Archive for the ‘A Place in Time’ category

PhoenixNews – A Place in Time

August 14th, 2013

Five local history posts put on this website in August 2011 have been reposted on our sister website PhoenixStaffs under the heading A Place in Time. These are:

  1. J.B. Priestly Visits the Potteries
  2. A visit to a coalmine in the 1830s
  3. The Cinema’s Golden Age
  4. Brindley’s Harecastle Tunnel
  5. Werrington Industrial School

To read these posts visit PhoenixStaffs at Go to CATEGORIES and press A Place in Time.

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A Place in Time – Robert Scrivener the architect who changed the face of Hanley

July 28th, 2013

The Mechanics Institute in Pall Mall

Robert Scrivener was born at Ipswich on March 29th, 1812. The son of master builder William Scrivener, he became an architect. In the early 1850s, Robert and his wife Elizabeth came to The Potteries. He established a practice in Shelton and quickly became one of North Staffordshire’s leading architects.

Robert and Elizabeth had eight children – four boys and four girls. The family were members of the Methodist New Connexion Church and worshipped at Bethesda Church in Hanley where Robert was a Sunday school teacher. He played a major role in church affairs and was made a trustee of the girls’ school. In1856, he designed a new pulpit and a communion rail for the church. His son, Arthur, went to Radmoor College to train for the ministry but died before completing the course. The other three boys became architects and joined Robert’s firm.

He designed the new Mechanics Institution in Pall Mall whose foundation stone was laid by the mayor, William Brownfield, on October 28th, 1859.

Robert regenerated Bethesda Church and replaced its old window panes with frosted glass, installed gas lighting and redecorated the interior. He gave the front elevation, in Albion Street, a Classical façade with Corinthian columns and a Venetian window surmounted by a cornice.

When pottery manufacturer John Ridgway died in December, 1860, the Methodist New Connection Church in The Potteries lost its greatest benefactor. John was the owner of Cauldon Place Pottery and worshipped at Bethesda. He built a chapel for his employees at Shelton and gave money to help build churches in Tunstall, Burslem and Fenton.

A radical local politician with progressive views, John refused a knighthood. He became Hanley’s first mayor when it was made a borough in 1857.

The Methodist New Connexion decided to build a chapel to commemorate John’s life. Called the Ridgway Memorial Chapel, the chapel was designed by Robert and erected in Havelock Place, Shelton. The white brick Gothic style building cost £2,600. It was 60 feet long by 37 feet wide and had a tower with a spire 61 feet high.

Hanley’s finest building is the town hall in Albion Street. The building, which started life as the Queen’s Hotel, was designed by Robert. It cost over £20,000 and opened on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 1869. Built to compete with the North Stafford Hotel, the Queen’s was a modified Italian Renaissance style building with white brick corners and Hollington stone dressings. Too far away from Stoke Station to attract visitors, the Queen’s never made a profit. The hotel closed and the borough council bought the premises for £10,800.

Workmen transformed the Queen’s into a town hall. They converted the commercial room into a council chamber and the smoke room became the town clerk’s office. The dining room became a Magistrates’ Court and the billiard room was made into a police station.

Robert died aged 67 on April 19th, 1878. He was buried in Bethesda churchyard.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2013


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A Place in Time – Alexander Scrivener (1852-1921)

July 14th, 2013






Albert Square, Fenton












Hanley architect, Alexander Scrivener was born at Shelton on April 19th, 1852.

Both his father, Robert, and his elder brother, Edward, were architects. During 1868, Robert and Edward went into partnership and formed Robert Scrivener and Son whose offices were in Howard Place, Shelton. The firm designed the Mechanics Institution in Pall Mall and the Queen’s Hotel in Albion Street which later became Hanley Town Hall.

Alexander was educated at Hanley Art School. He became an architect and joined the firm. When their father died in 1878, Edward and Alexander acquired the practice.

Alexander married Anne Twyford. They had five children. The family lived in Endon where they worshipped at the parish church. Alexander’s two hobbies were music and archaeology. He conducted the Endon Choral Society and was choirmaster at the parish church. A member of the North Staffordshire Field Club, he took part in archaeological digs and led field trips to historic buildings. The club made him its president for the year 1895-96. He undertook historical research and wrote articles for its journal.  In 1904, the club awarded him the Garner Medal for services to archaeology and made him its president again a year later. During 1914, he excavated Castle Hill, at Audley proving conclusively that the de Audley family had built a castle there in the Middle Ages.

Politically, the Scriveners were Conservatives. They designed Hanley’s Conservative Club in Trinity Street which opened on February 25th, 1878.

Edward and Alexander were astute businessmen who used their professional skill and expertise to make Robert Scrivener and Son the area’s leading architects.

Sanitary ware manufacturer, Thomas Twyford employed the firm to design his Cliffe Vale factory. The practice built churches and schools throughout The Potteries and designed The Sentinel’s office in Foundry Street, Hanley. It designed numerous buildings in the town including the Roman Catholic Church in Jasper Street, the Higher Grade Elementary School, the Freemasons Hall in Cheapside and the telephone exchange in Marsh Street.

