Meeting Reports - 2011
Bridges of Biddulph - 19th December 2011
A Film Show by Peter Durnall - 21st November 2011
History on Wheels - 17th October 2011
Border History Fair - 8th October 2011
The NCB Collieries of North Staffordshire - 19th September 2011
A Summer Walk to Biddulph Old Hall
and Lea Forge from the Talbot Inn - 20th June 2011
Visit to Pugin's Church, Cheadle - 4th June 2011
More Recent Developments at Biddulph Old Hall - 16th May 2011
Researching Your Family Name - 18th April 2011
AGM followed by Searching for Biddulph Ancestors - 21st March 2011
Working at the Victoria Colliery - 21st February 2011
The Heavy industries of the Biddulph Valley
Especially the Engineers Cowlishaw Walker - 17th January 2011
Bridges of Biddulph - 19/12/2011
The December meeting was held on Monday December 19th where the Meeting Chairman, Mr. Roland Machin, introduced Mr. John Sherratt whose annual Christmas lecture was a talk with slides on his research into the “Bridges of Biddulph”.
The earliest roads and paths in the Biddulph area were the product of the drover’s roads which passed through the area to the Middlewich salt mines. They preceded the Roman roads and were also used for the driving of cattle, sheep and geese to market. The latter would be given shoes of tar and sand to protect the webbed feet from damage. As well as being marked by stones, for example the Red Cross may be one of these; they also involved early bridges which were usually large single slabs of rock.
The responsibility for repairing highways and bridges originally rested in the area with the landowners, but was probably not easily enforced against them. Parliament placed the upkeep of bridges on local settlements or the containing county under the Bridges Act 1530 and in 1555 the care of roads was similarly devolved to the parishes as statute labour under the Highways Act 1555. Every adult inhabitant of the parish was obliged to work four consecutive days a year on the roads, providing their own tools, carts and horses. The work was overseen by an unpaid local appointee, the Surveyor of Highways. The Surveyor would employ a team of four to six men for four to six days at one shilling a day. Mr Sherratt gave many examples of the costing of this work including the provision of stone from local quarries, its transportation by cart and labour to complete repairs. For example, in 1656 Mr Thomas Stonehewer paid for a new cavell and in 1664 Mr. Gosling paid one shilling for a new gravel raker which was charged to the maintenance of the bridges.
Although not a Bridge this archway view of the Dalhia Walk at Biddulph Grange Gardens is a reminder of the responsibility of the landowners to build and maintain bridges.
There are a number of bridges to the north of Biddulph on both the Congleton and Grange Roads which were built by the local land-owners, for example, the Heath or Bateman families. They were also responsible for a number of wooden and stone bridges on the footpaths in the area including what is now the Biddulph Country Park including the Himalayan Bridge.
It was not until 1654 that road rates were introduced. However, the improvements offered by paid labour were offset by the rise in the use of wheeled vehicles which greatly increasing wear to the road surfaces. The government reaction to this was to use legislation to limit the use of wheeled vehicles and also to regulate their construction. A vain hope that wider rims would be less damaging briefly led to carts with sixteen inch wheels. They did not cause ruts but neither did they roll and flatten the road as was hoped. In many cases Mr. Sherratt said these made many roads impassable and a law was introduced to restrict the width of wheels and tyres. Many of Biddulph’s bridges were originally built in the 17th century: examples are Baker Bridge in 1686, Barns and Upper Marsh Bridge in 1699 and Dubb’s bridge in 1701.
Biddulph also had an early turnpike road where travellers paid tolls to be used for road upkeep and the first of these was authorised in 1663. They were initially administered directly by the Justices of the Peace in Quarter Sessions but an Act of Parliament in 1706 allowed the creation of Turnpike Trusts. The trustees could erect gates as they saw fit, demand statute labour or a cash equivalent, and appoint surveyors and collectors; in return they repaired the road and put up mileposts. Initially trusts were established for limited periods of twenty one years. The expectation was that the trust would borrow the money to repair the road and repay that debt over time with the road then reverting to the parishes. In reality the initial debt was rarely paid off and the trusts were renewed as needed. The system was never properly reformed but from the 1870s Parliament stopped renewing the Acts and roads began to revert to local authorities, the last trust vanishing in 1895. However, some bridges have continued to be subject to tolls.
In 1767 when one of the local bridges was washed away a double ended saw was purchased and a man at Bosley was paid to build a centrum (the wooden frame made to support the arch) and the following men were employed on the rebuilding – Thomas Brammer, John Cotterill, John Nixon and Joshua Stanley.
