go to Hanley or Longton. Stoke was quite dead with regards to amusement and it was acknowledged, and the corporation woke up to this fact.

The committee objected to the building because it was a wooden structure, but he pointed out that the promoter was going to invest £700 or £800 in the venture, which was a very large amount to spend in the town to take up and displayed a spirit in which the council ought to assist him. If the theatre built in the town be a more permanent structure, there would no doubt if it was deemed a success. He moved that the report be amended – Mr Holton seconded this proposition. He stated he said an enquiry at the borough surveyor’s office showed that during the present year a number of wooden buildings had been erected, including a mission church and an assembly room at Trent Vale. He pointed out that at Burslem the theatre was a wooden structure and had been authorised by the Burslem corporation. He mentioned that if it would meet the objections. Messes Lynam and Beckett stated that the roof would be secured with corrugated iron. The site was a suitable one, and they had shown that they had sought local opinions that the theatre would be supported leading then to it being far more likely to take that a proper constructed building would follow.

He might add that the building would have to be approved by the Corporation and the magistrates before the consent was granted. The Mayor asked the borough surveyor if the plans complied with the bylaws. Mr Brown replied that it was in the discretion of the council to pass the plans of a wooden structure if they thought proper. Mr Yoxall still said the proposed plans submitted before the subcommittee the chairman said that if a theatre was to be built of wood, they would not adopt them, the committee had no chance of discussing the plans. The proposal by Mr Greatbatch that the plans be referred back to the committee was lost and the recommendation was carried approving of the plans subject to a corrugated roof of iron being provided.

So, with all hurdles overcome except the approval of the magistrate to issue a performance licence once completed the building commenced immediately and by the 18th of February 1897, hardly three months after – A wooden building with an iron roof had been erected by Lynam and Beckett at a cost £7,800. In 1900 (£900,000 in 2023) was ready for its first production.

The new Crown Theatre was situated in Wolfe Street and from a press report dated 18th February 1897 that helps the reader to build up a picture of what the theatre was like. It consisted of a stage with ground and first floor dressing rooms, orchestra and auditorium comprising stalls, pit on the ground floor: on the first floor, four boxes, circle and gallery, a total of three floors. Between the ground floor and the floor of the back stalls were situated the refreshment bar and office. The seating accommodation on the ground floor amounted to seven hundred and on the first floor four hundred, altogether eleven hundred seats. There were three doors for ingress. The provision of the exits was placed so empty the auditorium in the minimum of time. The stage has an additional and separate entrance and exits.  Lighting is to be partly electric and partly gas. Heating was with the aid of gas stoves, with good provision for ventilation and safety. The building is from the design of messes Lynam and Beckett. The theatre has been very nicely fitted up, the upholstery being in the capable hands of Messrs George Fleet and Sons, of Stoke.

At the stipendiary court held on the 12th February 1897at Stoke Mr J.B. Ashwell applied on behalf of Mr Arthur Carlton for a licence for the new theatre which will be known as the Crown Theatre. Mr Carlton, said, he had considerable experience of theatres, and was sure is conjunction with his partner Mr Malcolm Crichton, the proprietor of four other theatres. The theatre was a wooden structure, situated on land which had been leased for 21 years. The building had been constructed at a cost of over £1000 under the supervision of Mr Charles Lynam the well-known architect. The plans had been presented to the Corporation of Stoke and subsequently passed by the council without a single descent. The theatre could be cleared in case of fire in less than two minutes. He had a letter from the Mayor of Davenport with respect to Mr Charlton’s character, and the manner in which he had conducted the business of his theatre at Davenport, also a letter from the chief constable of the county borough of Walsall, testifying to the good management of the theatre. It was Mr Carlton’s intention to reside in Stoke, and personally conduct the management of the Crown. He had been shown at the hand of Stoke in the press that the town was a dull place, with little to offer in the realm of amusement for the inhabitants, who, if they required amusement had to go to Hanley.  He believed that the granting of the application would give universal satisfaction to the inhabitants of Stoke. Mr Lyman then produced the plans and described the arrangements of the building. The borough surveyor (Mr Bowden) stated having inspected the theatre which was built according to the plans as approved by the Corporation. The bench unanimously granted the application.

In an article published two years following the opening of the Crown a further preview of the theatre has been located.

It is far more comfortable and roomier place than one would imagine, judging by the exterior and the stage is capable of accommodating almost any play that travels the country. About 1,500 people can be comfortably seated, and on the opening night, nearly two years ago over 2,000 patrons paid for admission. Under the management of Mr. Carlton, the theatre at once became popular, and when the original novelty of having a theatre in the town attendance slightly dropped but a was followed by a steady number of patrons. The final cost of the building amounted to something like £1,400. During the time that it has been opened, the place has been conducted in an excellent manner, and many good plays have been bought to Stoke owing to the energy of Mr. Carlton who has been responsible for all bookings.

The first production was advertised for the opening of a new theatre was Hardie Van Lear’s company an international group had been engaged to present the pantomime of Cinderella.

Some few months ago Mr D. H. Mountford, proprietor of the Gordon hotel, bought out Mr Carlton, and he has recently purchased the theatre altogether. Not content with this, Mr Mountford has determined to erect a good theatre in Stoke, one that shall not be behind any of the neighbouring places, and one that will do credit to the town.

By the September of the opening year, 1897, the Crown Theatre was reported to have sufficient productions that wish to come to Stoke. One such play was The Greed of Gold presented by Mr T Morton Powell and company. With the same play earlier in the year but back again by demand.

However, a Letter to the Editor of the Sentinel dated the 8th October doubted the proprietors earlier statements that the Crown was a temporary building to ascertain the demand and sustainability of a theatre in Stoke before a much larger, permanent theatre was built.

Mr Haldane Crichton, one of the proprietors responded to its critic rectifying that the buildings was not entirely made of wood but also of brick with an iron roof which led to the question being asked ‘where is the danger to patrons as there are seven exits on the ground floor and four in the balcony and that an audience of around 2,000 have been proven that the building can be cleared in under three minutes.

Then in his conclusion Mr Crichton challenges the critic when he suggested that first-class companies have avoided Stoke with the answer that the same touring companies that visit Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham are already booked at the Crown. Mr Crichton signed it from another of his theatres The Regent at Salford.

By the end of the year the Crown’s first manager was appointed, Mr. J. D. Green in December 1897. Mr Green it was reported took over the role of management at the Stoke theatre for Messrs Arthur Carlton and Haldane Crichton and has already booked a number of popular shows for patron’s to look forward to. The shows already booked included a well-known melodrama The Face at the Window a play written by F. Brooke-Warren earlier that year. Finally, it was announced that the pantomime Dick Whittington would appear early in 1898.

A change of the ownership of The Crown took place in the February of 1898 as Mr. Arthur Carlton sold his shares to Mr. David H. Mountford the owner of the Gordon Hotel, directly opposite The Crown in Wolfe Street.

On Tuesday October 11th, 1898, the Sentinel critic compiled an extended review of Colleen Bawn by Irish Playwright, Dion Boucicault stating that it every way it was a great success. Madame Constance Bellamy appeared in the title role, and so captivated her audience by her graceful acting and charming songs that they insisted on her recall at least five times.

Another favourite 14th of March 1899, a play based upon Marie Corelli’s novel The Sorrows of Satin, a firm favourite of Stoke where it was reported that local theatregoers have again an opportunity of witnessing an excellent dramatic adaption on the book at The Crown and described as playing the a near sell-out theatre.

21st of March 1899 crown theatre Stoke many and varied are the interesting phases which occur in the powerful drama – They All Love Jack – which Messrs Douglas C. Phelps and Charles Wood and a specially selected company performing this week at Stoke. The audience last night was not slow to recognise the merits of the peace. The argument of which hinges on a sale is love. There is of course the usual villain who weaves around the hero and heroine the intrigue and plotting to bring their downfall.

At this point there had been no announcement that soon the wooden Crown Theatre was soon to be closed and demolished to enable the new large purpose theatre to be built. The only clue is that a normal advertisement appeared in the Sentinel dated the 13th April 1899 advertising The Gilbert and Neilson Opera Company and a series of opera’s to be performed during the week. Then followed a further announcement that on Thursday it was to be for the benefit of Mr. J. D. Green. This meant that the proceeds of that nights performance would be given to Mr. Greene as a form of a thank-you for his services rendered as manager of the theatre for several years. There was no other further advertisement for the Crown Theatre confirming its closure.

The most intriguing thing is that including the demolition of the Crown and the building of the new Gordon Theatre, huge in comparison with integrate plasterwork and a facade to Wolfe Street second to non the building was ready for the opening by March the following year 1900, just eleven months without all the mechanical advantages of today’s building industry.

The Gordon Theatre, Wolfe Street, Stoke upon Trent.

Grand Opening March 1900 by Dr Richard Talbot MBE ©

As a young boy living in the town of Stoke, I used to visit the old Hippodrome Cinema with my family at least once a fortnight. My mother used to reflect on the times when she used to attend when it was an actual theatre and talk about what it was like inside – a real gem. By the time I was attending the building had been completely re-modelled into a cinema and the Gods removed. However, at a closer look there remained parts of its glorious past especially on the first floor.

The new building, which was opened on Monday 10th March 1900 replacing a former (trial wooden theatre on the same site by the name of The Crown). The opening show was presented by Mr Ben Greet’s Belle of New York company and is remarkable for originality in the design. Messrs Owen and Ward of Birmingham are the architects, and very well had they executed their work. The full name given it by the proprietor, Mr D. H. Mountford, is the new Gordon Theatre and Opera house. That no expense has been spared to ensure the comfort of visitors is seen at a glance. The theatre which has a facade of 160 feet to Wolfe Street (now Kingsway) is constructed in red brick, with both terracotta facings. The principal block is surmounted by two large terracotta cupolas, between which stands a handsome gilded figure representing Liberty. There was also over the principal entrance and artistically modelled bust of General Gordon, while an iron veranda filled in with all the mental and coloured glass runs the whole length of the building.

The auditorium is divided into orchestra stalls, pit stalls, and pit on the ground floor; boxes, dress circle and balcony on the first floor; with amphitheatre and gallery over. The principal entrance has a fine vestibule leading to the first circle; the floor is laid with Minton tiles, while several large paintings by M. Boullemier, adorn the walls. There are two staircases leading into a large foyer, the steps of which are of white marble. From the foyer, approach can be made to the ladies and gentlemen’s cloakrooms, coffee room is Salonen, and winter gardens. The other parts of the house have separate entrances, and ample exits are provided from all parts.

Fireproof curtain and hydrants were provided, and the safety of the public was fully considered. The auditorium has been comfortably seated, furnished, and are upholstered throughout; the sanitary and ventilating arrangements are excellent. The building is erected on fireproof principles and from every seat may be obtained clear and uninterrupted view of the stage.

The whole of the building is fitted with heating apparatus and lighted with electricity, supplemented with gas. The sitting capacity is over 2000; the stage has an opening of 28’6” and is 42 feet deep from the stage to the grid is 57 feet. The dressing rooms are well ventilated and provided with every requisite. The ceilings throughout, and gallery fronts are decorated with an exquisitely modelled design in plaster, tastefully coloured and gilded; the richness of the gilding and the delicacy and beauty of the colourings give a charming effect. The stage front is very prettily executed, and attractive feature being the floral designs painted in the panels of the boxes. The upholstery and hangings are of blue and gold, and the carpets – Winton pile.