The buildings in Fenton which the firm designed included Queen Street Board Schools, the Cemetery Chapels and the Temperance Coffee Tavern in City Road. It built shops and offices in Christchurch Street, laid out Albert Square and designed the town hall.

Alexander designed St. Paul’s Church in Victoria Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme whose foundation Stone was laid by Sir Lovelace Stamer, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, on June 15th, 1905. Edward died while the church was being constructed and Alexander became the senior partner in the firm. Consecrated by the Bishop of Lichfield in 1908, it was a stone perpendicular style building with an octagonal spire. The church cost almost £7,500 and could accommodate over 500 worshippers. It had central heating and was lit by gas lights.

Alexander remained in practice until his death. Taken ill suddenly, he died aged 69 on December 17th, 1921 and was buried in Endon churchyard.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2013


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A Place in Time – Seger Cones

September 27th, 2011

Made from a mixture of clay, feldspar and limestone, Seger Cones were used by North Staffordshire’s pottery industry to indicate the temperature inside coal fired bottle ovens and kilns.

When ware was being fired a set of four cones was placed in the kiln or the oven. Each cone was made so that it would bend at a specific temperature. From time to time during the firing, the kiln man (pronounced kilman) would view the cones through a spy hole in the side of the oven or the door of the kiln. As the temperature rose, the cones began to bend. After two, three or four days, the cones showed that the temperature was hot enough to have fired the ware. The coal fires were allowed to die and the oven was left to cool before the ware was taken out.

Seger Cones

Seger Cones were invented in 1886 by German ceramic technologist Hermann Seger while working at the Royal Porcelain Works in Berlin.

Before the First World War (1914-18) all the Seger Cones used in the Potteries were imported from Germany. When war broke out on August 4th, 1914 all trade with Germany ceased and the pottery industry faced a major crisis. Realising the industry could not survive without Seger Cones, the Governors of the Central School of Science and Technology (which became the North Staffordshire Technical College in 1926) held an emergency meeting. They decided to manufacture the cones at the school on a commercial basis. A science laboratory was turned into a workshop and Dr. Joseph Mellor the head of the school’s ceramics department was put in charge of production.

A workman, Harry Tams, from Longton was employed to make the cones. He was paid 25 shillings (£1.25) a week.

Manufactured under Joseph’s supervision, the cones, called Staffordshire Cones, were stamped with the de Stafford knot. The venture was so successful that Joseph’s salary was raised by a £100 per  annum. In February, 1915, two boys, each of whom was paid five shillings (25p) a week, were employed to help Harry in the workshop. Demand for cones continued to increase and two more boys were taken on.

The governors estimated that the income from sales would be about £200 a year and towards the end of 1915 an order for 200,000 cones was received.

(Copyright Betty Cooper/David Martin – The Phoenix Trust 2010)

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A Place in Time – Bringing the railway to the Potteries

September 16th, 2011

Stoke StationStoke Station

The railway age began in 1830 when the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, opened the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

Between 1830 and 1842 numerous railway companies were formed and over 2,000 miles of track was laid. The mainline linking London and Birmingham with Liverpool and Manchester by passed the Potteries. When asked to run the line through Stoke, civil engineers employed by the North Western Railway said there was no way that a rail link could be constructed from Crewe to the Potteries because it was impossible to drive a tunnel under Harecastle Hill between Chatterley and Kidsgrove.  Hardly anyone believed them. The Trent and Mersey Canal Company had already built two tunnels there to take the canal through the hill.

In 1845, pottery manufacturer John Ridgway, who owned Cauldon Pottery, and the district’s two Members of Parliament, William Copeland and John Lewis Ricardo, decided to form the North Staffordshire Railway Company.

Ricardo was made company chairman and civil engineer George Parker Bidder was employed to survey routes for the lines it hoped to build.

On Wednesday, September 23rd, 1846 the company’s shareholders held their first meeting in Stoke town hall. The company’s secretary, John Samuda, told them that Parliament had given it permission to build three lines:

  1. The Potteries Line – from Macclesfield to Colwich running through Congleton, Stoke and Stone which had branches to Newcastle-under-Lyme and Norton Bridge.
  2. The Churnet Valley Line – from North Rode to Burton-on-Trent and Derby which ran through Leek and had a branch from Uttoxeter to Crewe via Stoke.
  3. The Harecastle and Sandbach Line – from Kidsgrove to Sandbach.

Civil engineering contractors Mackenzie, Brassey and Stephenson were employed to build the Potteries Line and its branches. The contract to construct the lines from Kidsgrove to Crewe and Sandbach was given to Grisell and Peto. Tredwells were given the contract to build the Churnet Valley Line and Prices were employed to construct the link between Uttoxeter and Stoke.

When the meeting ended the shareholders had lunch. Afterwards they marched in procession along streets decorated with garlands and bunting to Cliffe Vale where Ricardo cut the first sod. In the evening there was a ball at the town hall and a firework display in Winton’s Wood where Stoke station (pictured) was erected.

Photograph © Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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