Stoke-on-Trent

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Stoke-on-Trent (often abbreviated to Stoke), also called The Potteries is a city in Staffordshire, England, which forms a linear conurbation stretching for 12 miles (19 km), with an area of 36 square miles (93 km2). Together with the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke forms The Potteries Urban Area. This, together with the rural Staffordshire Moorlands area, forms North Staffordshire, which in 2001 had a population of 457,165.

The conurbation continues to be polycentric, having been formed by a federation of six separate towns and numerous villages in the early-20th century. The settlement from which the federated town (it was not a city until 1925) took its name was Stoke-upon-Trent, where the administration and chief mainline railway station were located. After the union, Hanley emerged as the primary commercial centre in the city, despite the efforts of its rival, Burslem. The three other component towns are Tunstall, Longton and Fenton.

Stoke-on-Trent is considered to be the home of the pottery industry in England and is commonly known as The Potteries. Formerly a primarily industrial conurbation, it is now a centre for service industries and distribution centres.

The name Stoke is taken from the town of Stoke-upon-Trent, the original ancient parish, with other settlements being chapelries. Stoke derives from the Old English stoc, a word that at first meant little more than place, but which subsequently gained more specific – but divergent – connotations. These variant meanings included dairy farm, secondary or dependent place or farm, summer pasture, crossing place, meeting place and place of worship. It is not known which of these was intended here, and all are feasible. The most frequently suggested interpretations derive from a crossing point on the Roman road that ran from present-day Derby to Chesterton or the early presence of a church, said to have been founded in 670 AD. Because Stoke was such a common name for a settlement, some kind of distinguishing affix was usually added later, in this case the name of the river.

The motto of Stoke-on-Trent is Vis Unita Fortior which can be translated as: United Strength is Stronger, or Strength United is the More Powerful, or A United Force is Stronger.

An early proposal for a federation took place in 1888, when an amendment was raised to the Local Government Bill which would have made the six towns into districts within a county of “Staffordshire Potteries”. It was not until 1 April 1910 that the “Six Towns” were brought together. The county borough of Hanley, the municipal boroughs of Burslem, Longton, and Stoke, together with the urban districts of Tunstall and Fenton now formed a single county borough of Stoke-on-Trent. The combined borough took the name “town of Stoke”.

In 1919, the borough proposed to expand further and annexe the neighbouring borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme and the Wolstanton United Urban District, both to the west of Stoke. This never took place, due to strong objections from Newcastle Corporation. A further attempt was made in 1930, with the promotion of the Stoke-on-Trent Extension Bill. Ultimately, Wolstanton was added to Newcastle-under-Lyme instead in 1932. Although attempts to take Newcastle, Wolstanton and Kidsgrove (north of Tunstall) were never successful, the borough did expand in 1922, taking in Smallthorne Urban District and parts of other parishes from Stoke upon Trent Rural District. The borough was officially granted city status in 1925, with a Lord Mayor from 1928. When the county borough of Stoke-on-Trent initially applied for city status in 1925, citing its importance as the centre of the pottery industry, it was refused by the Home Office as it had less than 300,000 inhabitants. The decision was overturned, however, when a direct approach was made to King George V who agreed that the borough ought to be a city. The public announcement of the elevation to a city was made by the King during a visit to Stoke on 4 June 1925.

The city’s county borough status was abolished in 1974, and it became a non-metropolitan district of Staffordshire. Its status as a local government unitary authority was restored as Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 1 April 1997 whilst remaining part of the ceremonial county of Staffordshire. For Eurostat purposes, it is a NUTS 3 region (code UKG23).

Since the 17th century, the area has been almost exclusively known for its industrial-scale pottery manufacturing. Companies such as Royal Doulton, Dudson Ltd, Spode (founded by Josiah Spode), Wedgwood (founded by Josiah Wedgwood) and Minton (founded by Thomas Minton) were established and based there. The local abundance of coal and clay suitable for earthenware production led to the early (initially limited) development of the local pottery industry. The construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal enabled the import of china clay from Cornwall together with other materials and facilitated the production of creamware and bone china.

Other production centres in Britain, Europe and worldwide had a considerable lead in the production of high quality wares. Methodical and highly-detailed research and experimentation, carried out over many years, nurtured the development of artistic talent throughout the local community and raised the profile of Staffordshire Potteries. This was spearheaded by one man, Josiah Wedgwood, and later by other local potters such as Thomas Whieldon, along with scientists and engineers. With the industry came a large number of notable ceramic artists including Clarice Cliff, Susie Cooper, Charlotte Rhead, Frederick Hurten Rhead and Jabez Vodrey.