In a word, the former dingy Crown Theatre has been turned into a pretty and comfortable little theatre the interior decorations are by Messrs D. Jonge; the upholstery by Messrs Brookfield and Windows, Stafford; the electric light installation and arrangements Messrs Ludlow and Knight; gas installation by Stott; fireproof curtain, Messrs Wilkins Bros and Mr Thomas Godwin, Hanley, is the builder. Mr Edmund Swift is responsible for the excellently painted scenery, Mr E. Jones has been appointed musical director to an orchestra numbering sixteen. Mr. D. H. Mountford is assisted in his managerial duties by Mr Frank Mountford.

Mr Ben Greet’s The Belle of New York company gave the opening performance. On the rising of the curtain the whole of the company were disclosed – a magnificent scene and the national anthem was sung. Mr Arthur Ricketts is found a most accomplished Ichabod Bronson. Harry Bronson has a fine exponent in Mr Charles Gervase, whose singing is admirable Mr Sam T. Pearce as Carl Von Pumprtknick is very amusing, a remark which also applies to Messrs M Carlton and T Granes as the twin Portuguese. Mr Jos. A. Tate makes a most laughable Snifkins. Blinky Bill is capably portrayed by Mr. W. Ritter Riley, whose whistling calls for much applause, while Mr water Uridge does well as Muggs. Violet Gray is cleverly represented by Miss Empsie Bowman. Miss Maud Darling is also successful.

At the conclusion, Mr Mountford called before the curtain, and in a neat speech to thanked those in the audience for their kind support.

A few years ago, I set about tracing the architects which had long gone. Contacted the local archives, the Theatres Trust and the National Archives to see if the original drawings had survived. Sadly, nothing remains and I recall the late John Abberley of the Sentinel on a number of occasions if anyone knew of the whereabouts of the bust of General Gordon. My guess it that it ended up in a skip smashed to pieces. In fact, at the age of sixteen I used to walk past on a regular basis during the process of it being demolished and standing on the other side of Kingsway and remembered with joy all that my mother told me about its early years.

If you have enjoyed reading this account of the Gordon Theatre, why not that of the first theatre opened in N.Staffs the Newcastle and Pottery Theatre in Nelson Place. It’s a full history from 1788 to 1957. Just search www and order a copy only £10.

Friends of Penkhull from around the world

This page has been added as the hits onto this site come from most countries of the world. In fact there are in excess of 8,000 in the first year and growing. Must be the most popular local history site  in the world. 

This pages gives the opportunity for those ex-pats to link up again with friends of the past. So all you need to do is to post your name, contact details and your memories of Penkhull

This email arrived yesterday 15th March 2019 all the way from New Mexico. Delighted that she wrote to me and I have just responded in return. If you have a contribution or just a message and want to say Hi please reply on the contact email address.

Jennifer Huntsberger wrote:

By chance I have just found your web page. I am thrilled to find myself, and some childhood friends, in the school photographs within your article on Boothen.
I have vague memories of old terraced houses on Boothen Green but I’m too young to remember the canal. As a child we walked, and played, along the new Coronation Gardens that replaced the canal. The Timothy Trout memorial , at the bottom of James Street, was a reminder for the dangers of canal waters. All Saints church, across the road from the school, featured greatly in our lives.
 The area from The Villas to Regents Street has seen many changes over my 70 years. When I return to Stoke from my home in the US I always hope that it is on an upswing and back to the nurturing place of my childhood.

Jennifer,  Las Cruces, New Mexico

Interesting that hits are received from Kyiv in the Ukrane, Oregon in the USA, Canada, India, New Zealand and loads of other countries. Would be great to hear from those logging on if they have connections with Penkhull or just enjoy this site for its contents.

A letter received from Nick Jay regarding information requested if anyone knows of a lady who may have worked at the Mount Blind and Deaf school in the 50s or 60s. If you recall this person, please write to contact at email address.

Hello Richard, Just been looking through your website – with particular regard to the Cottage Homes and the forum, both of which I found interesting.

Obviously a *LOT* of hard work and time has gone into it! So maybe you or one of your readers could help me – I am researching the family tree of a friend of mine who is trying to learn more about his mother – Frances May Whipp (b Dec 1932 in Uttoxeter; d February 1989 in

Blackpool) she was 59. My friend believes she worked (may have? at the Mount School for deaf and blind (it seems to have many different names which is confusing as I don’t know the area myself, living in Manchester as I do) and whilst today I’ve learned that the Stoke on Trent Archives Service hold records for the school (SD 1224) I have no idea which records these may hold and whether or not all records were handed over.

So he seems to think she may have worked at the school in the 50s until some time in the 60s. I don’t suppose during your research for your books and/or website you’d have any notes/records about this do you? Yes it’s a long shot but thinking in terms of say staff pension records, employment records, reports which may have been written and so on.

A letter from down-under referring to my book and a set of three history DVDs that were all sent.

The book and DVDs arrived yesterday. Such a wonderful book – a huge undertaking by you! I have read some pages of the book, and was impressed that so much history is included as well as the many photos.

Although The Bagnalls were not from Penkhull as such, I appreciate the information given of the surrounding area.I will enjoy reading the full book asap.Trentham is also a Bagnall area for my history, as William Bagnall was a tenant of Trent Hay farm, before he died in 1815. My g. grandfather, Thomas left from there for his marriage in 1816. His bride Ann Heath left from Mill Cottage, Hanley.

I might learn some background to their story somewhere in your book, perhaps.

Congratulations to you for the publishing of your wonderful book!

Now that I have mastered to art (?) of international Transfer of funds, I will look for other publications to help me in my research.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Sincerely, Alison Milani

connection to Penkhull to out contact address and we will post it onto this site.

Bits and Pieces

Penkhull History Society is now meeting in the Pavilion at Bakewell Street Park, off Trentvalley Road, Penkhull. 

We are always pleased to welcome new members and terms last for ten weeks three times a year closed for summer holidays etc. We meet on a Wednesday afternoon from 1.30 – 3.30 with a break for a chat and tea mid-way.

Currently we are making a study of all the medical reports for each of the six potterytowns which now form Stoke on Trent which include births and deaths and impiortantly the causes in the industrial towns of the area.

Enquiries always welcome so please contact:

Tutor Dr Richard Talbot MBE –  Enquiries to Dr Talbot on            01782 396858

The Old Empire Theatre, Longton – memories of what music hall was like

 © Dr. Richard Talbot MBE, Author and Historian

The Empire, Longton,

 It must be around forty-five years ago that I was given an   unpublished auto-biography of the Rev. V.G. Aston entitled   Thirty years in the Potteries’ probably compiled in the late 1930s.

During his time as a curate at Normacot he was appointed a local chaplain for the Actor’s Church Union serving the theatres in the Longton of which one was the old Queens Theatre later to become the Empire in 1921. His reflections therefore date before then and recount a number of interesting experiences during his time there.

This first reflection of two was early in the season when a poor group of actors arrived, tired and worn out. It was a scratch affair, with the alleged comedian as boss, and the rest dependent upon his gags for their very bread and butter. Early in the week, Aston visited the show – a dud from the opening night. The paper filled house was hostile from the Monday, and the attendance was not enough to pay lodging for half the actors. By Thursday it was obvious that all the efforts of the company could not prevail in getting enough takings to pay railway fares to the next venue let alone a wage. On Friday there was a riot as the chorus girls refused to go on despite the appeals of the comedian. The audience shouting for their money back and the manager asked Aston to intervein.  

 By this time things had become heated, even to the point where the haggling crowd were there on centre stage, the neck-enders showing their strength in numbers in front of the shabby scenery. The stage manager was trying to calm the troubled chorus girls, but it was obvious that no one was paying attention to his words. There was no money in the kitty for pay night for the actors to settle with the rather buxom landladies which was the norm. Not even a few shillings on account would settle an argument. Things were tough as well they might be. The shrill voices of the females rose high above the remonstrations of the males, and it looked as if any moment the stage manager might be physically attacked and dispensed with by a quick punch into the orchestra pit.

The group were both tired and hungry, it could be seen in their faces. They hadn’t the money for food but in turn pressed for at least enough for their fares home, so they could get as far away from this unlucky place as fast as steam would carry them. Having emulated the ladies who rush in before the Angels, Aston gently suggested that there might be more in the till after Saturday night’s performance. Jeers was a fitting response. Indeed, having seen the show I wondered whether the cheapest thing might be the cost of a poster to say that the theatre was closed for repairs.

Having nothing better thing to say, Aston subsided while abuse was piled on like salt to an open wound. But all things must come to an end, and at midnight it became obvious that there was more readiness to sensible talk than hitherto. The upshot of it all was that the comedian manager should find the fares home by the morning, and that he would give me his sacred promise to meet me and the performers on stage at 10 o’clock on the following day. Aston finally went to bed with much misgivings, and at 10 o’clock was again on the stage awaiting the advent of the manager. He didn’t come. He just absconded he was never heard of again, and there with a score of artist on Aston’s hands mounting a blank expression. The local theatre manager was helpless, but he drew me aside and went into discussion of ways and means by which ultimately, we were able to raise enough for the fares, which meant dipping into church funds which ultimately saw the last of the unhappy gang waving goodbye from Longton station on Sunday morning. They had actually played on the Saturday night, and marvellously had done better than all through the week although none of it saw its way back to the church collection plate.

Queens Theatre Longton – A right punch up

© Dr Richard Talbot MBE, Author and Historian.

A second fascinating story written by the Rev V.G. Aston in his capacity of Actor’s Church Union Chaplain to the Queens Theatre in Longton. On this occasion a famous wrestler offered a challenge to all to pin him to the stage for two minutes having first exhibited his rather terrifying muscles and strutted out his chest and his hindquarters performing the curve known to mathematicians as a parabola.

They were always pretty violent affairs, and when Aston attended on the Friday night no one appeared to accept the £5 challenge. Then the management suddenly announced, after a prolonged blast on the trombone that a local ‘Daniel’ had come from Burslem to offer himself as the next victim of the ‘Goliath’. The bone-crusher was on stage cracking jokes that he would later crack the bones of the challenger to the expectant audience. This crude play had its immediate effect, and the swelling biceps struck terror into Aston’s heart as he retreated from the wings to watch the massacre from the safety of the stalls. Like Goliath of old the champion called upon his gods of raw liver and steak. To the surprise of the audience a youth in the prime of fitness strode to the front of the stage amid shouts of encouragement of his backers. All went silent.

In front of the footlights appeared the theatre manager dressed in tails, shirt glistening that would have done full justice to Woolworths and with glorious gesticulations he announced that at last there had been found in the Potteries one who was prepared to come and to be eaten alive for the amusement of the Longton patrons. Punctuated by drum rolls, the manager made the stupendous announcement that the champion would now proceed to throw the vertebra of the Burslem laddie to the audience. But all this did not seem to move the challenger, who unconcern awaited the settling down of the champion.

Soon they were locked in their vicious embrace. Once moans, and all the usual complement of such affairs were resounding through the hall, it became evident to all that the champ wasn’t having things all his own way. Then from the back of the hall came cries of encouragement as might well tilt the scales in favour of the Burslem lad whom they had backed with most of their weekly wages. Indeed, Aston feared that unless the champion was pinned down for two minutes, there might be at last twenty colliers who would see that he stayed on the mat for as many hours.

