Posts Tagged ‘Central School of Science and Technology’

Federation frustrated plans to give The Potteries a University

July 6th, 2013

Trentham Hall which could have been home to a Russell Group university

Not many students and staff attending Staffordshire University’s graduation ceremonies, which are being held on the Trentham Estate, will know that Trentham Hall could have been home to a leading Russell Group university like Manchester and Birmingham.

On February 12th, 1890, Francis Elliot Kitchener, the headmaster of Newcastle High School, attended the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner at the North Stafford Hotel.

While proposing the toast to “the staple trades of Staffordshire”, he suggested establishing a University College in Hanley which specialised in chemistry and engineering. Both the Sentinel and Thomas Turner (Staffordshire County Council’s director of technical education) supported the idea.

However, nothing was done until 1900 when a Council for the Extension of Higher Education in North Staffordshire was set up to help finance Oxford University’s Extension Courses in the region.

Taking up Kitchener’s idea, the council launched a public appeal to build a North Staffordshire College in The Potteries.

The proposed college, which would have had University status, was going to run full and part-time degree courses, train teachers and provide vocational training for men and women working in industry and commerce.

Although the estimated cost of the college was £20,000, there was wide spread support for the project.

By the end of 1904 pottery manufacturers, colliery owners, professional bodies and local town councils had promised to give between £10,000 and £11,000 towards the cost.

Staffordshire County Council offered to give £12,500 if matching funding could be raised. The Council for the Extension of Higher Education in North Staffordshire made plans to launch a final appeal. Before the appeal was launched, the Duke of Sutherland stepped in and offered to give Trentham Hall to the county council if it agreed to establish the college there.

Believing it had achieved its objective, the Council for the Extension of Higher Education disbanded and the county council made plans to transform the hall into a regional college.

While these plans were being made, a campaign to reform local government in The Potteries by replacing its six local authorities with a county borough council was gaining momentum.

Realising change was inevitable and that responsibility for education would be taken from it and given to the new county borough, Staffordshire County Council withdrew its support for the North Staffordshire College.

Hanley, which was already a county borough, refused to take over the project and the county council erected temporary buildings to house a mining school and a pottery school on land near Stoke Station.

At the end of the First World War another attempt to give The Potteries a University College failed.

The mining school and the pottery school became the Central School of Science and Technology, one of the technical schools in the region from which Staffordshire University can claim its descent.

Copyright David Martin – 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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Joseph Mellor – the man who turned down a peerage

April 13th, 2011

Joseph Mellor

The Mellor Building on Staffordshire University’s Stoke-on-Trent campus is named after Joseph Mellor who became the world’s leading ceramic scientist. Born in Huddersfield during 1869, he was educated at Otago University (New Zealand) and at Manchester University, where he undertook research into organic and inorganic chemistry.

Awarded the degree of doctor of science in 1902, Joseph came to North Staffordshire to teach chemistry at Newcastle-under-Lyme High School. Fascinated by clay technology and the technical problems faced by pottery manufacturers, he left Newcastle High in 1904 and became head of the Pottery School in Tunstall which provided technical and scientific training for managers in the pottery industry.

Shortly afterwards, the school moved to temporary premises in Victoria Road (now College Road), Stoke. In 1913 it became the Central School of Science and Technology’s ceramics department.  Appointed head of the department, Joseph established courses leading to degree level qualifications and organised research projects to help manufacturers produce better quality ware.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Britain’s small refractory industry used raw materials imported from Europe to make fire bricks and furnace linings. The steel industry lined its furnaces with Austrian made magnesite bricks and the inside walls of coke ovens were lined with fire bricks manufactured in Germany.

All trade with Germany and Austria ceased when the First World War started in August, 1914. Unable to obtain Austrian furnace linings and German fire bricks, the British steel industry faced a major crisis. It had to have fire bricks to reline existing furnaces and to build new ones to increase output. Unless alternative sources of furnace linings could be found quickly, steel production in the United Kingdom would cease. Deprived of steel, Britain’s shipbuilding, engineering and munitions industries could not produce the weapons the allies needed to fight the war.

Geological research at Liverpool University showed that with the exception of magnesite the United Kingdom had enough raw materials to manufacture furnace linings and fire bricks for the steel industry.

Greece agreed to supply Britain with magnesite but Greek magnesite had a different chemical composition from Austrian. Before it could be used to make fire bricks, Greek magnesite had to be synthesised.  Aware of the problems the country was facing, Joseph approached the government and offered to use his expertise to create a fire brick  for the steel industry. The government accepted his offer. Working with his students in the ceramics laboratory at the Central School of Science and Technology (Staffordshire University’s Cadman Building)  he developed a furnace lining that enabled steel production to continue without interruption. Although offered a peerage for his contribution towards the war effort, Joseph turned it down saying that he had freely given his scientific knowledge to help his country because ill-health prevented him joining the army and fighting in France.

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

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