The Local Government Act 1888 created County Councils and gave them responsibility for maintaining the major roads. The abiding relic of the English toll roads is the number of houses with names like "Turnpike Cottage" or the inclusion of "Bar" in place names and occasional road name. Mr. Sherratt stated that the bridges built by the Council in Biddulph can be identified by the style of stone work and abutments, for example, Fall’s Road bridge. The building of new bridges for the railway route through the valley involved replacing a number of the bridges along Congleton Road. Mr. Sherratt then took the meeting on a slide show tour of the bridges of Biddulph commenting on the style, type and builders of each of the structures.
Perhaps Biddulph’s newest bridge, built as part of the National Cycle Network. Following a question about the gateway bridges of Biddulph the meeting was surprised to find that the railway ‘bridge’ close to the Castle Inn on the access from the north is officially a tunnel. To the south the gateway was the colliery bridge between Brown Lees and Victoria Colliery which led to a discussion about whether a double decker bus could travel under it.
Mr. Roland Machin then thanked Mr. Sherratt for his interesting and amusing look at his research into the structures in Biddulph which many take for granted – the bridges. Mr Derek Wheelhouse, Chairman of the Society, then listed the titles of John’s talks since 2002 showing the diversity of Mr. Sherratt’s research and then asked for a further round of applause.
A Film Show by Peter Durnall - 21/11/2011
The Chairman of the Society, Mr. Roland Machin, began the meeting promptly with the Society notices. He thanked Mr. Nigel Daly and Mr. Brian Vowles for the two evening visits by members of the Society to Biddulph Old Hall on the 7th and 14th of November – for the warming fires and punch and usual generous welcome and informative tour of the building. Secondly, he informed members of a book launch in Biddulph Library between 10 and 12 noon on Saturday December 3rd 2011 when Mr. John Shapcott will be signing copies of some newly discovered works of Arnold Bennett entitled "Lord Dover and other Lost Stories". Thirdly, he informed the members that the Society had been given a certificate at the recent 'Biddulph in Bloom Award Ceremony' for its financial contribution following last season's concert. Then he introduced Mr. Peter Durnall who entertained the Society with a series of beautifully produced films.
The first film was made as a record of the first Bateman School at Knypersley crossroads. Built in 1850 to a design of Richard Charles Hussey this was the site of the first school built by the Bateman's at Knypersley. The building remained in use until the First School was built in 1911 (which is just celebrating its first 100 years). The school was then used as a church hall until the new Bateman Centre was built a couple of years ago. Peter was given permission at short notice to film the building before the change of owners and he called on local historian and writer Mr. Bill Ridgway to do a tour and explain the main features before any alterations are made. Many of the school features – coat pegs, book cupboards, gas lights and other fittings are still in place. The oak main door and side gate, the pyramidal belfry tower and clock face are amongst the many original features. The main building is of local millstone (probably from Rock End) and engineering brick and the boundary walls include the iconic circular mouldings allegedly rounded at the bottom by students sitting with their legs through the holes facing the First School.
The second film was a look at the relationship between James Brindley and Josiah Wedgwood and the Trent and Mersey Canal. This cross-country canal through the North Midlands offers excellent views over the Cheshire Plain and impressive engineering feats – including Harecastle Tunnel, the first of its kind. The Trent & Mersey Canal was the most ambitious part of canal pioneer James Brindley's plan to connect the principal rivers of England. Its importance was recognised by its early name of the 'Grand Trunk' Canal. The canal was promoted by pottery producers such as Josiah Wedgwood, eager to abandon the rutted roads of the area for this new, smooth form of transport. Consequently, it runs through the heart of the Potteries and also offers rural cruising through Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire.
The third film was a visit to Lathkill Dale where the river Lathkill rises just below Monyash and flows down to meet the Wye just below Haddon Hall. The valley it forms is one of the finest of the limestone dales and the upper part is a National Nature Reserve, in the care of English Nature. It is a famous trout-fishing river, and Izaak Walton declared it to be the 'purest and most transparent stream' he had seen. Upper Lathkill Dale is dry where it crosses the Monyash to Bakewell road, just below Monyash, and it continues dry for about a kilometre until it reaches Lathkill House Cave, where the water which has flowed underground from the Flagg area emerges from the cave – or at least it does when the weather is wet – in times of drought there may be no water in the stream for another kilometre. Below Lathkill House Cave the valley widens into a grand, deep valley with steep, rocky sides. This becomes even grander when it is joined from the south by Cales Dale, where a footbridge spans the stream and there is the remains of an old sheep wash which was used until the 1940s. This area of the dale is rich in wild flowers, and in spring the sides of the dale can be covered with orchids and cowslips. There are many water-based birds too – wagtails, dippers, water hens and coots for instance.