Suddenly the champion gave a great heave and with a perfect arch threw challenger on his back with a sound that put the fiddlers out of tune. It was all over. But was it? Back came the Burslem lad like a tennis ball, and the champion began to blow and sweat as lithe arms and legs were festooned about him, and gradually he was on his back. The whole audience heaved in sympathy. Yes, sure enough, the champion was down, already his shoulder blades were touching the carpet. The house was breathless. Could the challenger hold him there? Two minutes; too long and weary years they seemed, sweat poured from combatants and audience alike. Could he hold him? The referee’s watch in hand, and many others in the crowd had their watches ready, timing the seconds as they languidly passed. A minute and a half, three quarters; yes, the deed was done. The champion was on his back, the wager was won.

The whole mob rose to its feet the wrestlers rolled clear, and in turn jumped up – the challenger to claim victory, the champion to deny defeat. Pandemonium broke loose. Shouts, filthy words, blasphemy rang throughout the auditorium, fists were raised blows aimed.

Aston heard a voice, from the happy land of sleep “I’m sorry Mr clergyman I’m sorry”. Aston rose minus a face, or so it seemed with a pair of broken spectacles and so returned home with a glorious black eye and a bent nose for inspection at church on the following Sunday.

Canada Cottage

This confirms that Canada Cottage was not built until 1824. At this time Queens Road had not been laid, the group of three cottages were built in a short row off what was Newcastle Street. Queens Road as we know it was not formed until the last 1870s and early 1880s. Before it was developed there was no mains water so in keeping with all old properties they had to become sufficient by the provision of their own water well. In this case until c1880.

Could not resit putting this fantastic picture of Doug Jervis bringing home the hey from the field off Hilton Road. Notice those sitting on the top – no Health and Safety in those days and the hey looks as though its ready to fall over.

I have received the following from Ron Tarling who now lives in the USA.

He recalls his time at what was Penkhull Senior School form 1963-1967 and would live to have any photographs of the time from any viewer of this site.

So, if anyone out there has any or remembers Ron why not send him a message direct or via the contact address on this site and we will publish both the message and any photographs sent in.

Would be great so share memories.

Ron Tarling  e.mail address:>

Our tutor Dr Richard Talbot gave a talk to the school children (last year) at the Willows School on Thursday 16th November.

His talk is in connection with their World War II day and will illustrate what it was like for people at home during the war with food rationing, blackouts, bombs dropping, air-raid shelters etc. The focus will be on how it affected children. Good subject for children to examine.

Report back – very surprised the children were there all dressed up for the period – and with gas-mask boxes etc. They engaged so well and responded to all the points and often spoke of what their grandparents had told them. Well worth the effort and time taken to prepare the Power Point presentation with many press cuttings I have from the period. When I referred to schools being closed at the outbreak of war – there was a great cheer. Good time. Who knows if invited again next year.

Bits and Pieces is a bit of ‘anything goes here’ page that does not fit in with the other categories and not a separate subject in themselves but rather ‘one-offs’. So, if you wish to add a ‘one off ‘we would be delighted to list it under this general heading.

During the English civil war 1642-46 the country was run by ‘Committees’ The following are extracts from the Order Book for the County of Staffordshire dated 1643-45 relating to Pencle as it was then called.

That the weekly pay of Bucknall, Fenton and Pencle plus other places shall be assigned to Captaine Thomas Hunt for the payment of his officers and souldiers. p.27

Whereas Alexander Brett of Pencle holds a farme there of Mr. Ralph Keeling of Newcastle and is behind with his rent as Mr Keeling informs to the summe of 18shilling for which he tooke a distress of his cattle which he afterwards by the helpe of the enemy then in these parts rescued and tooke againe. It is therefore no ordered that Mr. Keeling shall have his liberty to distrayne for the arrears and to take to his assistance so many of Captaine Stones souldiers as shall be thought necessary giving them satisfaction for their paynes therein. p.75

Whereas the Committee at Stafford are informed that various persons hould lands within the Townshipp of Pencle and refuse to pay their proportion of money imposed upon the land that they do not inhabit in the town. It is now ordered that all persons that hould land within the Townshipp shall pay theyr proportion imposed on the lands or apeare before the Committee at Stafford upon Wednesday next to shew cause to the contrary. p.84

The Committee have been informed by Mrs Sheyd wife of Ralph Sneyd that the inhabitants og Newcastle, Seabridge Pencle etc were bound in the Duchy Court of Lancaster to grind there corne and grists (batch of grain) at Newcastle Mills belonging to Ralph Sneyd, a delinguent to the Kinge and Parliament and therefore were sequested by us amongst others of the  Mrs Sneys lands for the use of the state. And for as much as Mrs Sneyd alledgeth that various inhanitants of the towns doe now neglect to grinde their corne at the mills as formerly they did and not grind at any other unless they can shew good cause to the Committee for the contrary. p.141

Penkhull Flag Pole

It’s around five years since the flag pole was installed in the middle of the village. This been a welcome addition to village life celebrating not only the standard flag flying days, local festivities, but also other occasions such as special Royal occasions, the burial of Richard III, and sadly remembering tragic events when the union flag has been flown at half-mast. During these five years algae and grime has covered the pole reducing the easy movement of raising and lowering the flag.

Recently, a group of friends have supported myself in lowering the pole and cleaning it then re-erecting the same. Not an easy task but worth the effort. We hope that it will be a further five years before a clean-up is needed again.

Several people including myself have always considered that a flag with a Penkhull identity would promote further the village when celebrations are held in the church yard or church. Now I understand that the PRA have contacted the Flag Institute which supports “creating local and community flags”. To have such a local flag registered. Any such design should be representative of the people it represents through a process of individual designs and final selection.

My thoughts on the subject is that the design should represent its Royal connection from 1086 when the Manor of Penkhull was governed by no less than William the Conqueror. Others may have different ideas. We await further action on this matter from the PRA – hopefully very soon.  Richard Talbot – The flag flyer of Penkhull.

Dr Richard Talbot MBE looks at the plans for a Lych Gate to be erected in Penkhull Church Yard.

For many years I have had in my possession copies of the plans for the building of a lych gate to be situated at the entrance of the churchyard opposite the Marquis of Granby.

Plans were submitted in July 1941 sponsored Mr. W.H. Wright and an application was made to the Diocese signed by the Vicar Rev. V.G. Aston. In the petition for the Faculty it read: That is desired to erect a Lych Gate in the churchyard belonging to the said church and that the estimated cost would be £90 and that the work will involve the removal of the present stone pillars and that the plans have been agreed upon by the Parochial Church Council and the Advisory Church Council and the Diocese of Lichfield.

I recall many years ago talking to the late Winnie Wys and asking why it was not built – I think the answer was that the person providing the gate fell out with the PCC (as it does sometimes happen) so he did not proceed although the faculty was passed. No doubt to many this has been a great loss to Penkhull as the churches location in the centre of the village is an ideal location for such a gate which would have enhanced the church.

Surprisingly the motion was proposed and seconded by two of my good friends for years ago Miss Myatt from Knapper’s Gate and Miss P. Ashwell of the Grove. Both gave extensive interviews with me some forty-five years ago and their recordings are digitised in my archives.

Kingdom of Spode

The name Spode is synonymous with Penkhull. Spode became the largest land owner and occupier ever recorded for the district apart that is from the Duchy of Lancaster. The title of this chapter reflects the influence of Spode on Penkhull during the 19th century and later the 20th century.  But this relationship with Penkhull does not commence with the building of The Mount, it starts years earlier.

Josiah Spode 2nd (1757-1827) was the son of Josiah Spode 1st (1733-1797) and founder of the Spode manufactory in the town of Stoke and known as Josiah Spode 1st, even though his father went also by the name Josiah.

Josiah Spode 1st was born in a village that is now part of Stoke-on-Trent. He was the son of a pauper and also a pauper’s orphan at the age of six. He was apprenticed to potter Thomas Whieldon in November 1749 and remained with Whieldon at least until 1754, the year in which Josiah Wedgwood became Whieldon’s business partner. Wedgwood stayed with Whieldon until 1759. Spode worked alongside Wedgwood and with the celebrated potter Aaron Wood (father of Enoch Wood) under Whieldon‘s tuition, and was with Whieldon at the high point of production. Whieldon Road, Fenton is named after the potter and his works were situated off City Road, Fenton.

The current site, until recently occupied by the Spode works from 1776-2009 was once called Madeley Meadow. The first record of the site is dated 1725 when Benjamin Lewis, a yeoman bought a substantial piece of land consisting of 42 customary acres. This probably comprised land on either side of what was to become High Street, now Church Street, Stoke.

The first reference to a potworks occurs in May 1751 when Lewis transferred the site to his son Taylor Lewis: All those newly erected workhouses, potoven, warehouse, formerly a barn, in Penkhull with the yard to the same belonging. On the 22nd August 1753, Taylor Lewis mortgaged the property for £150 to Thomas Heath a carrier of Newcastle, but three years later on the 18th August 1756, he and his mortgagee sold this property to William Clerk of Caverswall, gent who in turn sold the investment on 7th November 1759 to William Bankes and John Turner.

Serious financial problems followed, a mortgage was raised and on the 7th December 1763, Turner sold his investment to Bankes.  Bankes then purchased more of Madeley Meadow from Benjamin Lewis to add to the site on the 18th January 1764. A few more turbulent financial years followed until the property and mortgage was acquired by Jeremiah Smith.  After the formal admittance to the copyhold estate through the manorial courts, Smith then sold the estate to Josiah Spode on the 29th February 1776, with the help of a £1,000 mortgage from Smith. A complete list of all the transactions can be found in ‘Copyhold Potworks and Housing in the Staffordshire Potteries’ by Peter Roden.

Josiah I married Ellen Findley on the 8th September 1754. She ran a haberdashery business in addition to bringing up eight children. She died in 1802, aged 76. They had three sons, Josiah II (1755-1827); Samuel (1757-1817) and William (1770-1773) and daughters Mary; Ellen; Sarah; Anne and Elizabeth.

Josiah Spode II (1755-1827) succeeded to the business in 1797. He was magnificently prepared for the role, an experienced salesman as well as a potter, having gained an invaluable knowledge of marketing in fashionable London. He was also a flautist, and was father of Josiah III, and grandfather of Josiah IV, a convert to Roman Catholicism, who founded Hawkesyard Priory near Rugeley.

Josiah II married the daughter of John Barker, a manufacturing potter of Fenton, in 1775 at Stoke.  Between that year and the death of his wife in London in 1782, he had moved between Longton and Cripplegate, where he was doubtless manager of the Fore Street warehouse under the guidance of William Copeland, his father’s friend and London partner. Spode became head of the business following his father’s sudden death in 1797. He became Captain of the ‘Pottery Troop’ Cavalry Division affiliated to the Staffordshire Yeomanry, at its foundation in 1798 and remained so until its disbandment in 1805.

Josiah I erected the Foley factory at Lane End for his seocond son, Samuel who produced salt-glazed wares up to the end of the eighteenth century. His sons, Josiah and Samuel both married in 1821 and shortly afterwards emigrated to Tasmaniaand both held positions in Government. Samuel returned to England with his family in 1827. Josiah remained and later some of his decendants  emigrated later to Queensland.

Josiah Spode II acquired much land in the area of Stoke around the Liverpool Road, Berry Street and Hill Street area. He also extended his holding beside the Newcastle canal as it travelled along London Road, Stoke including what became known as Commercial Buildings and Penkhull New Road. The Commercial Inn still retains the name today.  Spode also purchased much land in the hamlet and district of Boothen.