North Staffordshire was a centre for coal mining. The first reports of coal mining in the area come from the 13th century. The Potteries Coalfield (part of the North Staffordshire Coalfield) covers 100 square miles (300 km2).

Striking coal miners in the Hanley and Longton area ignited the nationwide 1842 General Strike and its associated Pottery Riots.

When coal mining was nationalised in 1947, about 20,000 men worked in the industry in Stoke on Trent. Notable Collieries included Hanley Deep Pit, Trentham Superpit (formerly Hem Heath and Florence Collieries), Fenton Glebe, Silverdale, Victoria, Chatterley Whitfield and Wolstanton. The industry developed greatly, and new investments in mining projects were planned within the City boundaries as recently as the 1990s. However, 1994 saw the last pit to close as the Trentham Superpit was shut.

The Stoke mining industry set several national and international records. Wolstanton Colliery, when modernised, had the deepest mining shafts in Europe at 3,197 ft. In 1933, Chatterley Whitfield Colliery became the first Colliery in the country to mine one million tons of coal. In the 1980s Florence Colliery in Longton repeatedly set regional and national production records; in 1992 the combined Trentham Superpit (Hem Heath and Florence) was the first mine in Europe to produce 2.5 million saleable tonnes of coal.

Today the mines are all closed, though the scars of mining still remain on the landscape. Slag heaps are still visible on the skyline, now covered with flora and fauna. The Chatterly Whitfield site reopened as a museum two years after its closure in 1976. The museum closed in 1991 and the site became a local nature reserve. It was declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument by English Heritage in 1993. The abandoned subterranean mines are inaccessible, though they still add complications to many building projects and occasionally cause minor tremors, detectable only by specialised equipment.

The Phoenix Trust, an independent not-for-profit foundation, is campaigning to turn Stoke-on-Trent and the wider North Staffordshire Coalfield into a World Heritage Site due to its historic economic significance, its leading role in the industrial revolution, and as the birthplace of Primitive Methodism.

The iron and steel industries occupied important roles in the development of the city, both before and after federation. Especially notable were those mills located in the valley at Goldendale and Shelton below the hill towns of Tunstall, Burslem and Hanley. Shelton Steelworks’ production of steel ended in 1978—instead of producing crude steel, they concentrated on rolling steel billet which was transported from Scunthorpe by rail. The rolling plant finally closed in 2002. From 1864 to 1927 Stoke housed the repair shops of the North Staffordshire Railway and was the home of independent railway locomotive manufacturers Kerr Stuart & Co. Ltd. from 1881 to 1930.

Shelton Steel Works and the mining operations were heavily involved in the World War II industrial effort. Central to the RAF’s success was the Supermarine Spitfire designed by Reginald Mitchell who, whilst born at 115 Congleton Road in the nearby village of Butt Lane, had his apprenticeship at Kerr Stuart & Co. Ltd’s railway works.

The Michelin tyre company also has a presence in Stoke-on-Trent, and in the 1920s built their first UK plant in the city. In the 1980s nearly 9,000 workers were employed at the plant; in the early 2010s about 1,200 worked there.

Stoke-on-Trent is situated approximately half-way between Manchester and Birmingham and adjoins the town and borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, which is administered separately and is situated to the west. To the east is the Peak District, which includes part of the Staffordshire Moorlands District, as well as parts of Derbyshire, Greater Manchester and West and South Yorkshire.

For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region (code UKG23) and is one of four counties or unitary districts that compose the “Shropshire and Staffordshire” NUTS 2 region.

Stoke-on-Trent is often known as “the city of five towns”, because of the name given to it by local novelist Arnold Bennett. In his novels, Bennett used mostly recognisable aliases for five of the six towns (although he called Stoke “Knype”). However, Bennett said that he believed “Five Towns” was more euphonious than “Six Towns”, so he omitted Fenton (now sometimes referred to as “the forgotten town”).

A city made up of multiple towns, like Stoke, is known as a conurbation (although in this case the conurbation is bigger than Stoke itself, because the urban area of Stoke is now continuous with that of administratively-separate Newcastle).

The six towns run in a rough line from north to south along the A50 road – Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton. Although the city is named after the original town of Stoke, and the City Council offices are located there, the city centre is usually regarded as being in Hanley, which had earlier developed into a major commercial centre.

