NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE COALFIELD – POTENTIAL WORLD HERITAGE SITE

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The Spitfire created by Reginald Mitchell the 20th century’s leading aircraft designer

There is widespread public support for the Phoenix Trust’s campaign to make the North Staffordshire Coalfield a World Heritage Site. More than 200 iconic historic buildings have been nominated for inclusion in our photographic survey including:

  • Mow Cop Castle
  • Biddulph Grange
  • Brownhills High School
  • Tunstall Pool
  • Burslem Art School
  • Hanley Town Hall
  • Stoke Minster
  • Fenton Library
  • Staffordshire University’s Cadman Building.

Our photographic survey has begun and buildings in Talke, Butt Lane, Kidsgrove, Newchapel, Harriseahead, Mow Cop and Biddulph are being photographed.

Historically, there is nothing to prevent North Staffordshire’s Industrial Landscape, which includes the Potteries, Newcastle-under-Lyme and all the towns and villages on the North Staffordshire Coalfield, from becoming a World Heritage Site.

North Staffordshire was at the cutting edge of world economic development during the Industrial Revolution. Economic historians frequently ignore the role pottery manufacturers, like Wedgwood, Adams, Minton and Spode, played in transforming a collection of small towns and villages into a major industrial region of international importance. The Harecastle Tunnel complex between Kidsgrove and Chatterley is one of the world’s greatest civil engineering feats surpassing the Pontcysylite Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal, which has already been given World Heritage Site status. Neither the Big Pit nor any museum at Blaenavon can compare with Chatterley Whitfield or the Gladstone Pottery Museum.

In addition to its proud industrial heritage, North Staffordshire was the birthplace of Primitive Methodism whose influence gave the six towns their unique culture and a way of life so vividly described by Arnold Bennett.

Like all the towns on the coalfield, Burslem, where Bennett grew up, has a proud heritage which equals that of other places in the United Kingdom which have become World Heritage Sites. Its 18th century master potters brought the industrial revolution to North Staffordshire. The “old town hall” is one of the finest examples of civic architecture erected by a local board of health. Burslem born architect, Absalom Reade Wood gave the town the Woodall Memorial Chapel, the Drill Hall, the Art School, the Wycliffe Institute, Moorland Road Schools and Burgess Dorling and Leigh’s model factory in Middleport.

Created by local craft persons, the Wedgwood Institute’s unique terracotta facade is an inspiring tribute to the skills of the men and women who worked in the pottery industry. During its long history, the Wedgwood Institute has housed several schools and colleges whose alumni have played a major role in the fields of literature, science and technology. They include:

  • Oliver Lodge, the first principal of Birmingham University, who invented the spark plug and perfected radiotelegraphy
  • Arnold Bennett whose novels immortalised the Potteries
  • Reginald Mitchell, the 20th century’s leading aircraft designer, whose Spitfire saved the world from Nazi domination.

At the request of local historians, the proposed World Heritage Site has been extended to include Leek and the Caldon Canal corridor, the Cheadle Coalfield and the Churnet Valley, which has been described as a miniature Ironbridge Gorge.

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Spitfire image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

 

1 comment

  1. Dave P says:

    The proposal for the North Staffordshire Coalfield to become a World Heritage Site could be the catalyst that finally breaths new life into our sub-region.

    North Staffordshire has a rich and interesting heritage, that is under-appreciated and under-valued, and is not shown the respect that other similar parts of Great Britain are.

    I would urge local people to back the Phoenix Trust’s initiative, and share memories and knowledge on this site.

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