The section of the dale between here and Over Haddon was once home to several very profitable lead mines, of which the most important was the Mandale Mine, situated near where the Mandale valley joins Lathkill Dale from the north, about a kilometre upstream of Over Haddon. This mine was worked from the 13th century until operations finally ceased in 1851, defeated by water problems. Sections of the workings may still be seen, especially the aqueduct which carried water to a large water wheel which was once used to pump water from the mine.
Bateman's House is a mine building that was lived in by the agent for the mine and his family which was built over a 60-foot mineshaft. A project, funded by English Heritage, English Nature and the Heritage Lottery Fund, began in 1998 and involved stabilising the surviving ruins of Bateman's House and installing a new access bridge over the river, a staircase underground, information panels and lighting to make a visitor centre.
After passing Over Haddon the river continues in a heavily wooded, steep-sided valley to emerge at Conksbury bridge, where the mediaeval bridge carries the Youlgreave road across the river. Here there are numerous fish-ponds and the character of the river softens, flowing in a gentler, less steep-sided valley to meet the Bradford at Alport and then continue another 3 kilometres to the Wye.
The fourth film was an atmospheric film of Autumn at Greenway Bank featuring the mists and wildlife at this special time of year especially when the early morning and late evening sun glows red across the water. Situated less than two miles from Biddulph and only five miles from the centre of the Potteries, Greenway Bank Country Park offers a variety of attractive scenery within its 114 acres. Car parks give easy access to lawns and shrubberies, which in the spring are ablaze with colour from rhododendrons, azaleas and daffodils. Beyond these, extensive areas of quiet woodland around the Serpentine Pool provide the perfect setting for a longer walk.
Staffordshire County Council bought the land in 1973, comprising part of two former country estates. Greenway Bank House was badly decayed and had to be demolished but some of the old outbuildings were renovated and now form an estate yard.
The final film, Biddulph in Bloom, showed the glorious displays of flowers created by Hilda Sheldon and her many volunteers this year. On a cold November evening this was a perfect reminder of how lucky Biddulph is to have these splashes of wonderful colour around the town.
Mr. Roland Machin, in thanking Mr. Peter Durnall for his absorbing talk, spoke for everyone when he said that the Society and the area should be proud that we had such an accomplished film maker. Someone capable of producing both local history and wildlife films to such a high and award winning standard. These sentiments were echoed by Mr Derek Wheelhouse, Chairman of the Society who then asked for a further round of applause. Mr Machin then invited the audience to attend the next meeting of the Society. This will be on the 19th of December in Biddulph Library at 7 p.m. when Mr. John Sherratt will present his Christmas lecture "The Bridges of Biddulph and other stories".
History on Wheels - 17/10/2011
Mr. Roland Machin introduced the evening's speaker Mr. Geoffrey Browne, with his illustrated talk "History on Wheels", to a packed audience. Mr. Browne began his talk by describing his career as a motoring journalist and his interest in all forms of wheeled transport but particularly the motor car.
Using some excellent photographs he showed the evolution from hand-carts, steam traction engines, steam railways, early petrol lorries - with pictures of three lorries which were part of the fleet of the Adam's Butter of Leek company - and the bicycle. He said it was important to remember how all of these methods of transport overlapped both in their use and manufacture. This was demonstrated by the first modern type of bicycle, a Rover built by J.K. Starley at the Meteor Cycle Works in Coventry in 1886. Rover started making cars in 1904.
The early motor cars usually belonged to the rich, for example, Sir Philip Brocklehurst, of Swythamley Hall, owned a Rolls-Royce which had originally belonged to Charles Rolls, and his family bought a second equally expensive Rolls-Royce about the same time. Rolls had fitted his car with a special body to carry his hot air balloon, as he was becoming more interested in aviation than cars, and he was in fact the first British person to be killed in a flying accident, when his Wright biplane crashed at Bournemouth in 1910. Philip Brocklehurst fitted this "balloon car" with a more conventional touring body.