In keeping with his financial success, Spode, like many of his contemporaries, wished to reflect his position in society by becoming a country landowner. What better situation in which to establish himself than the hill of Penkhull which overlooked his factory in the town of Stoke below. It was this symbolic aspect that encouraged Spode to acquire the largest farm available, Penkhull Farm, when it came up for auction. He signed the lease on the 7th December 1799 from the trustees of the will of Judith and Mary Alsager spinsters, both late of Congleton. The lease was for a period of 21 years, at a rent of £140 p.a., and consisted of not only the farm, but also a considerable amount of farm lands belonging to the Alsagers of Congleton. At this time Spode lived at Little Fenton. Although there is no direct evidence to support the theory he once lived at the farm, documents however point to the fact that the living accommodation at the farm was not being in a good condition, and Spode promptly built a new addition which faced the south overlooking Trentham Hall, something that would have impressed visitors to the new house if Spode actually resided there.

The initial thoughts are that it was Spode’s intention to live at the farm himself but just before he was to move into residence, a large estate of John Harrison, a bankrupt, was about to come up for auction which included the site where Spode built The Mount. Penkhull Farm site was both copyhold and on lease whereas the land belonging to Harrison could be purchased with no lease which in all probability was the deciding factor.

In March 1800 Spode, elder, purchased five dwelling houses from Samuel Turner of Newcastle. By 1831, these five were extended to eight and situated on the South East side on Honeywall. A further seventeen dwellings were purchased by Spode on the 12th September 1803 from the assignees of John Harrison, potter, bankrupt. They were originally purchased in May 1790 from an earlier potter Ephram Booth. By 1831 these seventeen, had a further three added making twenty for workers. There were other land and property acquisitions in many other areas too, outside Penkhull.

The potworks at the bottom of what is now Honeywall (where a number of new three storey houses have recently been built 2008) belonged to John Harrison and were called Harrison’s Works. This also was purchased by Spode on the 10th December 1807. All that dwelling house with outbuildings at Cliffe Bank and afterwards used as a warehouse and manufactory thereto adjoining in the possession of John Harrison and also those pot works, workhouses and warehouses and all other erections contiguous to the dwelling house. A part of this land was occupied as gardens by various tenants. On the 27th March 1824, Spode sold this plot for the sum of £35 to Hugh Booth of Clayton, but it was recorded as in the holding of Messrs Ward and Co.

Reference has already been made to the purchase of a potworks and buildings from John Harrison declared a bankrupt in May 1802. It was from the estate of Harrison that Spode made the largest of his acquisitions of land in Penkhull. The following advertisement appeared in the Staffordshire Advertiser, 3rd July 1802 listing Lots up for auction. To be sold by Auction under the direction of the Assignees of John Harrison, a bankrupt, by Thomas Shorthouse, of Hanley at the Marquis of Granby Public House, in Penkhull near Newcastle-under-Lyme, on Tuesday 20th July, 1802. A valuable copyhold estate, situate at Penkhull late belonging to, and principally in the possession of John Harrison, and which will be divided and put up in the following, or such other Lots as shall be pointed out at the time of sale.

Lot 2. The Homestead, to consist of a Messuage or Farm House, near Lot 1, with barns, stables and other outbuildings to the same known as Tittensors House. Two gardens and an orchard; two crofts adjoining, and such parts of the large piece of land lying at the back of the small messuage (now called Brick-kiln Field, but formerly in several pieces, and then called the Barnfield, the Pear field, and Lamb field) as is staked out to go with this Lot, being the upper part, and what lies next the lower croft, on a line with the outer garden hedge, the whole containing 12a 3r 19p. This is also an excellent situation for a country retreat.

Penkhull is one of the pleasantest villages in that part of the country; the land is of the first quality, adjoining to the premises of Sir Thomas Fletcher, Bart., Miss Terrick, Daniel Whalley Esq., Messes Walker and Ward, and other respectable owners, and the different Lots command very extensive and diversified prospects. The whole of the Estate is copyhold of inheritance within the manor of Newcastle and subject only to a nominal fine.

Spode also purchased Lot 2 which was described as an old farm house called ‘Tittensor’s House’. This property stood where ‘The Mount’ now stands. The site was copyhold and the court records the transaction:

September 12th 1803 The assignees in Bankruptcy of John Harrison, to Josiah Spode of Stoke upon Trent, Esquire. All that messuage or farm house formerly called Tittensor’s house, situate at or near Penkhull Green, with the barns stables and other outbuildings gardens and orchard to the same belonging.

The Mount
Before coming to Penkhull, Josiah Spode II was renting Fenton Hall, which hardly reflected his growing importance in the district. Like many industrialists of the period, Spode wanted to be within a short distance of his factory. In was not until the 12th September 1803 that the manorial courts record the transaction twelve months earlier. Tittensor’s House by this time had been demolished by Spode and the present building commenced. Building work progressed quickly, for it would appear that The Mount was ready for occupation the following year.

What is it that made this splendid mansion pre-eminent in the entire borough? The first account of it from Simeon Shaw (Staffordshire Potteries 1829). In one part of Penkhull, is the Mount; one of the best mansions in the district, a spacious and elegant square edifice, with suitable attached offices, surrounded by extensive gardens and pleasure grounds, and enjoying a prospect almost unbounded over the vicinity and the adjacent counties. John Ward later wrote:

(The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent 1843) of the mansions within the Township of Penkhull, we may say, indeed within the compass of the Borough, The Mount erected by the late Josiah Spode, Esq., bears acknowledged pre-eminence. It stands near the village, and is surrounded by plantations and a highly ornamented domain. The house is an oblong building of brick and stone with a semi-circular entrance on the west front with an elegant and lofty dome which lights the staircase and gives an exterior air of grandeur to the structure.

Even today, The Mount remains an imposing structure, built to impress upon visitors the commercial success, wealth and status of its owner. Spode wanted to be seen not as a potter with the basic materials of clay, but as a successful businessman and landowner. The house comprises mainly of brick with stone used to emphasise its architectural features. It was built in two sections; the larger part is rectangular in shape and two storeys stores high. The front elevation is symmetrical, of seven bays, dominated by a large bow in the middle of ashlar with adjacent Roman Doric columns.

To further his status in the locality and with an aim to impress his friends, the Mount was designed to face south west, away from Spode’s factory and the town of Stoke with all its pollution and humble workers dwellings, but towards the estates of Clayton Lodge and Trentham Hall, a significant talking point to his guests and visitors. The rear elevation is of a simpler design, also of seven bays with a slightly projecting central section which originally contained the rear entrance. Internally, two halls lead from the main entrance to the principal staircase with its iron handrail, balusters, and trellis panels. All this is illuminated by a circular skylight. The smaller, plainer structure to the northwest is the service wing which contains a separate staircase for the servants.

The house and its contents were shown off to visitors who were entertained in a lavish style. One large party was held in November 1809, to celebrate the marriage of Josiah Spode’s daughter to George Whieldon, of the Inner Temple, London. Enoch Wood, the potter, who was present on a later occasion the following year records in his diary: November 23rd 1810. Dined at the Mount at Mr Spode’s, the most splendid and sumptuous entertainment I ever attended. No intoxication.  Thomas Caldwell, a solicitor, who was also in attendance writes: November 23rd, 1810. Dined at Mr Spode’s with a large party where we partook of the most sumptuous entertainment accompanied with every mark of kindness and hospitality.

In addition to the parties for friends, the working classes of his factory in Stoke were allowed in on special occasions. One such occasion was the 50th anniversary of the accession of George III which was celebrated in style by Josiah Spode II.  The Staffordshire Advertiser reported on the 28th of October 1809 under the headline ‘The Jubilee in Staffordshire’. At no place in the Kingdom could the jubilee be celebrated with more demonstration of joy, than it was by Josiah Spode, Esq., China Manufacturer to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, at Stoke-upon-Trent, in the Staffordshire Potteries.  Before the time of divine service, the servants began to muster at the works, and being collected together, walked in procession to the church, where a most appropriate and impressive sermon was preached by the Rev. William Robinson, Rector to a very crowded congregation. The servants afterwards were drawn up at his manufactory, headed by a band of music, chosen out of his own servants. Mr Spode, attended by about thirty gentlemen of the neighbourhood and the servants two by two, to the number of near 600, paraded up to the Mount, an elegant mansion, recently built by Mr Spode; the music playing ‘God save the King.’ The line of servants extended a long way, and the fineness of the day, with the great number of spectators attending, all dressed in their Sunday clothes, together with the happy countenances of the whole, rendered it a most pleasing sight.  When they arrived at the Mount, they were marched round the lawn in front of the house, when the skies resounded with three times three. They afterwards paraded as before, close to the house, where each person drank the good Old King in half a pint of good Staffordshire Ale. They were then formed three deep round the Bowling Green where ‘God save the King’ was sung in full chorus, the whole of the spectators, not less than three thousand joining heartily in the song.  Two additional verses, written by one of Mr Spode’s servants, were sung and received with the loudest plaudits.

On the16th July, 1827, Josiah Spode II, (1755-1827) died at the age of 72 years leaving his son Josiah Spode III (1777-1829) to take over the business.  Sadly he died only two years later on the 6th October 1829, aged 52. His widow Mary and his young son Josiah IV continued to live at The Mount for ten years, until 1839 when they moved to their new home at Armitage Park, near to Rugeley. A number of years ago I had occasion to stay at Spode House, Armitage Park where Mary and Josiah IV lived. It was strange as it was from this address that many letters were despatched to prospective tenants of The Mount all of which I have handled.

In 1831, a survey of the estate of the late Josiah Spode III was conducted to secure a mortgage amounting to the sum of £10,000 from William Baker of Fenton. The Mount was described as follows, The Mount stands together with stables, coach houses, offices and other buildings, hothouses, greenhouses, gardens, orchards, pleasure grounds, plantations, shrubberies, paddocks, pools, roads, walks and avenues thereto belonging. Also those several closes or parcels of land, lying together in a ring fence near The Mount, containing in the whole over 150 acres. These 150 acres acquired between 1803 and 1827 covered the area from Stone Street, down Honeywall to Hartshill Road, up this road to The Avenue at Hartshill, down and across in a line where now Lodge Road lies to Newcastle Lane, then along Queens Road to the end of Doncaster Lane and back to The Mount.

In 1838 Mary Spode, widow of Josiah III, decided to leave Penkhull and placed The Mount on the market ‘To Let’. The advertisement in the Staffordshire Advertiser is dated the 24th November 1838.

For a term four of years (furnished or unfurnished) and to be entered upon at Lady-day Next Year
A Capital first rate Mansion called The Mount, eligibly situated in Staffordshire with a handsome entrance lodge.

This most desirable residence is spacious and convenient as may be seen from the following brief statement.  It comprises excellent cellars of good temperature for wine, ground floor spacious double entrance hall with handsome staircase, dining room, 27 feet by eighteen, drawing room 26 feet by 24 feet, billiard room and library 24 feet by 18 feet and breakfast room 18 feet x 18 feet all 12’ 6” high.
The bedroom floor contains a delightful morning room, with bow window, seven principal bedrooms to several of which dressing rooms are attached and a suitable number of convenient sleeping rooms for servants. The domestic offices, which are quite commensurate, adjoin the house, and are equally well built. The stable, coach house and harness room form two sides of a well-paved and enclosed yard. Large walled garden, stocked with choice fruit trees, in full bearing, hothouse, pinery, green-houses, and excellent ice-house. The pleasure grounds are extensive, and tastefully laid out, and include an ornamental sheet of water.