The city’s world-class ceramics collection is housed in the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Hanley. Etruria Industrial Museum on the Caldon Canal, and Gladstone Pottery Museum in a former potbank in Longton are dedicated to the city’s industrial heritage. Ceramica in Burslem used to be an interactive ceramics museum, but it closed in 2011 due to council funding cuts.

Most of the major pottery companies based in Stoke-on-Trent have factory shops and visitor centres. The £10-million Wedgwood Museum visitor centre opened in the firm’s factory in Barlaston in October 2008. The Dudson Centre in Hanley is a museum of the family ceramics business that’s partly housed in a Grade II listed bottle kiln. It is also a volunteer centre. Burleigh in Middleport is the world’s oldest working Victorian pottery. There are also smaller factory shops, such as Royal Stafford in Burslem, Moorcroft in Cobridge and Emma Bridgewater in Hanley. And there are ambitious plans to open the huge Chatterley Whitfield Colliery as a mining museum, since it has been given Ancient Monument status.

The Elizabethan Ford Green Hall is a 17th Century farmhouse which is now a historic house museum in Smallthorne.

Many local people consider Trentham Gardens to be in Stoke-on-Trent but it is actually in the Borough of Stafford. It is just south of the city and a £100 million refurbishment was completed in 2005. Next door is Trentham Monkey Forest, which houses 140 Barbary Macaques in a 60-acre (240,000 m2) enclosure that visitors can walk through.

The Alton Towers Resort is 10 miles (16 km) east of Stoke-on-Trent and is one of the United Kingdom’s best known attractions. The Waterworld indoor swimming complex on Festival Park near Hanley is also a significant children’s attraction.

Each of the six towns in Stoke-on-Trent has at least one park. At nine hectares, Burslem Park is one of the largest registered Victorian parks in the UK. Park Hall Country Park in Weston Coyney is a National Nature Reserve, and its sandstone canyons are a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Hartshill Park in Stoke is also a nature reserve, and Bucknall Park is home to the City Farm. Westport Lake in Longport is the largest body of water in Stoke-on-Trent and has a nature reserve.

 

North Staffordshire is a world centre for fine ceramics—a skilled design trade has existed in the area since at least the 12th century. But in the late 1980s and 1990s Stoke-on-Trent was hit hard by the general decline in the British manufacturing sector. Numerous factories, steelworks, collieries, and potteries were closed, including the renowned Shelton Bar steelworks. This resulted in a sharp rise in unemployment in the ‘high-skilled but low-paid’ workforce. However, by 2004 the unemployment rate had recovered to almost the same as in the wider West Midlands.

The pottery firm Wedgwood and its subsidiary Royal Doulton are based in nearby Barlaston, although much production now takes place in the firm’s Indonesian factory. Portmeirion is based in Stoke town, and now owns the Spode and Royal Worcester ceramics brands. Ceramics firm Emma Bridgewater is based in Hanley; Burleigh Pottery is in Middleport; Wade Ceramics is in Etruria; Moorcroft and Royal Stafford are based in Burslem; Aynsley China is in Longton, and is one of the last remaining manufacturers of bone china in the city. Fine china manufacturer Dudson have premises in Hanley and Burslem. Churchill China have their main factory in Tunstall, while hotelware manufacturer Steelite is based in Middleport.

About 9,000 firms are based in the city. Amongst the more notable are bet365, founded by local businessman and Stoke City chairman Peter Coates; and Phones4U, a large retailer of mobile phones started by John Caudwell.

The Michelin tyre company has a complex in the city which houses its commercial head office, training centre and a truck tyre re-treading facility. Sainsbury’s supermarket and The Co-operative Pharmacy have large warehouses in the city. Vodafone has a large call centre on Festival Park and the UK subsidisary of the lubricant manufacturer Fuchs Petrolub has its head office at its factory in Hanley. There is a steel foundry owned by Goodwin Steel Castings Ltd in Joiner’s Square. Premier Foods make Mr Kipling slices and Cherry Bakewells in Trent Vale. The Co-operative Travel had its head office in Burslem, before it merged with Thomas Cook in 2010.

KPMG’s Competitive Alternatives 2004 report declared Stoke-on-Trent to be the most cost-effective place to set up a new UK business. The city currently has the advantage of offering affordable business property, while being surrounded by a belt of affluent areas such as The Peak District, Stone, south Cheshire, and having excellent road links via the A500 and nearby M6 and rail links.