As cars became more popular magazines were written for the enthusiast. Autocar was founded in 1895 and a new breed of journalist appeared. Lots of books have been published about motoring, for example David Scott-Moncrieff of Leek wrote four sought-after examples, Escape from Peace (published in 1949); Veteran and Edwardian Motor-cars (first published in 1955); The Thoroughbred Motor car 1939-40 (published in 1963), and An Official History of Mercedes-Benz. These and many thousands of other books would fill libraries on this single subject. Cars became more popular and as they became relatively cheaper after the Second World War new groups of motorists emerged. All sorts of enthusiasts appeared from those preserving a single model, manufacturer, type or vintage who formed clubs to meet, tinker, compare and even race the vehicles they lavished time and money upon. Mr. Browne showed examples of all of these elements including the gentleman driving his 1914 car past a line of parked minis to do the weekly shop in the 1960s, informal vintage car racing in the 1950s, with a nonchalant view of safety and a field of neatly parked Morris Minors at one of the many classic vehicle fairs. Enthusiasts also began to repair and renovate vans, lorries and buses to a condition often better than when they were manufactured.
This photograph belonging to Mr. Geoffrey Browne shows a car being returned to a street legal condition after being raced.
Mr Browne also introduced the meeting to a number of photographs of characters who support motoring events including Prince Michael of Kent, a regular entrant in the London to Brighton run; Maurice Gatsonides, a champion rally driver who invented a camera to record his speeds as he drove, to optimise his performance - still used as the speed camera or GATSOmeter; Lord Montagu, who created the National Motor Museum; John Haynes, the book publisher; Lord Marsh who runs the Goodwood Festival of Speed; and Stirling Moss.
The museums of motoring include Beaulieu the world famous National Motor Museum which is at Palace House, home of the Montagu family which is located within easy reach of the popular tourist destinations of Bournemouth, Southampton and Winchester. The Haynes International Motor Museum, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset is the UK's largest exhibition of cars from all round the world with over 400 vehicles from nostalgic classics of the 50s and 60s, glorious Bentleys and Rolls Royces, to exciting super cars like the Jaguar XJ220. Finally, the Earl of March founded the UK's most celebrated motor sport meeting, the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which will take place in 2012 from June 29th to July 1st.
The final set of photographs told the story of the London to Brighton run, starting with the car Genevieve, which now resides in the Louwman Collection at the National Automobile Museum in Holland. Mr. Browne believes the classic film Genevieve captures the spirit of the run, apart from racing, which is strictly forbidden. As a reminder the story of the film revolves round two veteran cars and their crews participating in the annual Veteran Car Run. Alan McKim (John Gregson), a young barrister and his wife Wendy (Dinah Sheridan), drive Genevieve, a 1904 Darracq. Their friend Ambrose Claverhouse (Kenneth More), a brash advertising salesman, his latest girlfriend, fashion model Rosalind Peters (Kay Kendall) and her pet St. Bernard ride in a 1904 Spyker.
On Sunday November 6th this year the Royal Automobile Club's London to Brighton Veteran Car Run will see over 500 Veteran vehicles unite for the 115th anniversary of the greatest free to spectate motoring event in the country. Cars from as far afield as China, Australia, South Africa, the USA and across Europe will line up to take the 75th anniversary start from Hyde Park and embark on the 60-mile historic drive to the seafront at Madeira Drive, Brighton. This year it will include many pre-1905 Veteran cars, 47 of which date prior to 1900. An astonishing 149 makes will be represented, giving the thousands of spectators lining the historic 60-mile route a true glimpse of the halcyon age that helped bring about the birth of motoring innovation. Mr. Browne said that Crawley was a particularly good place to see the cars.
Mr Geoffrey Browne, sitting on the right, completes the London to Brighton Rally in a 1904 Vauxhall car
In a lively question and answer session Mr Browne reiterated just how much car preservation in all its forms is worth to the British economy - totalling many millions of pounds. Asked which of today's modern cars would be a classic he suggested the Audi Quattro and Volkswagen Golf could reach this status, plus marques such as Jaguar and Aston Martin. However, he warned that it will take an engineer and not a tinkerer to maintain them as with most modern cars when you lift the bonnet you find a label stating "Do Not Touch".
Mr. Roland Machin, was moved to reminisce about his early motorcycle before thanking Mr. Geoffrey Browne for his absorbing talk and invited the audience to attend the next meeting of the Society on November 21st.
Border History Fair - 8/10/2011
The Border History Fair was held in the Town Hall and Victoria Centre, Biddulph on October 8th 2011.
The Border History Group is a loose association of the history societies of the North Staffordshire and South Cheshire area. It includes the Family History Society of Cheshire (Alsager Branch), Audley and District Family History Society, Biddulph & District Genealogy & Historical Society, Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy & Heraldry (North Staffordshire Branch), Burslem History Club, Congleton History Society, Leek & District Historical Society, North Staffordshire Historians’ Guild and Staffordshire Parish Register Society.
