Burslem in 1817


Description from A Topographical History of Staffordshire by William Pitt (1817)


Burslem. This extensive and populous town, "which claims the honour of being the MOTHER OF THE STAFFORDSHIRE POTTERIES, stands on a rising ground about three miles and a half N.N.E. of Newcastle. It is a parish in Pirehill North, and includes the townships of Hulton Abbey and Sneyd. 

The manor of Burslem was in the possession of Robert de Stafford at the time of the General Survey. Henry de Audley was lord of it in the time of Henry the Third, and it continued in the possession of his family to the end of the sixteenth century. 

Burslem is undoubtedly the ancient seat of the Pottery, where earthenwares have been made many centuries, for Dr. Plott, who wrote in 1686, mentions the potteries of this place as the greatest of the kind, and gives a very minute description of the process of making earthenware at that time. We have devoted a separate article to the description of the various improvements made in his useful and elegant manufacture since Dr. Plott wrote. The vast increase of population, opulence, and knowledge, in this district of the county, affords a sufficient demonstration of its general utility, and the numerous manufactories, the extensive Warehouses, Kilns, and beautiful mansions of the master-potters, with the comfortable habitations of the thousands of industrious individuals employed in this lucrative branch of trade, present a scene of animation truly interesting to the patriotic observer. 

Burslem contains several modern streets, and the houses are well built of excellent brick burnt upon the spot. The Market-house is a neat modern structure of brick, situated near the centre of the town. It was erected in the year 1760, upon a piece of waste ground called May-pole bank, by the subscriptions of its inhabitants, to which the then Lords of the Manor, Sir Nigel Gresley, Bart, and Ralph Sneyd, Esq. gave .10. each. It is now a large and excellent market for butcher's meat, vegetables &c.: the market-days are Monday and Saturday, but the former is the principal. 

The Church, dedicated to St. John, is a large modern brick edifice, with an ancient stone tower : it stands in a low situation near the canal. The interior is neat and clean, arid furnished with a good organ. 

This Church is one of the rectories formed out of that of Stoke by an Act of Parliament, passed in 1805. The Rev. Edward Whieldon is rector, and the Rev. John Salt, curate. 

The late John Rogers, Esq. of Longport, left £100 towards raising the tower of Burslem Church, provided it be carried into effect within the given time. 

According to the Parish Register, there were 451 baptisms and 287 funerals at Burslem church, in 1816. 

There are six Meeting-houses for Dissenters of the different denominations, in this parish, including one for Roman Catholics, at Cobridge. The chapel for the Methodists of the Old Connexion, is the largest in the county, and is capable of holding 3000 persons. There are two very extensive Sunday Schools, at one of which 2000 children receive education and religious instruction : a library is attached to it for the use of the scholars. The other school is not so large. 

"Few places," says Dr. Aikin,"have so great a diversity of opinion on the score of religion as this; but the effusions of loyalty here upon most occasions may be fairly stated to be general, warm, and sincere." 

A large and commodious Subscription Warm Bath was opened at the Bicras Colliery in August 1816. It is supplied from three powerful steam-engines, the property of Messrs. Wood and Galdwell : the temperature of the water is generally from 85 to 90 Fahrenheit, but it can quickly be either diminished or increased at the option of the bather. It is circular, and sufficiently large for the exercise of swimming. The interior of the circular part is beautifully painted in landscapes, and sea views, by an artist of some eminence. 

Burslem is remarkable as being the place where the first clod of that great national undertaking, the Trent and Mersey Canal, was cut by the late Josiah Wedgwood, Esq.; and on July 26, 1816, the 50th anniversary of this memorable event was celebrated by a public dinner, at which all the principal manufacturers of Burslem were present. Enoch Wood, Esq. presided upon the occasion, and after a well-merited eulogium upon the late venerable Father 
of the Potteries (a native of Burslem), and the inventive genius of Brindley, he exhibited various ancient specimens of Earthenware, descriptive of the progressive state of the manufacture during the last 150 years, which he divided into epochs of fifty years, from the Butter Pot mentioned by Plott down to the time at which the excellent specimens of Queen's or Cream-coloured ware, Jasper, &c. left by the late Mr. Wedgwood, were produced. 