This delightful abode, replete with every convenience is fully adapted to the accommodation of a high respectable family. It stands upon an eminence and commands views, including the park, woods and ornamental grounds of Trentham, Butterton and Keele.

The roads are good in every direction; situated within two miles of Newcastle-under-Lyme; 150 miles from London and 6 from the Grand Junction Railway station at Whitmore. About 120 acres of land together with 9 labourer’s cottages and convenient farm buildings will be let, if desirable, to tenants.

From a schedule dated 1839, indications are that certain repairs were necessary, probably caused through the lack of maintenance after the death of Josiah III. For example, in the cellar the boiler which provided hot water for the bathrooms was out of repairs for want of use.

The only information there is regarding the furnishings in the house comes from the sale of part of the contents which took place in 1839 on the departure of Mary Spode. Some of the items listed below were probably originally purchased by Josiah Spode II and inherited by Josiah Spode III on the death of his father.

On the premises, at THE MOUNT, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (if necessary), the 10th, 11th and 12th days of December, 1839.

There were three entrances to the estate and at different times, three lodges. The first front entrance was from Honeywall where it joined just below what is now Stone Street and then called Old Coach Road. From this junction, the road ran through what is now the Allotments Estate to The Mount.

The rear entrance to The Mount was via what is now the end of Greatbatch Avenue, where until just a few years ago stood the giant pillar which supported the gate. The stables and coach houses associated with Mount farm were adjacent. There was a cobbled courtyard in earlier days, with a fountain in the middle, where tired horses, after their climb up Honeywall would take a welcome drink. Behind these buildings was Mount Farm which was later converted into three cottages. Here also stood south lodge overlooking the corner of Greatbatch Avenue where a school playground still remains. This lodge was built prior to The Mount for it was described in 1839 as a dwelling now used as the south lodge’ containing in fixtures a door lock five spring latches, two sash fasteners, one bolt and two shelves in the pantry.

The Lodge was occupied by various tenants including the father of Mrs Winnie Roberts, Mr Alldis, and later the late Burt Pattinson. I understand that when these cottages were demolished, there were found walls made of wattle and daub which indicates that they were well over three or four hundred years old and a part of the original Tittensor’s House estate.

The old coach road became unused when a new splendid drive was laid by February 1831. The cost of  constructing this new carriage drive across this land north to Hartshill, amounted to £406 6s. The entrance to this new prestigious drive was near to the junction of what are now Queens Road and Princes Road and the long drive to The Mount was bordered by a fine line of trees. In the triangular section at the road junction, there are still visible the remaining few trees marking the drive. The northern exit was fronted with iron gates set in iron railings and by a handsome stone Lodge which is recorded in the advertisement dated 1838 To Let. The new tree-lined drive can be seen on early maps of the area. The old drive from Honeywall was cleared away although a short section survived at its junction from Honeywall continued to be called The Old Coach Road until the end of the 19th century. The cottages here remained in occupation until the early part of the 20th century and the road was replaced by an electricity sub-station in the 1950s.

The only lodge remaining today was built by Frederick Bishop in 1861 and is located near to the entrance of what is now Mount Avenue. It was built of a cream brick with classical stone portico entrance. At some time, either late 19th century or early 20th century, the building was enlarged to accommodate a kitchen and an additional bedroom. It was re-roofed in the early 1970s and has undergone extensive interior repairs and modernisation by the owner Mr George Bowden. The lodge is now listed by English Heritage. The Coach Road passed right in front of the lodge, not up Mount Avenue as it does today.  No doubt the path was re-routed when the site was sold off in plots and housing developments progressed. Just a few yards in front of the lodge, under the garage floor of the house called Doon Ville on the corner of Mount Avenue, there is a deep well supplied with fresh running water. Lewis Adams vacated The Mount at the expiry of the lease.

The next occupant of The Mount was William Allbut. Allbut was the Editor of the North Staffs Mercury and at the time living at Northwood, Hanley. He apparently wanted to tenant the mansion so his wife could transfer to the Mount  an already established ladies’ school from their home at Northwood. However, Josiah Spode IV at the same time became of age and in doing so, took over the management of his estates from the trustees of his late father. In his new role he wanted to view the property before all future contracts were signed.

The original contract drawn up for the rental of The Mount to Allbut was for the sum of £60 per year, on a lease for seven years up to 1852,  but Spode decided to hold up the lease until he had visited the property.

Allbut was the Editor of the North Staffs Mercury and at the time living at Northwood, Hanley. He apparently wanted to tenant the mansion so his wife could transfer to the Mount  an already established ladies’ school from their home at Northwood. However, Josiah Spode IV at the same time became of age and in doing so, took over the management of his estates from the trustees of his late father. In his new role he wanted to view the property before all future contracts were signed.

The original contract drawn up for the rental of The Mount to Allbut was for the sum of £60 per year, on a lease for seven years up to 1852.

Penkhull Square                              

One of the early developments designed specifically to house the working classes was Penkhull Square. It was a group of twenty cottages built on a courtyard plan and approached by a single arched entrance into a cobbled courtyard in the middle of which stood a stand-up water pump. The structure was of brick and tile construction reminiscent of many courtyard housing developments in the area.

Only the dwellings bordering Trent Valley Road had their frontages facing the outside, those on the other three sides of the court faced inwards. At the front were casement windows, at the back tiny sashes. The cottages consisted of a living room and a small scullery with two corresponding bedrooms above approached by a stairway from the main room below.

The second bedroom was too small even to contain a full-sized double bed. The small projecting sculleries to the rear of the cottages were not added until 1907. The privies, a short distance behind the Square were approached through a narrow opening at the back of the square, or from the front around the side. There were two sets of communal privies in block form, one-marked boys and other girls, which drained out into an ash pits situated further down into the field.

The land upon which Penkhull Square stood was purchased by Spode II in 1802 only a few months after his purchase of substantial property from the estate of John Harrison. The manor court entry reads: October 25th 1802, John Jones, (Trustee for Lovatt as in preceding Recovery), to Josiah Spode of Stoke upon Trent Esq. All that copyhold dwelling house and barn, and all land called the Great Hough and Far Hough in Penkhull, which said pieces of land were formerly in three parts and then called the Three Hough’s, were formerly in the holding of Richard Heath, afterwards of John Slaney, but late of John Townsend and were late the estate of Thomas Lovett previously of William Lovett, and formerly of Joseph Lovatt otherwise Lovatt the younger; fine 1s/5d.

As Spode was engaged in the building of The Mount from 1803 to 1804, it is unlikely that there was any progress on the building of Penkhull Square during that time. In reality, it may have not have been until after The Mount had been completed in 1805/6 that work commenced on the building of Penkhull Square. This assumption is supported by the parish lune book for 1807-8, which records that five out of the 20 dwellings remained unoccupied. The early occupants were Messrs Eaton, Taylor, Hatton, Dinney, Bird, Smith, Mason, Martin, Williams, Robinson, Yates, Parker and Spooner. The amount paid to the parish was assessed at 1s 3d for each dwelling.

In a schedule of all the property owned by Spode compiled after his death in 1827, Penkhull Square is described as follows: And also all those twenty messuages standing at a place called The Square near the south end of the Village of Penkhull now or lately in the holdings of Ann Shaw, John Pugh, Samuel Harding, Ann Shaw the widow of William Shaw, John Steele, Samuel Davis, Thomas Underwood, Robert Hollinshead, Richard Pye, Joseph Bird, Thomas Ridgeway, Samuel Simpson, Thomas Critchley, William Robinson, Thomas Forrester, Richard Ball, Myatt Brookes, William Spooner and John Ridgeway or their under tenants with outbuildings yards, gardens etc.

The 1841 census return makes interesting reading. All properties were occupied. The occupations included potters, labourers, wheelwright, bricklayer, cordwainer and a shoemaker. The total number of people living in the square numbered 110, an average of 5.5 per dwelling. The numbers varied from a family of three to that of ten. As there were only two bedrooms, one too small to contain a double bed, the living conditions would have been cramped.

Results found in the 1861 census are similar to those of 1841: pottery workers, a widow, Mary Tunstall a domestic servant, aged 51 with 8 children, five of whom went to work. An exception was George Herritt, aged 47, an army pensioner. He came from Cheadle, married an Irish wife and one of his children, Margaret, aged 15 was born in East India.

The 1871 census continues the theme of pottery workers, although one occupation is that of a pig dealer, George Horne, aged 55, who came from Leek. He was in possession of both No. 19 and 20 Penkhull Square but the census records that he was taking in a lodger, William Roberts as well as his wife and daughter. The largest occupancy was that of Mr John Wright, aged 38, a potter’s presser, who with his wife and nine children from 1 year to 16 years of age, all managed to live in such a tiny house. They were still in occupation in 1881, although the three eldest children had left home, but in the intervening ten years a further two children had been born.

Evidence extracted from the census returns show that there was a high turnover of occupiers because the properties were built to a very low standard. Coal for example was kept at the side of the open fire, up a corner, there being nowhere else to store it. Bath night, once a week on a Friday was with a tin bath on the hearth, cleanest first.

The 1911 census provides a further snapshot of the Square, its occupants and social status. The occupations had changed from the early days when most were potters, but now a wide variety of unskilled workers. No tenant remained the same as recorded in the previous census. The average age of the head of families was low at 36 years, the majority were small families compared with previous census returns.

At No 1, James Moss, aged 54, was the eldest head, a potter’s labourer. At No.2 William Ball was 46 years. His wife Elizabeth was aged 41. Six children were recorded as living at home from the ages of 6 months to 15 years although a total of twelve were born during their 20 years of marriage. The highest occupancy by a single family was found at No.4. Here, Thomas Wright, aged 44, a telegraph wireman and his wife, Susan, aged 36, had produced seven children who were all still living at home.

For the first time, the 1911 census records how many children were born to a family and how many had died. The totals reflect the times, poor diet, poor housing and bad sanitation and health services that few could afford. Out of a total of children born to the families listed as living in Penkhull Square, there were 56 children born, of whom, 34 died either at birth or in infancy, representing a 61% mortality rate. In comparison, Brisley Hill across the road with a mortality rate of 26%.

A report by the sanitary inspector in 1865 illustrates the seriousness of the problem: There were twenty-one houses in the square with seven privies, six of them connected and placed in gardens behind the houses. The contents discharge into open receptacles in the adjoining fields. The large ash pit is full and there are no back doors to the houses. About one hundred people live there. The inspector also noted that the square was conspicuous by the number of deaths recorded from typhus and other fatal forms of fever. In 1865, there were 26 burials in Penkhull churchyard followed by 48 in 1866. All were from Penkhull Square.

At the time of mass demolition of Penkhull in the mid-1960s, there were considerable protests against the demolition of the Square. Yes, they were in their existing form unfit for habitation, but the uniqueness and the historical value made them a target to be retained. Ian Nairn, a Daily Telegraph correspondent wrote in 1963. That Penkhull Square itself must be saved, as reconditioned, it would be tailor-made for old people and childless couples and for anyone who wants to live in a place with some identity to it.

Yet again, despite protests against the proposals on the grounds that it could indeed be converted into substantial old people’s secured housing, with a central square with seats and flowerbeds, the thoughts were ignored by the city council. The powers that be at the town hall ignored every approach and proposal, only to confirm one thing – compulsory demolition.

Ten Row
In a description dated 1810, a part Hassell’s Croft comprised of a barn formerly having been many years ago converted into dwelling houses by Spode II but
the exact date that these five cottages were converted into ten is not known.