Mr. Robert Farrell (acting Chairman of the Border History Group) helped the Biddulph History Society to organise this year's event. Elaine Heathcote and David Outhwaite led the BDGHS efforts with the assistance of Kath Hopson and Susan Jones who all worked on preparing the Town Hall and Victoria Centre for the one day event.
The Border History Group thanks the following societies and stall holders who took part: Town Hall - Betley Local History Society (HS), BDGHS, Biddulph Grange Gardens, British Legion, Burslem History Club, Chris Makepeace, Congleton HS, FHS of Cheshire (David Johnson), FHS of Congleton, Family & Community Historical Soc., Friends of Chatterley Whitfield, Glyn Thursfield and Knypersley History. Victoria Centre - Audley & District Family HS, Bank House Books, Bloor Society, Border History, BMSGH. (North Staffs), Elton Prints, FHS of Alsager, Military & Family Genealogy and the Old Nortonian Society.
Maria Shaw and her colleagues provided catering (hot and cold drinks, bacon sandwiches and cakes at the Chapel) making an excellent amount of money for the Chapel charities. Madeline Lovatt, Kath Hopson and Susan Jones provided drinks and biscuits at the Town Hall at very short notice.
Elaine Heathcote, Kath Walton and Michael Turnock of the BDGHS provided family history research in the Salisbury Room. Derek Wheelhouse and Roland Machin manned the BDGHS stall on the day. Thanks to all those members of the history groups who took the money on the door.
Thanks go to the people who provided talks in the Chapel on the day: Philip Leese, Peter Shreyhane who travelled down from the north east to take part and the Bus Group - John Dixon, Adrian Lawton and Peter Smith. All the talks overran but proved very popular. Finally, Bill Ridgway's play "Arnold and Marguerite" - the story of Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Bennett - was read by Frank Harris, Prof. Ray Johnson, Geraldine Outhwaite and Bill Ridgway. Thanks to Joseph Eaton who volunteered to look after the digital projector and microphones for these productions.
Thanks to the fifteen shops on Biddulph High Street who agreed to display the A3 Quiz posters in their windows on the day and those who entered the quiz. Thanks also to Mary in the Library who helped people with their Ancestry enquiries.
Fortunately the drizzling rain didn't reduce the overall attendance although the speakers, who worked so hard, did deserve a bigger audience.
The NCB Collieries of North Staffordshire - 19/09/2011
The new season began on Monday September 19th 2011. The Chairman, Mr. Derek Wheelhouse, introduced the speaker, Mr. Jim Worgan and his talk on 'The NCB Collieries of North Staffordshire'.
On January 1st 1947 the National Coal Board (NCB) took over the running of 22 collieries in the North Staffordshire area and of these, twenty were deep mines and two were footrails. The history of mining in the Biddulph Valley goes back much earlier than this but in 1947 most of the collieries had established shafts but the working conditions of the miners was extremely poor. Nationalisation was an attempt to address some of the problems by providing better working conditions, for example, the provision of pit head baths and a less arbitrary view of how to hire and fire the workforce.
Mr. Worgan had a huge collection of photographs and his knowledge of the subject was equally impressive. The talk started at Chatterley Whitfield Colliery which employed 4,200 men in 1938, had pit head baths and produced many tons of coal and if you wondered why the pit heap was so large then for each million tons of coal produced 600,000 tons were added to the tip. A picture of Whitfield colliery taken in 1930 shows five pit heads: Winstanley pit (1913); Engine pit (1863); Middle pit (1863); Institute pit (1874); Platt pit (1883); and Hesketh pit (1914). The landmark 225ft chimney still remains at the pit which was started in 1863 by Hugh Henshall Willamson and which was closed in 1976.
Victoria Colliery at Black Bull was started in 1850 and in 1898 work commenced on widening and deepening the Magpie shaft. The work was completed in 1900 and the pit renamed Victoria. After closure in 1982, the 6ft diameter balance rope pulley wheels were donated to Biddulph Council, and were erected outside the Town Hall.
Chatterley Whitfield Colliery - which buildings are still standing?
Norton Colliery opened at Ford Green in 1860 and was still turning coal in 1977. This colliery was originally developed to supply the Ford Green furnaces after these were acquired by Mr. Heath circa 1863 and the opening of the Biddulph Valley railway line in 1859 ensured its future. Norton was one of the very wet pits and a photograph showed the three shafts on site in 1870 surrounded, like so many of the local pits, by rubbish (including pit props and other debris).
