At Barlaston, in the Wedgwood Museum and Visitor Centre is an exhibition of ceramics dating from the 18th century to the present day and including a comprehensive collection of the works of Josiah Wedgwood. Traditional skills are displayed in the demonstration area.
Burton on Trent
Legend has it that in the 13th century, at a time when Burton was involved in cloth-making, the Abbot realised the suitability of local water for brewing. Today the streets are permeated by its smell and the famous name of Bass is met at every turn, for the family gave the town some of its finest buildings, including the Town Hall. The Bass Museum traces the history of the brewing industry, and has many fascinating exhibits including a 1920’s Daimler shaped like a bottle.
The River Manifold meanders past this ancient village, which was given a substantial face-lift by Jesse Watts Russell in the last century, transforming it into a ‘model’ village. The Hall, also part of Russell’s programme, has some 50 wooded acres and houses, in part, a youth hostel. Parts of the local church date back to the 13th century. Among several items of interest is a shrine to St Bertram, supposedly the bringer of Christianity to this region. Still earlier are the two Anglo Saxon crosses in the churchyard.
Three miles west of Newcastle-under-Lyme, was once an administrative centre of the Knights Templar. The University of Keele, founded in 1962, is well known for its broadly based courses which combine Arts and Social Sciences; the modern buildings grouped around old Keele Hall form an American-style campus.
This is the name given to the towns which were joined to Stoke to make the modern city of Stoke-on-Trent: Tunstall,BursIem, Hanley, Fenton and Longton. The district is famous for it’s china and earthenware.
The chief attraction of this pretty village is the two-mile long Rudyard Reservoir, surrounded by lovely woods and hills. There are lakeside walks, and boating and fishing are permitted. Novelist and poet Rudyard Kipling was named after the village, where his parents became engaged.
Izaak Walton, author of the ‘fisherman’s bible’, The Compleat Angler, lived in a cottage here which has been restored and a small museum and a period garden established. Before he took up writing and fishing, Walton was an eminent ironmonger in London.
Shugborough Hall, home of the Earls of Lichfield and Staffordshire County Museum, lies five miles east of Stafford. The mansion, which dates back to 1693, contains a line collecnon of French furniture and some interesting relics of Admiral George Anson the intrepid navigator who inherited the property in 1720 and lived there until his death in 1762. Among the features of the garden are the ‘ChineseH ouse‘, the Cat’s Monument and the Tower of the Winds. The stable block houses the County Museum which contains exhibitions of costume, domestic life and crafts. Park Farm is an agricultural museum and raises rare breeds of animals. Lord Anson spent 9 years in Charleston as well as circumnavigating the world and exploring the South Seas.
Stafford comes as a surprise to many people: rather than an industrial centre of the North Midlands, it has more the air of a country town, with several historic houses, notably High House, a four-storey timbered building where Charles I and Prince Rupert once stayed. Izaac Walton, the ultimate authority on angling, was born in Stafford and baptised at the Norman font in the Church of St Mary. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, playwright and one time owner of Drury Lane Theatre in London, was Stafford’s MP from 1790 until 1806. He lived at Chetwynd House (1745), which now, rather quaintly, serves as the post office. Stafford used to have two castles: the one built by William I has vanished without trace; the other (Robert de Stafford’s) was rebuilt in the 19th century, and is now virtually a ruin once more.
Stoke-on-Trent is made up of the Potteries or has been since 1910 when the original six towns (Turnstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Fenton and Longton) were amalgamated. Arnold Bennett was brought up in the Potteries, describing it in Anna of the Five Towns. Bennett was educated at the Burslem Endowed School, which was formerly part of the Wedgwood Institute, and his family’s last home is now the Arnold Bennett Museum. Many people were responsible for creating the bone china industry, though Josiah Wedgwood (1730-95) was the great pioneer, technically, artistically and as initiator of improvements and extensions to the canal network. The smoothness of this form of transport made it the ideal form of conveyance for his fragile products, which were in great demand in the 19th century with the increasing popularity of tea and coffee. The rebuilt chapel of St Peter ad Vincula contains memorials to Wedgwood, Spode and Minton. The Spode factory can be toured and the Spode Copeland Museum has a splendid collection of ceramics nearly as good as that of the City Museum in Hanley, in which there are examples of the potter’s art from Roman times to the present day. At Longton, the Gladstone Pottery Museum is a restored Victorian Pottery, with traditional bottle ovens. There is also the fascinating Chatterly Whitheld Mining Museum at Turnstall. Another distinguished son of the Potteries was Reginald Mitchell (1895-4937), who designed the Spitfire aircraft.
Trentham Hall, property of the Dukes of Sutherland, was built in the 14th century, enlarged into a palatial mansion in the 19th century and has since been almost demolished. It appears in Arnold Bennett’s The Card. Trentham Gardens, landscaped principally by Sir Joseph Paxton, are Staffordshire’s largest pleasure ground. They have been open to the public since the early 1900’s half a century earlier than most. The Village of Trentham is an ancient settlement, whose history goes back to early Saxon times when Wulfhere, the first Christian King of Mercia, built a palace in the area in AD 660.
The castle, perched impressively on a rock, dates from the11th century and originally belonged to Henry de Ferrers, one of William the Conqueror‘s barons. One of its three towers was built by John of Gaunt in the 14th century, and from it are fine views over the oak-filled former royal forest of Needwood. Mary Queen of Scots was twice imprisoned here. The village itself, large and old, spreads down the hillside. Its wide main street offers a pleasant variety of Tudor, Georgian and Regency houses. The ‘Dog and Partridge‘, an attractive black and white, timbered inn, dates from the 15th century and was once the home of the Curzons of Kedleston Hall. St Mary’s Church, originally an 11th century priory, is one of the finest Norman churches in the Midlands and has a particularly imposing west front.
Locally pronounced ‘Utchettor’, this market town on the River Tean had held its charter, granted by Henry III, since 1251. It was here in 1648 that the remnants of the Duke of Wellington’s army surrendered. A sculpture on the market place conduit recalls how Samuel Johnson, in his 70’s, did ‘penance’ for refusing to look after his father’s bookshop as a boy, standing bareheaded in the rain, and a ceremony recalling this incident is held here each September.
The Dorothy Clive Garden is set in a 200-year-old gravel quarry at the top of a small hill. Within the existing woodland framework a mass of azaleas and rhododendrons have planted, and in the spring the banks are yellow with daffodils. The character of the setting has been enhanced by rock and water gardens.