Following the death of Josiah Spode III 1829 a list of all his properties was prepared and transferred at a court held on the 13th May 1831. Under the description of lands and property formerly owned by Chapman is the following:
And also all those ten other messuages or dwelling houses, with the outbuilding gardens and appurtenances to the same respectively belonging, situate and being in the village of Penkhull aforesaid, near to a messuage formerly called Doody’s Messuage, which said ten messuages and premises last mentioned are now or lately were in several holdings.

As Ten Row was built on a steep hill, they were approached by a narrow blue-brick terrace with a number of steps at one end. They were in typical Spode style of brick and tile, each with its own ash-pit, privy and small garden to the rear. The rent reflected the quality of the houses, 8s 9d per month compared with 7s for Penkhull Square. These houses had their own privy at the bottom of the garden, not communal. This in its time was quite a status symbol.

Because of the better quality of house, the turnover of tenants was far less than for other properties such as Penkhull Square. By 1841, the front room of No.35 had been converted into a out-door beer house run by Ann Grocott for which she paid a higher rent than the others.

The last census of 1911 reflects a changing occupation. No longer did they all work in the pottery industry as only two are recorded. Others are: one stonemason, two working on the railways, two house painters, one a miner, and at No.67 Absalom Hollins, aged 42, from Silverdale, recorded his occupation as navvy working on the Garden Village. He was married to Florence, aged 32, at house duties and all children three boys and three girls, were attending school.

Looking at the number of child deaths, there were a total of 35 children born of whom nine had died representing a death rate of 26%, which, compared with that of Penkhull Square at 61%, was good.

All the above are extracts taken from The Royal Manor of Penkhull.

Please respect Copyright Richard Talbot


Pubs and Beer Houses in Penkhull

Pubs and Beer Houses.

Prior to the 18th century gin craze, English taverns primarily sold beer and ale. As the production of gin rose the country became dangerously lawless, as famously depicted in William Hogarth’s Gin Lane, the Government took action. In 1751, The Gin Act put drinking establishments under the control of local magistrates and obliged manufacturers to sell only to licensed premises.
As a consequence in 1830 the Government passed the Beerhouse Act, which aimed to wipe out the re-emerging gin shops and promote the healthier alternative of beer. This Act allowed a householder, assessed to the poor rate, to retail beer and cider from their own premises on payment of two guineas. The purpose of the legislation was to popularise beer at the expense of spirits. The Act was repealed in 1869.

As a result of this new Act the number of the beerhouses exploded, licenses being easily obtainable. Publicans’ set up business often in the front parlour of their own homes. By 1869 this growth was checked as the precursors to modern licensing laws were introduced, paving the way for beerhouses to become public houses properly licensed to sell beer, wine and spirits.

Penkhull in the early 18th century was an expanding community. One family that came  to exploit the possible advantages of an increase in population was that of Thomas Elkin.  Elkin was born in Wolstanton, two miles to the north of Penkhull. His wife came from Trentham, two miles to the south.

This ale house and brewery were subsequently inherited by his wife. It would appear that the loan from Thomas Lovatt was not paid off until January 1729 when the Alice was readmitted through the court. Alice at the same court surrendered the estate to Edward Smith (her son-in-law) in respect of a loan of £67.

Apart from the two licenced inns, The White Lion in Honeywall and the Marquis of Granby in the centre of Penkhull village there were no other establishments apart from beer houses which continued until the Act of 1869, when such establishments became public houses. Early records are not only scarce, but also difficult to interpret because names that have survived are often difficult to locate as to whom ran what and where.

The Beehive Inn
The Beehive Inn is located in Honeywall which originated as a separate hamlet. It is formed from three old cottages set in a row of back to back working class terraced houses. In all probability the row of workers cottages, like those in the surrounding area were built by Josiah Spode at the beginning of the 19th century for his workers. The location is shown on Hargreaves’ map of 1832.

The census of 1841 does not indicate there being any inn at the site. The 1851 census however does list a Thomas Howell as a greengrocer and beer seller. In simple terms, he would have had a little greengrocer’s shop, and at the same time, probably had a couple of hand pumps, one for Mild and the other for Bitter beers, both for consumption off the premises. It is from here that the residents of the nearby houses would fetch the beer in a jug after a day’s work to have with their evening meal. The seller would not sell spirits.

By 1861, Thomas Howell was no longer recorded but his son Enoch Howell, aged 50 was listed as beer seller at the same address but by this time the premises had become a Beer House under the sign of ‘The Beehive’. Thomas was married to Sarah and they had four children  together with a servant Julie, aged 22, from Silverdale.

Looking much further into the pages of a trade directory dated 1887 there was no mention of the shop, only the Inn. John Trickett was listed as the landlord. This fact is further endorsed by the 1891 census which confirms John Arthur Trickett, aged 36, as a beer seller, born in Hanley, living at No. 53 Honeywall along with his wife Sarah, aged 34, a local girl together with live-in servant Hannah Beech.

One of the most interesting assets of the inn is its cellar, carved out of the native sandstone. This helps to maintain the beers in perfect condition.
So why the name The Beehive? Probably this links with the address in Honeywall. There is no evidence to suggest that it has any direct connection is with bees or honey. However, it is known that, for centuries bees provided the only sweetening agent available, and there are records of beekeepers in Penkhull from medieval times. Therefore, it is not beyond the possibility that beekeepers were active on the lower slopes of Penkhull behind, the inn.

The White Lion, Honeywall.                   The White Lion Inn has at various times in its history has had the name Hotel tagged on. It commenced life as a coaching inn situated on the steep hill called Honeywall commencing from the town of Stoke-upon-Trent, a road which dates from prehistoric times. The inn is shown on Yates’s map of 1775, and the 1777 Duchy of Lancaster Map on which it is recorded as in the occupation of Mr Thomas Appleton. Records for the Justices of the Peace at Stafford note the issuing of a licence to sell wines and spirits from the mid 18th century.

It would seem that Thomas Appleton had established himself as a property owner as early as 1762 when the copyhold records list him as renting a property described as: all that house, shop and chamber over the same and garden and yard in Penkhull currently in the holding of Thomas Appleton. The annual rental for this amounted to £12.

The inn was advertised to be let in the Potteries Mercury in April 1839 “and may be entered on immediately, that old established, well known, and well accustomed inn known by the sign of the ‘White Lion’, with suitable out buildings, and a large excellent garden, situate at the Honeywall, midway between Stoke and Penkhull. The incoming tenant will be expected to take from the present tenant the small stock of ale and spirits, with the household furniture etc. Apply to William Outrim, Stoke-upon-Trent.”

In 1861 it was owned by Richard Stone who sold the plot of land at the rear of the inn to Frederick Bishop to enable a new road to be built from Honeywall to Princes Road, thereby opening up the area for housing development from 1865. Note the name Stone Street.

Probably as a direct result of the development of the nearby allotments housing estate towards the end of the 18th century, The White Lion was extended as can be seen from the red brick addition. By 1914, the inn was occupied by Harvey Howell, and owned by Burton Brewers, and described as the White Lion Inn with stables and garden. The annual rent paid by Mr Harvey amounted to £60, and the rates amounted to £48. If compared with those of The Beehive, it is obvious that The White Lion was a much more substantial establishment than The Beehive just across the road.

The Terrace Inn, Penkhull New Road
The origins of the old Terrace Inn commences with the building of a row of five terraced properties, just below what was to become known as Commercial Row, the old narrow street leading to The Views. The first deeds to the properties are dated the 29th July 1858, with the transfer of the cottages to Hester Till from her late husband John. Evidence suggests that from the original five houses, three were converted into The Terrace Inn by 1879, when a trade directory confirms it was occupied by Samuel Bowers and Mrs Wolfe. By 1881 William Birch, aged 33, born in Stoke was the licensee. He lived with his wife Emma, aged 36, together with two children William, aged 5, and Albert, aged 3. The following year, 1882, the new husband of Mary Cliff, Thomas Bratt was now listed as the landlord with no mention of William Birch. It is not clear as to why but the Rate Books of 1889, although listing the owner as Mary Ann Bratt; the occupier was Mrs Sarah Kinder. By the time the 1891 census came around, Mary Bratt was the licensee and widowed again.

For many years the old Terrace Inn was probably the most popular with the locals. Many stories still circulate of the old characters that frequented the pub. I recall my late friend Ernest Tew talking to me some thirty years ago of his memories of the 1930s and 40s when the back room snug was often referred to as ‘The Third Programme’. The highlight of the pub was the little men’s smoke room where the conversation was brilliant, debating most things of the day from politics to religion. Sometimes they became very heated, especially after a few pints. Mugs were frequently picked up in anger but never actually thrown. It was here in this little room that everyone was an equal no matter what his position was. All were on Christian name terms and included many high ranking officials from the council. It was truly a remarkable meeting place.

Another good friend, the late Reg Brunt, who used to live just around the corner in Penkhull Terrace and was known locally as the Mayor of Penkhull, recalls an old chap called Bob Dowie who used to enjoy a few pints at the old Terrace each evening.  Bob, whenever he ordered his pint, would strike a match as if going to light his pipe and threw it into the freshly pulled pint with its head still overflowing the glass. Even though some nights he would stretch out a pint to last some couple of hours, the match would remain, sitting at the top of whatever remained in the glass. One night I asked him why he did that and came the reply ‘that with the match on the top, if he had to the need to visit somewhere during the evening, be could be sure that no one would bother to drink his beer with a match on the top’.

As part of the city council compulsory purchase plan to demolish most of the old village in the early 1960s the old Terrace Inn was purchased by the corporation on the 5th October 1964 for the sum of £550.

The Royal Oak, Manor Court Street                                                                                  At the corner of Manor Court Street and Newcastle Lane stood for many years, The Royal Oak Inn. The premises were surrendered as mortgagee in default to William Bridgwood in 1860 who converted two cottages out of a row of eight into a beer house.  At a copyhold court held on the 13th day of September 1866 the properties were sold to John Royal.
The 1861 census lists the property as The Royal Oak, but then recorded not in Church Street, but at the top of Newcastle Street, numbered 1 and 3. It was occupied by a direct ancestor of mine George Henry Underwood, aged 36, beerseller and potter, born Penkhull. He was married to Eliza, aged 38, of Stoke. They had four children, Henry, aged 16, John, aged 12, and both working as potters’ boys, followed by Frank, aged 9 and James, aged 2. James was my great grandfather. His daughter Eliza Ann was my grandmother who married Thomas Talbot in 1908.

The 1871 census shows that Benbow, then aged 36, also worked as a potters colour maker as well as running the beerhouse, a practice not uncommon for the period. Benbow was not local; he was born at Coalbrookdale and married to Jane, aged 37. She was widowed. Her son, George Willott, aged 13, was working as a turner. Three other children were also living at the house.They took in lodgers; Mary Addison, aged 65, and her son James, and lastly Edward Lewis, aged 28.  A total of nine people in such small accommodation, but again a not unusual practice for this period in history.