Wolstanton Colliery was started by a group of pottery manufactures looking for ironstone. Numerous photographs show the development of this site including the major reconstruction scheme between 1951 and 1964 when the colliery merged with Sneyd and Hanley Deep Pits. In 1975 it was connected underground with Chatterley Whitfield and was regarded as the Superpit of the North Staffordshire coalfield with the deepest coal mining shafts (3750 feet) in Western Europe.
Sneyd Colliery on High Lane had been mined since the 1750s making it one of the oldest colliery sites. Good management made it one of the most modern collieries in North Staffordshire between the two World Wars. The site now includes the present Stoke-on-Trent College of Moorland Road. One photograph of the operational colliery shows the distinctive Beyer Peacock engine shunting in the yard.
A photograph of Parkhouse Colliery had flags flying above the winding gear indicated that the miners had met their production target. The week before the annual holiday was usually frenetic as miners attempted to meet and surpass production targets in the "bull week". Parkhouse closed in 1968 and is now the site of Parkhouse Industrial Estate.
Apedale Colliery was one of the footrails and the site of the Burley Pit is now occupied by the present Apedale mining museum, which hopes to start production again as coal is sought by steam railway societies across the country.
Holditch Colliery at Chesterton, known locally as 'Brymbo', was open from 1912 to 1989 and had two shafts approximately 2000 feet deep. It was reputed to be the most gassy colliery in Britain and contributed to the the gas works at Etruria. For example, from July 1976 it was supplying 1.25 million therms of gas per year, equivalent to 4000 tons of coal, to local brickworks.
Silverdale Colliery in Newcastle opened in 1830 to provide coal for the Silverdale Ironworks. A mechanisation programme began in 1950 when £20 million was invested in the construction of a new mine and two drifts from the surface, each of 4,000 yards, to extract 50 million tonnes in the Keele and Hanchurch area. A new coal preparation plant was also built. Silverdale was the last mine in the area to close in December 1998.
Madeley Colliery was also known as Leycett after the village that developed around the pit. It closed in 1957 due to the high concentrations of methane gas. The main shaft had the most romantic name of any pit in North Staffordshire, "The Fair Lady", slightly tarnished by shaft two being called "Bang Up". Miners who transferred from many of the pits with low seams in the coalfield found it difficult to adjust to working the 5ft 9in seams.
Stafford Colliery at Great Fenton was opened in 1873 to obtain blackstone, ironstone and coal in the upper seams. The Homer shaft was named after C.J. Homer when he transferred from the Chatterley Iron Co. to work for the Duke of Sutherland, who gave his name to the other shaft. Both pits were provided with the most ornate engine-houses in brick and stone with a matching square section chimney and featured the chapel style windows that Mr. Worgan is so fond of. The shafts are both in the south east corner of Stoke City's Britannia Stadium.
The Duke of Sutherland was also the owner of Hem Heath Colliery which opened in 1924. Ventilation was a problem and it became difficult to increase output. After nationalised in 1947, it became obvious that the existing shaft arrangements were inadequate if the rich resource were to be fully exploited, so work began in 1950 to restructure the pit to make virtually a new colliery. During modernisation production never stopped. New Hem Heath, 'the big A', (see the photograph) - named after the distinctive headgear, began with the sinking of a new shaft, 24 feet in diameter and 1134 yards deep, the third deepest in the country, in 1950. In 1979 there were 1790 men employed, with an output of 1,001,368 tonnes per annum. It merged with Florence Colliery in 1990 to become Trentham Superpit setting a record of the fastest 2½ million tonnes of coal anywhere in Europe. Sadly, the site of Hem Heath has also become an industrial estate with plans for further housing.
A short history of other NCB collieries:
Kemball Colliery at Heron Cross opened in 1876 and closed in 1963. It was used as a training pit for new recruits in the 1940s and to train 'Bevin Boys' during the Second World War.
Hanley Deep Pit opened in 1854 and closed in 1962. The colliery site is now occupied by the Hanley Forest Park and is a reminder of its coal mining days. A pit winding wheel has been erected at one of the entrances, whilst the spoil heaps have been reclaimed.
Berry Hill Colliery, Fenton, opened in 1863 and although it closed in 1960 there was a plan to turn the site into a vast opencast mine.
Fenton (Glebe) colliery opened in 1865 and closed in 1964. The colliery spoil heap has been reclaimed and landscaped.