The main shopping centre is the Potteries Shopping Centre in Hanley, which has 561,000 sq ft (52,100 m2) of retail space with 87 units including a Debenhams anchor store, (formerly Lewis’s) and major stores for Next, New Look, Monsoon, Gap, HMV, Game, River Island, H. Samuel, La Senza, Disney Store and Primark. Marks & Spencer, BHS and T.K. Maxx have stores in Hanley. A new shopping centre on the site of Hanley’s current bus station is due to open in 2015. The other five towns of the city all have their own smaller town centres. Festival Park is a large retail and business park in Etruria, built on the former Garden Festival site. There are also retail parks in Tunstall, Fenton and Longton. A new retail park is being built in Longton.

Other notable business people from the city include Reginald H. Jones (Chairman of General Electric), venture capitalist Jon Moulton, and John Madejski (chairman of Reading F.C. and former owner of Auto Trader).

Night-time industry has boomed in recent years, with Hanley becoming increasingly popular for its nightclubs, theatres, pubs, bars and restaurants.

The city was only one of twelve English districts with elected mayors to use the mayor and council manager system rather than the mayor and cabinet system, although it was removed following a local referendum on 23 October 2008.

On 23 October 2008, voters returned to the polls to choose between modifying the system (to Mayor and Cabinet) or abolishing the position of elected Mayor. Votes were 21,231 for abolition and 14,592 for modification on a turnout of 19.23%.

Following a city-wide referendum abolishing the position of elected mayor, a Leader and Cabinet system was adopted on 5 June 2009. The Leader of the Council is elected by councillors. Each cabinet member makes the decisions on their portfolio area and explains the decisions at the monthly cabinet meetings.

The position of Lord Mayor is largely ceremonial. The title of Lord Mayor was first conferred on the City of Stoke-on-Trent by King George V on 10 July 1928. The role of Lord Mayor is decided upon by a vote amongst the elected councillors; the candidates are also selected from the councillors.

Stoke-on-Trent does not have a cathedral, but the city’s main civic church is Stoke Minster.

Primitive Methodism was founded by Hugh Bourne, a native of Stoke-on-Trent, at a public gathering in the nearby village of Mow Cop. He originally followed the Wesleyan form of Methodism but in 1801 he reformed the Methodist service by conducting it outside. He founded the first chapel in Tunstall with his brother in 1811. He promoted Sunday schools as a method of improving children’s education, advocated the equal treatment of women and men, and was involved in the temperance movement. It was from the Primitive Methodists that many early trade unions found their early leaders. Also of note is John Lightfoot, a 17th century churchman and rabbinical scholar.

The city’s first purpose-built mosque is due to be completed in 2011. The city’s only synagogue closed in 2006, and was toke-on-Trent is linked to the nearby M6 motorway at junctions 15 and 16 by the A500. Locally the A500 is known as the D road, as its loop between the two motorway junctions, along with the straight section of the M6 between the junctions, resembles the shape of a capital letter D. Additionally, the number 500 expressed in Roman numerals is D. The A50 cuts through the city, providing an east-west link between the M6 and M1 motorways. Improvements to the road network have led to the construction of product distribution centres in the area.

Stoke-on-Trent railway station is a mainline station on the Stafford-Manchester Line (part of the West Coast Main Line between Manchester and London) and the Crewe-Derby Line. Virgin Pendolino train 390029 is named after Stoke-on-Trent. Other railway stations in the city include Longport and Longton. Etruria station was closed in September 2005.

The city is served by the Trent and Mersey Canal, which sees traffic of some 10,000 boats a year. Additionally, the Caldon Canal branches off from the Trent and Mersey Canal at Etruria, within the city boundaries, going to Froghall with one branch going to Leek. Numerous improvements to the canal system have recently been made.

One of the legacies of the pottery industry was Stoke’s own version of the Wakes week. Although better known in industrial Lancashire, the Stoke week is known locally as the Potters’ Holidays or Potters’ Fortnight and occurred the last week in June, the first week in July and another week in August. This gave what appeared to be strange school holidays—with the summer term having a two-week break at the end of June, then children returning to school for three weeks before taking a five-week summer holiday. This observance has disappeared from the local schools, due to decreased emphasis on traditional industries.

The major art gallery is The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, located in Hanley. It contains a collection of fine ceramics, a rotating programme of exhibitions and a permanent collection. In 2010, it became one of the permanent homes of the Staffordshire Hoard, the most important collection of Anglo-Saxon gold yet found.