Ten years later in 1881, The Royal Oak was held by Mr David Shenton, aged 45, and his wife Mary, aged 42, together with their seven children ranging from Albert, aged 20, to Blanch, aged 1. Three years later, in May 1884, his wife Mary died and is buried in Penkhull churchyard. Her gravestone reads In Loving Memory of Mary Ann, the beloved wife of David Shenton of the Royal Oak Inn.
By 1891, David Shenton had remarried to Emma, aged 34, eleven years his junior. At the time there remained four children living at home, together with Jane Bryan, a domestic servant. David Shenton died on the 15th March 1900, aged 72. He is buried alongside his first wife Mary. On the gravestone there is no mention of Emma his second wife. The epitaph under his name reads his end was peace.
On the 30th June 1898 two years previous he had sold his other property in Penkhull. Shenton had already sold The Royal Oak in 1890 to Parkers Brewery although he continued to run the establishment at least until 1891 on their behalf. The court minute commences by stating that Shenton was formerly of The Royal Oak, licensed victualler but afterwards of No. 14 Church Street, grocer but at the time of the court record living at No. 191 Campbell Road Stoke.

By 1901 it had ceased being used as a beer house. The census returns records the property was vacant but still listed as The Royal Oak. Following this it was converted back into a domestic residence. In 1911 it was occupied by William Woolley, aged 30, a pottery worker and his wife Florence, aged 32, and their three children. By 1912 it was occupied by Walter Roberts whose occupation was a goods porter.

Later the same year the premises were purchased by Mr Albert Swetnam who previously held a small shop on the corner of Seven Row in Penkhull New Road. He converted the old Royal Oak Inn into a high class grocer’s shop. Mr Swetnam continued in business until 1955 when Mr Brunt purchased the shop.

The Marquis of Granby                          This old established inn has proved the most difficult to research its early history.  I was always of the belief that the original inn would date from the medieval period on the basis that Penkhull was situated on the main highway from the south to the north of Stoke-on-Trent before the current London Road, Stoke was laid.

Here in Penkhull, at the top of a long climb up the hill from the Trent Valley at Hanford before the downward path to the town of Stoke, an inn was listed in the 15th century under the sign of Lord Wagstaff. The court rolls list a Thomas Bagnall victualler of Penkhull in 1587. A Thomas Tittensor was licensed to sell spirits in 1606; James Bourne was named a victualler of Penkhull in 1775. Sadly none of these identify  the inn by any name.

Some thirty five years ago, I interviewed Miss Maskery of Richmond Hill she was then in her 80s. She had a vivid memory and could recall the Relief of Mafeking in May 1900 during the second Boer war by the ringing of a hand bell by a young lad as he ran around the village shouting ‘Mafeking has been relieved, the siege is over’. Miss Maskery also remembered the old Marquis, a thatched building standing back from the road followed by the building of a new Marquis. She was able to date this by the fact that the scaffolding once removed was employed in the construction of the new senior school in Princes Road in 1895/6.

The name The Marquis of Granby is interesting as there are so many pubs of that name throughout the country. John Manners, the eldest son of the 3rd Duke of Rutland, and known by his father’s subsidiary title of the Marquis of Granby, was a highly distinguished soldier and later a politician. Manners died in 1771 and when his soldiers retired, John Manners helped financially many of his soldiers to set up public houses who subsequently named those inns The Marquis of Granby out of respect and admiration of the former Major General. When he died the Marquis left £60,000 of debts with assets of around £23,000 which could imply that he was most generous during his life time.

The census dated 1901 shows a further change in tenancy. Charles Sims, aged 49, from Stoke was the licensee supported by his wife Mary, aged 47. They had five children Maud, aged 20, to Harold, aged 4 at home. Mr Sims was still the landlord in 1914, and the property owned by George Pimm and Co. The annual rental for The Marquis was substantial at £85 which had to be found, in addition to the rates being charged at £65.

Searching the copyhold minutes, the first record which conclusively identifies the site of the inn does not appear until September 1783. The land upon which The Marquis now stands was formerly a part of Bowyers Meadow owned at the time by the Terrick family. There was no Penkhull New Road as we know it today, only a narrow track to where West Bank now stands. The record states: To this court comes John Plum of Houghton in Lancashire Esq, and his wife Hannah. Hannah was previously living together with her sisters, Elizabeth and Mary Terrick surrendered all that small parcel of land now marked out lying at the top of Bowyers Meadow to be enclosed by a foot set hedge and formerly in the holding of Mr Wm Ford to the use of Michael Henney, wheelwright.

Michael Henney died at the age of 83, and was buried in Stoke churchyard on the 6th May 1785. The land was then transferred to his widow Elizabeth, who survived a further twelve years after the death of her husband until May1797. In September of the same year, the copyhold court dealt with the transfer of the estate to her son, also called Michael, upon trust. The blacksmith’s shop was recorded as being in the holding of John Gallimore, but now of Thomas Cheadle. On the 13th May 1802, Michael Henney junior died, leaving his estate to his widow Hannah upon trust.

This part of the court record tells us the name of the property, The Marquis of Granby. It further confirms that the inn was previously in the ownership of William Crewe. His will dated the 26th October 1852, also confirms that he owned The Marquis of Granby as well as The Nantwich Arms situated in the Swine Market, Nantwich, and a large house in Marsh Parade, Wolstanton and several other properties. William Crewe states in his will: I give and devise all my messuage or public house by the sign of The Marquis of Granby now and for many years past in the occupation of Mrs Holroyd. Together with the malthouse buildings and garden attached at Penkhull to my son Samuel Crewe my daughters Mary Lees and my grandson Frederick Crewe Lees of Burslem, solicitor.

The documents list the previous occupiers of The Marquis; Joseph Pickering, William Kettle; Robert Archer; Edward Candland; Robert Holroyd then his widow Ann Holroyd. This document gives the first evidence of The Marquis prior to 1818. A trade directory of 1800 lists William Kettle, victualler, Penkhull but no address or the name of business. With the evidence of other documents it is shown that it refers to The Marquis of Granby. Not only this, the previous occupier is also listed, Joseph Pickering. The court records point to the fact that Joseph Pickering acquired property in Penkhull in March 1772, a date which ties in with the assumption that inns, trading under the sign of The Marquis of Granby, followed shortly after the death of John Manners, the Marquis of Granby in 1771. This is conclusive evidence.

The Greyhound Inn:

Latest send-up for April Fools Day that appeared in the Sentinel 31st 2018

How King Charles II almost met his end in Potteries pub

by Dr Richard Talbot MBE, Author and Historian

Over the last thirty years I have acquired and transcribed what has become the only and largest collection in the world of the Manor Court Rolls of Manor of Newcastle-under-Lyme which included what is two thirds of Stoke-on-Trent from 1347 – 1927. It is from this extensive archive that an account appears of King Charles II visit to Penkhull.

Following the demise at the castle at Newcastle all manorial courts were held once every three weeks from c1530 in a large farm house in Penkhull and what is now known as the Greyhound Inn. No doubt many readers will know that Major General Thomas Harrison, the second in command under Oliver Cromwell was the son of a butcher and born in High Street Newcastle, the site of which is now occupied by the HSBC Bank. There is a brass plaque on the wall to this fact. It was Harrison with others who also signed the death warrant of Charles I.

During the Commonwealth period 1649-1660 Cromwell was designated the Lord Protector and appointed Harrison as the head of the former Royal Manor thereby receiving all rents and court dues. He is frequently mentioned as attending as head of the manor in the court rolls.

After the Restitution of Charles II, Thomas Harrison was executed on Saturday 13 October, 1660. He was dragged on a hurdle through the streets of London from Newgate Prison to Charing Cross and executed. In his diary, Samuel Pepys wrote:

I went out to Charing Cross, to see Major-general Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition. He was presently cut down, and his head and heart shown to the people, at which there was great shouts of joy… Thus, it was my chance to see the King beheaded at White Hall, and to see the first blood-shed in revenge for the blood of the King at Charing Cross.

Eighteen months later, Charles II decided that it was now time to have his revenge on the family of Harrison still residing in Newcastle. He travelled to Penkhull in 1662, staying overnight at Penkhull Hall, (now the Greyhound) owned by one William Tyttensore where, true to form, he indulged in a dalliance with the owner’s daughter, Sarah Tyttensore. Upon discovering these shenanigans in the bedroom of Charles II, her father engaged the King in a sword fight down the stairs, and, when the King momentarily lost his balance on the turn of the stairs, Tyttensore brought his sword down in a mighty thrust within a fraction of the Kings heart but in a blink Charles managed to turn to one side and the sward became embedding into one of the stairs the cut of which remains still visible today.

The commotion attracted the ‘King’s Men’ from the stables at the rear who rushed to seize Tyttensore and save the King. Tyttensore, there and then was charged with high treason against the King, escorted to London where he was executed at the Tower and his headless body being returned to Penkhull, where it was buried in Stoke Church yard. His head being tossed into the Thames.

Who would have thought that the events on an early spring morning IV.I.MDCLXII that Penkhull could well have been listed in every history book in the land as the place that two years following his restitution King Charles II could well have met his end in the Greyhound Inn.

Dr Talbot writes extensively in his The Royal Manor of Penkhull about the manorial courts in his book which remains available from the Museum shop or direct from 88 Newcastle Lane price £15.

                             The present Greyhound Inn, formerly known as Penkhull Hall then later Greenhead House, stands opposite what is now the west door of the parish church, but before the church was built here was a large open space of common manorial waste where the village pinfold was situated. The old building, originally a farmhouse, would be constructed of timber, wattle and daub with one large room, the large parlour, which was used for the Customary Court Baron and Court Leet. This section of the building now forms the public bar section of the Inn. The building still retains its original form, although largely reconstructed in 1936.

Early 19th century trade directories identify this old building as previously being the place where manor courts were held every three weeks. The manor court records contain much evidence of its transition through the centuries but the first record that can be identified is dated 1536. It refers to the building itself as being recently built. Unfortunately the word recently cannot be relied upon to mean what it says nor can the limited description of the property with certainty identify the property now known by the name The Greyhound Inn. In many cases, a description such as ‘recently built’ can be carried forward within court documents for years, as any previous reference would be copied to the next court reference without change. One thing is for certain, the old farmhouse was standing in 1536, but it could date from a much earlier period and may even have been the location for the manorial courts since the need arose to vacate the castle at Newcastle-under-Lyme, probably in the early 15th century or late 14th century.

Much has been written of its history, but regrettably, in most cases, it has been a case where fools rush in where angels fear to tread, little if anything is accurate. There are stories of tunnels, which pass under the highway to the church through which prisoners escaped, and the appearance of ghosts. Even Stoke-on-Trent official publications list it as being burnt down in 1936. One local historian even wrote that prisoners were bought out screaming from its doors to be hanged on the nearest tree in the churchyard. Sheer fantasy on his part, and a great pity that such romanticism is peddled as fact.

Early records are difficult to come by, apart from the manor court minutes supplemented by manorial surveys, parish and poor law records, land tax returns, tithe schedules and wills etc. Little else of anything has survived.

For several decades the origins of The Greyhound Inn has remained a mystery. The question first arose with a reference by Mr Robert Nicholls in his small booklet Penkhull cum Boothen published in 1929.  Nicholls quotes a court record, a mortgage, dated 25th April 1662 whereby John Lovatt and Joan Dale surrendered to the King one messuage called Penkhull Hall with its buildings, orchards, gardens and pasture into the hands of Ralph Keeling, gent. No doubt Mr Nicholls would have obtained this reference from the Historical Collections of Staffordshire, and for years it was considered to be the only reference to Penkhull Hall.

This is not the case. I for one wrongly believed that the name of Penkhull Hall was the forerunner of the house later named Greenhead House. The problem we have in the first place is the word ‘hall’ itself. Far too often this word is perceived wrongly as representing a large black and white Elizabethan House where titled people once lived. Unfortunately this is romanticism! Although this perception can have a place in historical novels, it has no place in historical works like this. The word ‘hall’ could simply mean a large room where meetings or gatherings were held. This is probably the case with Penkhull Hall.