Park Hall Colliery, Longton existed from 1860 to 1962. It was situated on the outskirts of Longton. The underground workings were merged with Florence Colliery in 1962.
Florence Colliery, Longton (1874-1990). The three shafts at Florence Colliery were sunk from 1874 to 1916. The colliery took its name from the eldest daughter of the 3rd Duke of Sutherland. From 1950 to 1964 there was a £7 million modernisation scheme. The photograph was taken in October 1990 showing the modernised Florence Colliery just before the merger with Hem Heath was complete.
As the meeting time was running out a question and answer session followed. The large volumes of water and gas which are still being pumped or collected were discussed as was the effect on the water table in the area. This led to the discussion of some of the major disasters caused by gas, for example at Holditch Colliery an explosion occurred in July 1937, killing 30 men and injuring 8. However, as we have seen recently in South Wales and Kellingley in North Yorkshire it is a dangerous workplace and a reminder that although everyone remembers the disasters most of the deaths are of individuals in separate accidents over the years. Finally, the talk came full circle as Mr. Worgan decribed the present parlous state of the Chatterley Mining Museum and the dubiety of the Stoke-on-Trent Council in ring fencing funding.
Mr. Derek Wheelhouse thanked Mr. Worgan for his absorbing talk and invited the audience to attend the next meeting on October 17th in Biddulph Library at 7 p.m. when Mr. Geoffrey Browne will talk on the arrival of the motor car in the Biddulph Valley.
No. 4 Rescue Brigade
Dating from 1916, this photograph shows the Whitfield brigade during a training session outside the rescue station at Birchenwood colliery. Note the breathing apparatus strapped to the men's chest. (Left to right standing: G. Mountford, I. Beardmore, W. Clifford, A. Taylor, T. Green. Seated. Chas. Clarke, H. J. Crofts.)
A Summer Walk to Biddulph Old Hall - 20/06/2011
and Lea Forge from the Talbot Inn
The Annual Guided Summer Walk took place on Monday June 20th 2011. More than 50 walkers assembled at 7.15pm in The Talbot car park, on what had been a warm sunny day. The evening was marred by showers but the heavy rain held off until after 9pm when many of the walkers were back in the pub or driving home. The route of the walk:
Distance: just over 2 miles.
Type of terrain: Mainly paths, farm tracks and pavements.
Type of walk: Moderate to hard due to the short climb up to the Old Hall and The Talbot.
The walk started up Grange Road and then turned left at the entrance to the farm and then over the hill to Biddulph Old Hall. It had been arranged that the walkers would be able to visit the grounds of the house even though the owners Mr. Daly and Mr. Vowles would not be at home. However, the owners were present and kindly let the large group look at the work they have completed on the tower. Many of the walkers commented on the calm atmosphere that surrounds the buildings. Thanking the owners for their kindness the walkers split into two groups - just under half walked back down to The Talbot and 30+ intrepid members set off down the fields to cross the wooden bridge to join the Congleton Road. Although the showers persisted there were still excellent views of the Cheshire Plain and towards Biddulph from this unusual angle.
Turning left on the footpath of the A527 towards Biddulph the walkers congregated in the garage forecourt by the site of the former Lea Forge Dye works. Here a series of fortunately laminated photographs were distributed and the Secretary of the Society, David Outhwaite, explained the history of the works. A 'potted' history follows:
The original iron forge at Forge Corner was owned by a Mr. Forrester. He made picks and shovels, with machinery powered by a large water wheel. The water for this came from a fairly large pool adjacent to the main road. In the latter part of the 19th century, the site became derelict (ironically as it is today).
In 1917, the site was acquired by J.M. Beckett and Son from Manchester, a manufacturer of pigment colours, blues, reds, yellows, green, blacks, and so on, for use in the manufacturing of printing inks and paints, also more recently for PVC and the plastics industries.
J.M. Beckett, originally from Miles Platting in Manchester, produced pigment colours and toilet soap. Upon transferring their activities to Biddulph they sold off their soap interests. Their Castile soap was sold and later merchandised by Knight’s as Knights Castile.
A steady building programme began in the 1920s: a hand, coal-fired Lancashire boiler was installed for steam production; laboratory, fitting shop and small garage; weighbridge for vehicles, larger building for colour production including large wooden vats connected to water and steam pipes and run off pipes and smaller dissolving vats also connected to the large making vats; filter presses, drying stoves and grinding mills.
The factory produced dyes, including Prussian Blue, which was the company's mainstay. Even in the 1970s, the Biddulph company was one of only two in the country to make this colour, and provided 9% of the world's market. Many other colours were also produced and were used in book binding, leather, rubber, paint, ink, cloth, and plaster, among other materials.