The city’s Cultural Quarter in Hanley contains the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, the Regent Theatre and the Victoria Hall. There are also smaller elements, including the independent Dazed Gallery and the subsidised student-run gallery AirSpace. The Artbay Gallery in Fenton has a contemporary range of original works as well as limited editions. It is also the home of many of North Staffordshire’s most renowned painters, including “The Potteries Lowry” aka Sid Kirkham, Vicky Mount, Dale Bowen, Kelvin Evans and Harry Davies.

Edwardian School of Art in Burslem has been refurbished with £1.2 million, and is now run without a public subsidy. The Hothouse Centre for Ceramic Design, and the Roslyn Works complex of craft studios operate in Longton. Also based in Burslem is the Barewall Gallery, which has a large collection of work by local artists including mixed media artists Rachel Grant and Nicholas Hudson Paine; painters Paine Proffitt, Rob Pointon, Ivan Taylor, David Brammeld, Saw Law Webb; and in ceramics, fine artist Philip Hardaker and local potters Hannah Belfield and Kevin Millward and Alex Shimwell.

Stoke-on-Trent is the birthplace of several artists including Arthur Berry (also a novelist, playwright & poet), Arnold Machin (sculptor, coin & stamp designer) and Sidney Tushingham, A.R.E.

The city’s main theatre is the 1,603-person capacity Regent Theatre, which is in Hanley. Nearby is the main concert hall, the Victoria Hall. The purpose-built theatre-in-the-round New Vic Theatre is just outside the city’s boundary in Newcastle-under-Lyme. The Victorian Kings Hall in Stoke town hall is used for smaller events. In Burslem, the Queens Theatre has been refurbished and restored at private expense. The Stoke-on-Trent Repertory Theatre is based in a ten-year-old building in Stoke and puts on amateur productions. The previously city council-run Mitchell Memorial Theatre, based in Hanley, completed its £4.3m refurbishment in 2011 and is now known as the Mitchell Arts Centre. It is named in honour of one of the city’s most famous sons, Reginald Mitchell, designer of the legendary World War II fighter plane, the Spitfire.

There is an Odeon multiplex cinema on Festival Park. The independent volunteer-run art-house cinema, The Stoke-on-Trent Film Theatre, is located very near the railway station, and shows art-house and subtitled films, as well as films that have finished their run in larger cinemas.

Through the works of Arnold Bennett, described by some as the greatest realist writer of the 20th century, the “Six Towns” were sometimes known as the “Five Towns”. In his novels, Bennett wrote about local events in the 19th century and consistently changed all proper names and associations, thus Hanley became Hanbridge and Burslem became Bursley. It is thought that Bennett chose to write about five towns, rather than six, because he refused to acknowledge Fenton as a proper town.The “Six Towns” were not federated until 1910 when Fenton was still relatively new; it was also the smallest in terms of population and area. Bennett also changed the name of the local newspaper from The Sentinel to The Signal, an identity that was subsequently adopted by the city’s commercial radio station.

Staffordshire Oatcakes (very different from the Scottish version and traditionally made in corner-shop style oatcake bakeries) are a much-loved local culinary specialty, though fame has yet to travel far outside Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire. They remain popular although are no longer the cheap alternative to bread. Oatcakes can be eaten cold or hot with any sweet or savoury fillings. Lobby, a stew not unlike Lancashire hotpot, is still made by local people.

The Potteries has a distinctive local dialect. Whilst it contains many non-standard words (e.g. nesh meaning “soft, tender, or to easily get cold”; and slat meaning “to throw”), the best known word is duck, which is used as a greeting to either men or women. It is believed to be derived from the Saxon word ducas, used to indicate respect; in Middle English this became duc or duk, which denotes a leader; in turn, it became the title Duke and the Old French word ducheé, which indicates the territory ruled by a Duke.

Another common variation on the standard English dialect is the use of the word shug for sugar. This is usually used as a term of endearment when closing a sentence, as in “Ta Shug” (thank you, sugar).

A local cartoon called May un Mar Lady, published in the newspaper The Sentinel and written in Potteries dialect, first appeared on 8 July 1986 and ran for over 20 years. Since the death of cartoonist Dave Follows in 2003, the full twenty-year run (7,000) of May un Mar Lady strips are being republished in The Sentinel as May un Mar Lady Revisited, keeping the dialect alive for another twenty years.

Alan Povey’s Owd Grandad Piggott stories which have aired on BBC Radio Stoke for a number of years are recited in the Potteries dialect by the author.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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