It has been often asked, Why the potters fixed themselves here, or the Potteries of this county continued to flourish more than those of any other part of the kingdom, or perhaps of the whole world ? The answer to this question appears tolerably obvious- The abundant and almost inexhaustless supply of clay and coal upon the spot, the inland situation of this district, which contributed to render labour cheap, and some other circumstances that will be noticed hereafter, combined to fix and establish this important branch of commerce where it had been so successfully commenced.  The measures or strata, by which the beds of coal are divided, consist most commonly of clays of different kinds, some of which make excellent fire-bricks, for building the potter's kilns, and saggars, (a corruption of the German Schragers, which signifies casea or supporters), in which the ware is burnt. Finer clays, of various colours and textures, are likewise plentiful in many places, most of them near the surface of the earth ; and of these the bodies of the wares themselves were formerly manufactured. The coals being then also got near the surface, were plentiful and cheap. In the time of Plott they were as low as two-pence the horse-load, which, at eight horse-loads to a ton (the usual estimation), amounts to only sixteen pence the ton. In 1795 the price of coals was from four to five shillings per ton at the works. Since that time a regular advance has taken place.  When they first began to get the coals here, it was done by removing the soil and clay which covered them : they were afterwards got in open pits, which, however, soon filled with water. Recourse was then had to draining, by laying soughs or gutters from the lowest part of the land near them, by which means the coals were procured for many years in this neighbourhood, until the upper parts or heads of the mine were generally .exhausted, and coals became scarce. 

In the year 1719, Lord Macclesfield, who owned an estate of about 150 acres, full of coals, adjoining the town of Burslem, entered into an agreement with the owners of the low meadow lands near the church, for permission to cut a sough or gutter from thence up to his lands, for the purpose of draining his mines. The completion of this gutter furnished an abundant supply for upwards of sixty years, but the coal that lay above this gutter or drain, at length became exhausted, and rendered the article scarce and dear. The proprietors of the coal lands then introduced horse-gins ; and steam-engines followed shortly afterwards. The deepest engine-pit in the year 1815 was 111 yards, which, if the owners find sufficient demand for the coal, will give a plentiful supply for many years to come. Coals are now sold here at 8s. 4d. per ton at the pit. 

The coals here range from north to south the whole length of the Potteries (say about nine or ten miles on the east of Burslem), and generally dip from east to west about one foot perpendicular in every four feet in length down the dip. Towards Mole Cop, which is four or five miles north of Burslem, the coals suddenly return along Harecastle Hills, having a greater dip, and range nearly from north to south for the length of four or five miles to the neighbourhood of Red-street, and dip south-east; from whence they again range north and south in the direction of Silverdale, a distance of four or five miles, dipping towards the east, and heading-out to the surface of the earth towards the west. 

It has been clearly ascertained that there are 32 different mines of coals, between Burslem and the ridge of hills a little to the east of Norton Church, of various thicknesses, generally from about three to ten feet each, laying in the following order, stratum, super-stratum, &c., and in that neighbourhood known to miners by the names annexed to each mine. At other parts of this range of mines, they are known by different names, and vary a little both in thickness and quality. 

1 Red Shag Mine, 

2 Brief Furlong ditto, 

3 Bass ditto, 

4 Little Rowe ditto, 

5 Peacock ditto, 

6 Spend Croft ditto, 

7 Great Row ditto, 

8 Cannel Row ditto, 

9 Chalky Row ditto, 

10 Row Hurst ditto, 

11 Burn Wood ditto, 

12 Little ditto, 

13 Four Foot ditto, 

14 Easling ditto, 

15 Topmost of Two Little Mines, 

16 Undermost ditto, ditto, 

17 Whitfield Mine, 

18 Church ditto, 

19 Eight Foot ditto, 

20 Ten Foot ditto, 

21 Bowling Alley ditto, 

22 Sparrow Buts ditto, 

23 Holly Lane ditto, 

24 Iron Stone Coal ditto, 

25 Flats ditto, 

26 Frog Row ditto, 

27 Cockshead ditto, 

28 Lime Kiln ditto, 

29 Ridgway Cannel ditto, 

30 Bullhurst ditto, 

31 Badiley Edge ditto, 

32 Deep Badiley Edge ditto. 

There are also several other thin veins of coal lying between the above mines, which are without names, and have never been got. 

In 1811, Burslem town and parish contained 1,658 houses, 1,720 families; 4,119 males, 4,506 females : total, 8,625 persons. Of this population, it was computed that about nine-tenths were employed in, or connected with, the pottery business. 

In 1653 the number of houses and population was so small, that, in the register of an adjoining parish it was then termed parochiella the little parish." 

COBRIDGE, is a large village, part in the parish of Burslem, and part in that of Stoke-upon-Trent, and contains several extensive potteries and collieries. The population is considerable, and it is a prosperous and increasing place. Here is a chapel for Roman Catholics.