Uttoxeter in 1817
Description from A Topographical History of Staffordshire by William Pitt (1817)
Uttoxeter is a handsome market-town of Totmanslow South, situated on a gentle eminence, near the western bank of the Dove. It is 14 miles distant from Stafford, and 135 from London. In the year 1811, Uttoxeter contained 605 inhabited houses, 628 families; 1376 males, and 1779 females: total of inhabitants 3155.
This town is undoubtedly a place of great antiquity, and from its inviting situation on the bank of a river, was probably inhabited before the invasion of the Romans. The most ancient record in existence, however, is dated in the year 1252, when Earl Ferrers granted a Charter to the Burgesses of Uttoxeter.
The situation of this town, on a dry and moderately-elevated soil, is equally pleasant and healthful; it is considered favourable to longevity, and is seldom visited by epidemical diseases. It contains fourteen streets and lanes. The houses in general are well built of brick, and commodious. The wharf belonging to the Grand Trunk Canal Company, with several large warehouses enclosed by a brick wall, and situated at the northern extremity of High-street, has contributed much to the prosperity of this small but flourishing town, which is thickly inhabited, and exhibits undoubted proofs of the opulence of its merchants, tradesmen, and inhabitants in general. There are several neat modern mansions of brick, built in the vicinity of the wharf, and about a quarter of a mile westward of it, stands the work-house, a neat, clean, and comfortable asylum for the indigent, with a large and well-cultivated garden.
The market is held on Wednesday, according to a Charter obtained by Thomas Earl of Lancaster, in the second year of the reign of Edward the Second, AD 1308. It is a very considerable cornmarket; the grain is not pitched, but sold by sample, and large quantities of corn are sent to different parts of England from this town by the canal. It is also a great market for butter, poultry, bacon, and all kinds of provisions; and several higlers, and other chapmen, come from the Potteries, Walsall, and Birmingham, and purchase and carry away large quantities of the produce of this fertile neighbourhood. The clerk of the market regulates the weights and measures, and endeavours to prevent forestalling, by ringing a bell at half-past ten o'clock; but the farmers evade this by taking their goods to the inns, where the chapmen from distant places privately purchase them. There is a fair held in the town every fortnight, for the sale of cattle and merchandize.
Uttoxeter is the residence of the High Constable for the Hundred, and a meeting of the Justices is held every fortnight, alternately, at the White Hart and Red Lion inns. There is only one public brewery in this town, but abundance of excellent ale is also brewed by the different innkeepers. There are two well-established banks in Uttoxeter, besides a branch of the Burton and Staffordshire bank, where business is transacted two days in the week.
The Church is an ancient fabric of stone: it consists of a nave, chancel, and two aisles; the roof is covered with lead, but the exterior part of the walls is much out of repair. The steeple and spire is about 170 feet high, and is a conspicuous object from the eminence between Mayfield and Ellerston above Dove-vale, at the distance of seven miles.
During a thunder-storm, about two o'clock on Sunday, February the 6th, 1814, the spire of Uttoxeter church was struck by lightning, which forced a large stone out about half way down, passed into the belfry, and penetrated through the wall of the chancel on the south side of the window. In consequence of this accident, part of the spire which had been damaged by the shock was taken down and re-built: when it was finished, and the gilt globe, cross, and vane set up, Margaret Allporte, then a chamber-maid at the Red Lion inn, ascended, stood on the ornamental stone-work under the globe, and kissed a young man (one of the masons), who stood on the opposite side, in the presence of a multitude of spectators. This female adventurer afterwards descended in safety, though it may truly be said that she ventured her neck for a kiss.
Uttoxeter Church is dedicated to St. Mary. It is a vicarage: the patrons are the Dean and Chapter of Windsor, and the present incumbent is the Rev. Fowler. There are several ancient monuments in this church, particularly an altar-tomb, with a mutilated figure in alabaster.
At the east side of the south aisle, a mural monument of marble is erected, with the following inscription:
"Thomas Oldfield, Esq. Major in the Marines, who fell during the memorable defence of St. Jean d'Acre, in Syria, by Sir Sydney Smith, against General Bonaparte and the army of Egypt, while leading a sortie made by the garrison. on the 7th April, 1799, for the purpose of destroying the enemy's approaches."
The east side of the north aisle is the cemetery of the Kinnersley family, of Loxley, and contains several monuments and inscriptions. Part of the chapel of the Minors family, of Hollingbury Hall, is now used as a vestry, by permission of the present descendant. A vault in the church-yard was the burying-place of the Degge family. Sir Simon Degge, the antiquary, was a native of Uttoxeter; he died at the age of 92, and was buried in this vault. The last male of the family, who was a pauper, died and was buried here about five years ago. The inscriptions on the tombstone have long been effaced by the footsteps of boys, and by the hand of time.
The vault of the Gardner family is in the church-yard, and a tomb-stone over it contains the following epitaph:
"In memory of Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner, late of his Majesty's eleventh regiment of dragoons, ia which he served with honour from a cornet, and died lamented, Aug. 1, 1762, aged 71 years. His widow, for the sincere affection she had for him, caused this stone to be erected."
We are informed in the manuscripts of Sir Simon Degge, that Uttoxeter was remarkable for the longevity of its inhabitants. In his records, dated 1726, he states that "in three weeks three men and two women were buried here, aged from 82 to 94." The only instances of longevity worthy of notice in the monumental inscriptions in the church-yard are, Samuel Bell, aged 86; John Hill, who died in November, 1814, aged 91; and Catherine his wife, who died in the same month and year, aged 86. But undoubtedly several old people have from time to time died in the town and neighbourhood, who have been buried in Uttoxeter church-yard, without a "frail memorial" of their longevity.
Besides the parish-church, Uttoxeter contains a meeting-house for the Quakers, who are both numerous and respectable in this town; a large chapel for the Calvinists, and another for Methodists. There is also a free-school in Uttoxeter, founded and endowed by that eminent mathematician, Thomas Allen.
The inhabitants of Uttoxeter and its vicinity, derive much of their opulence from the fertile pastures and meadows on the banks of the Dove. They include many hundred acres of land, composed of deep rich mellow loam, impregnated with a fertilizing sediment of mud and calcareous earth, deposited from time to time by the inundations of the river. The herbage is very fine, without any intermixture of rushes or other aquatic plants, and principally consists of grasses of the common sorts.
The plain on the Staffordshire bank of the Dove, opposite Uttoxeter, is nearly a mile in breadth, and comprises several thousand acres of luxuriant pasturage for black cattle, sheep, and a few horses. A very small proportion of this extensive space is fenced-in for hay, in consequence of the uncertainty and suddenness of the inundations of the Dove, for a great fall of rain, or the sudden thaw of snow in the Moorlands, causes a rapid and resistless flood, which soon overflows the banks of the river, and covers the level fields to a great extent; insomuch, that it requires much vigilance in the proprietors of flocks and herds to preserve them from drowning. The graziers, on an average, pay two pounds an acre for this excellent pasturage.