So what of the entry for Penkhull Hall in 1662, and when does the name appear of Greenhead House? The answer I have come to is that these are separate buildings, for both names appear in court records during the early 17th century. There is, however, a clear explanation as to why the matter has been so confusing. Records have never previously been studied in any detail. One line that occurs in a number of court minutes, and previously not quite understood, is found in later descriptions of Greenhead House. The first reference is in a court minute dated 15th May 1700 when Thomas Dale surrendered the lower part of a messuage or tenement of Greenhead House. Once more in 1704, a part of Greenhead house is described as the lower end of a messuage or tenement called Greenhead House. It was described as in the holding or occupation of Thomas Dale. The last description found in the manor court records is dated July 1711, when the house was described a below mentioned part of a messuage or tenement called the Greenhead House. This ‘lower end’ could well be the part of the building previously known by the name of Penkhull Hall.

Returning to the court entries of Penkhull Hall and a court entry dated 20th December 1650, which refers to Philip Young, gent, through his attorneys John Lovatt and Joshua Hill, was admitted to a capital messuage called Penkhull Hall, stable, garden, a meadow called Penkhull Meadow and two closes of pasture called Middle and Lower moor. At the same court, Young surrendered the hall to Ralph Keeling. The next court entry, dated 1657, refers to the fact that Keeling surrendered it on the 8th June 1654 to Dorothy Machen. Dorothy then surrenders the hall in 1657 to her daughters Jane and Margaret Machen. One year later, on the 7th July 1658, Jane Machen returned the property to Ralph Keeling, no doubt on the discharge of a mortgage. In a survey dated 1618 Roger Machen owned a considerable estate in Penkhull consisting of ninety acres, the largest recorded in that year.

It was the following year, 18th July 1659, when again Keeling surrendered Penkhull Hall to obtain a mortgage after adding various other lands to the package, including the Middle and Lower Moor, the Bearshill waste and the Hole House waste to Joan Dale, on condition that do well and truly pay unto the said Joan Dale the sum of £106 in the church porch of Stoke otherwise the surrender shall be void.

Joan Dale was the daughter of John Dale of Penkhull. His last Will and Testament is dated 10th June 1664. He leaves the sum of £100 to his eldest daughter Margaret, and the same sum to his two youngest daughters Joan and Ann. Dale and also three beds and their furnishings to be divided equally between his three daughters at the discretion of my loving wife Joan. There was no bequest to his only son John.

The next entry relating to Penkhull Hall is dated 25th April 1662, the entry that Robert Nicholls records in 1929. Unfortunately Nicholls had only half the story, as the court minute continued to add further information not mentioned in his 1929 account.  John Lovatt and Joan Dale surrendered to the Lord King one messuage called Penkhull Hall with all its buildings, orchards and gardens to the use of Ralph Keeling. It is clear at this point that the mortgage of £106 had not been returned. The next section of the minute then describes at the same court that William Wedgwood was granted seizen (ownership) of the premises and the mortgage of £106 was reassigned to him on condition that Keeling pay this off by the 26th April 1663. There are no further entries found in the manor court records under the name of Penkhull Hall.

From this point in it was originally assumed that the name was changed to Green Head House soon after 1662. This is not the case. The records for Greenhead House date prior to 1662, with an entry in April 1579, in a surrender of property that once stood where now Jeremy Close just off Trent Valley Road. The property was occupied by William Turner and Roger Hutchens and referred to as the inheritance of Thomas Dale who lives at the Green Head. This confirms that not only did the house exist in 1579 but the Dale family also held it.

So where does all this leave the debate as to what stood where? This is something that has been pondered over hard and long. There is significant evidence to prove that both existed side by side. Penkhull Hall, containing a large parlour, would be used once, every three weeks for manor court transactions as well as living accommodation. This is the old section of The Greyhound Inn, largely re-constructed in 1936, because of its decayed condition. Greenhead House, on the other hand, was the other section of the Inn.

As the court records have shown already, the name of Dale is significant in the ownership of each, and it is probable that after the last entry for Penkhull Hall in 1663, it all became one property called Greenhead House. During the occupation of the Lovatt family in the early 1700s, the current lounge area and the small room off, would, I am confident, have been rebuilt. Greenhead House simply means the house at the head of the green, which reflects an accurate picture for the term.

From later records when the property was in the occupation and ownership of John Townsend it was described as having had been divided into three separate dwellings, two of which retained their individual status until being sold to Parkers Brewery in 1936.

Greenhead House then passed through a number of owners and are fully recorded in the book The Royal Manor of Penkhull.

A manor court document dated the 5th February 1829 itemizes both property and the outstanding debts of Townsend who had owned the property for many years. It further indicates the results of the auction and how the finances were sorted to accommodate the sale. Firstly his two daughters were admitted tenants to the copyhold estate consisting of four dwelling houses and two gardens but subject to a mortgage held by John Brown of Knutton Heath. To settle the outstanding mortgage to John Brown, William Bagnall paid the sum of £280 in part payment and discharge of the principal money and interest due. The daughters of Townsend then surrendered all those three dwelling houses described as in the occupations of William Parky, Joseph Dishley and Ralph Pennington, in addition to the land attached to the dwellings to Mr Bagnall. There was also a condition that Bagnall would have the use of the water pump at the side of the other property along with the Malt House.

Regarding the property sold to Bagnall the sale was on condition that the purchase price included the balance of the mortgage to Brown of £36 14s in full payment of the debt, and the sum of £183 6s to the daughters Martha and Hannah. Next, having agreed on these terms, the sisters proceeded to surrender: Greenhead House, divided into three dwellings with the land adjoining previously occupied by John Townsend, William Hewitt and Thomas Green along with the use of the water pump. And also all those stables, piggeries, outhouses, and the pew seats in the parish church of Stoke. The property was surrendered to Mr George Thomas Taylor, overseer of the poor for Stoke.

Two important events in 1828 had a significant bearing on the future of Greenhead House. On the 25th August, George Thomas Taylor applied to the Justices of the Peace acting in the Hundred of Pirehill North for permission to open an alehouse. The document, after the formal introduction continues: That your petitioner is the proprietor of a commodious dwelling house with stable yard and other conveniences in Penkhull and which has for some time past been used by Mr George Marlow as a Retail Brewery. Currently the population of Penkhull has very much increased within the last few years, and that it now contains upwards of seven hundred persons.

There is only one Public House in the place for which a licence was granted when there was not more than one quarter of the present number. In all probability the new Ale House Act of 1828 (9 George IV c61) would have influenced Taylor to obtain a licence to sell ale. He also saw the opportunity for business from the increase in population of Penkhull, as there was only one inn in the centre of the village, being the Marquis of Granby. The Act however failed to make provision for the keeping of licensing records by the Clerk of the Peace, so the discovery of the original application to the Justices of Pirehill North to sell ale just a few years ago in the possession of his great, great grand-daughter Mrs Betty Wildblood makes it even more important.

Your petitioner sincerely believes that an additional Public House in Penkhull is wanted and would be an accommodation and convenience to the inhabitants. This is borne out in such his belief by the testimony of a great number of respectable inhabitants of Penkhull and others. I beg to leave to draw your Worships’ attention to the fact that the present occupier of these premises has sold upwards of thirty barrels of ale off the premises within the last six months. Therefore, I pray your worships to grant a licence to open the said house as a Public and Victualling House and your petitioner will every pray.

The document included the signatures of thirty-seven names, mostly local businessmen, traders and manufacturers as well as the churchwardens of Stoke Church. The significance of this document cannot be under estimated. Firstly, it tells us that ale had been sold from the house for six months, which takes that date back to the date the property was sold to Taylor. It further informs us that a local brewer was selling ale. Would it be the malt kiln to the rear of Greenhead House produced that the ale?

(The Greyhound before its restoration in 1929)

Taylor emphasizes the increase in the population, giving approximate figures but fails to indicate that this expansion was due to the fact that Josiah Spode had provided housing in the village for his workers.  There is also only one other retailer of ale quoted. This would be the Marquis of Granby.  However, it is surprising that he did not include The White Lion in Honeywall as part of Penkhull. This was probably because it was considered at that time a hamlet with its own identity.

The Penkhull Lock-up                                                                                                   There is only a single reference of a lock-up at Penkhull. But first what is the definition of this term? They were often used for the confinement of drunks who were usually released the next day, or to hold people being brought before the local magistrate the following morning. A typical village lock-up is a small structure with a single door and a narrow slit window or opening. Lock-ups were not a gaol; they were only a temporary place to secure prisoners.
The Staffordshire Advertiser dated the 10th October 1829 refers to the Lock-Up at Penkhull in a press report of the activities of the General Court Leet and Court Baron held at the Wheatsheaf in Stoke. In attendance was the Chief Constable for Stoke-upon-Trent Mr John Davis. Mention was made to the Court of the necessity, which existed for a lock-up in the town of Stoke – prisoners sometimes escaping from the custody of the constables whilst being taken to that at Penkhull. The Court stated that it had no funds available for such a purpose; and recommended to the inhabitants to erect the building, and defray the cost by public subscription.

The Penkhull lock-up was situated beneath the old courtroom in what is now The Greyhound Inn. Some forty-five years ago, I recall my visit to Bert Pattinson and his wife Nora who lived at No 27 Penkhull Terrace.  He was then aged seventy-two years and could well remember living in that section of the inn, which, at that time was next door to  The Greyhound, and a separate dwelling house. Bert continues: I went to live there in March 1932; my mother purchased it for me. I left in August 1934. It was later purchased by Parkers Brewery.  The door to the cellar was very thick and was designed with a little hatch and a slide across so the jailer could see the prisoners.

The cellar was approached through this door and down the stairs that curved around. Up the far corner were a large wooden stump and a chain fastened to it. There were also shackles fastened to chains into the brickwork.  As money was short then I pulled them out and sold the metal to the rag and bone man for a few pence.

On the 29th September 1925 the Greyhound Inn, No. 6 Church Street was sold to Parkers Burslem Brewery Ltd.

No.5 Church Street (the old court house)was placed on the market for sale in 1935 as a derelict old timber building.  Correspondence that I received some thirty years ago from Mrs Aston reveals that Rev V G Aston wanted Penkhull church to purchase this old building to use for church activities and meetings.  Serious enquiries were made and an architect employed to view the property. Unfortunately the structural report confirmed that it was in such a poor state of repair that it virtually needed rebuilding. The church did not pursue enquiries any further.

Rev V G Aston later wrote in the parish magazine in 1936, about the part of the building which now forms the public bar that was found to be in a dangerous state with beams rotting. It was purchased by Parkers’ Brewery, who undertook the reconstruction of the whole building, and intended to retain every possible part of the old courthouse. When the front was taken down it was found that such was the state of ruin that little could be rebuilt into the new structure. Thankfully, builders and architects, R Scrivener & Sons, worked marvellously with what they had, and today we see the shape and form of the old court house as it was.

Much of the oak inside is preserved for future generations, the old fire place still stands and the oak that was over the Steward’s chair forms a lintel over the door. The panelling which once adorned the courtroom walls was removed and refitted into the small room of the original Greyhound which displays the sign George Thomas Taylor, Alehouse 1829 today.

This edited version of the history of the Greyhound Inn taken from The Royal Manor of Penkhull is © Richard Talbot.

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