In 1979, there were signs that all was not well. Four of the 36 employees took voluntary redundancy. They included the manager, Mr. Jack Finney, who had been with the firm for 43 years, and assistant manager Mr. Cliff Ellerton, who was there for 33 years.
On June 12th 1981, the factory finally closed and the site became derelict.
For more information on the Dye Works, the Society has produced Society Transactions no. 5 which includes the completed article based on the notes of Mr. Clifford Ellerton. (Transactions no. 5 also includes Derek Wheelhouse’s description of the Tramways of the Biddulph Valley). The walkers then returned 100 yards back towards Congleton and took the footpath on the right, over the bridge and then up the fields through the unusual four-post stiles back to The Talbot.
Pugin's Church, Cheadle - 04/06/2011
On Saturday June 4th 30 members travelled by coach to Pugin's Church at Cheadle with a call at Rudyard Lake for lunch on the return journey. The organisers of the trip, Mr. Michael Turnock or Mr. Roland Machin, excelled themselves in finding an excellent guide to take the party around the church - and glorious weather all day.
St Giles' Church and two other local buildings - the Convent of St Joseph's, which is now a private house and on the market for £300,000 and St Giles' School were designed by Pugin and built by local craftsmen in the gothic style.
Gothic is a style of architecture, which flourished throughout Europe during the middle and late medieval period. Many of Europe's most famous cathedrals, abbeys and churches were built in this lavish and ornate style. However, it went out of fashion until it was reinvented in the mid-18th century during the "Gothic Revival".
Leading the Gothic Revival was Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Pugin was born in 1812, the son of a French draughtsman who had fled the horror of the bloody French Revolution. Trained by his father, the gifted Pugin quickly became a highly influential architect, designer and leading advocate of Gothic Architecture, which he believed to be the true Christian form of design.
Photograph of the nave and altar of the church by Mr. Peter Durnall
As you look around the church you notice many similarities between this Gothic Revival church and early gothic buildings like Salisbury Cathedral built in 1220. Most notable features are the varying roof levels, which delineate different parts of the building, the Gothic arches, impressive spires and the ornately carved stonework. The spire began to wobble as the traffic drove around the Church and the problem was cured by taking eight feet off its almost 200 feet.
As you explore the church you notice a large number of heraldic designs such as the Earl of Shrewsbury's "Rampant Lions" on the main door and the Talbot hound in the vaulting of the South Porch - a constant reminder of who paid for the church to be built!
To achieve this, the Earl placed unlimited means at Pugin's disposal. Known today as "Pugin's Gem", St Giles Roman Catholic Church is Pugin's tribute to inner peace and serenity and a design wonder of the Gothic Revival. The Church was opened and consecrated in 1846 and remains one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival church architecture in the world today.
Thanks again to Michael and Roland and please travel to Cheadle as the church is well worth a visit.
More Recent Developments at Biddulph Old Hall - 16/05/2011
The Library was packed for the meeting which was entertained by a talk on further developments at Biddulph Old Hall by Mr. Nigel Daly and an accompanying slide show of photographs presented by Mr. Brian Vowles. Mr. Derek Wheelhouse introduced the speakers Mr. Daly and Mr. Vowles who first gave a talk on their planned restoration of the Hall to the September 2006 meeting of the BDGHS and then returned on the May 18th 2008 to outline the work that had done to make parts of the house habitable, particularly the Great Hall and the Staircase Hall. Mr. Daly outlined his talk for the evening and included a recap of the story so far; renovating parts of the house – the back stairs, “dead bird” room, attic and, of course the tower; and then hoped to talk about his book which outlines the renovation and changes to the Hall; and then, the family history of the previous owners, particularly the love story of Robert Bateman, sculptor and painter, and his beloved Caroline.
The structure of the house when it was bought in 2002 was in a parlous state and one of the main problems came from water seeping into the basement from the road and a water trough with no soak away. The first task had been to lower the ground all round the house which allowed the laying out of a formal garden. Having stood in water the Bateman front door had to be replaced. The Great Hall suffered from damp largely exacerbated by building a stone wall across the fireplace and trying to seal the water out. Removing this wall – the task made more difficult as the cement was harder than the stone – allowed the fireplace to be used to heat the room (once the chimney was unblocked having been sealed with rubble and old railway line). Between the old fragments of the hall and the new mansion a 1930s steel false ceiling was removed which gave access to an old fireplace and a landing. A new oak staircase gave access to a landing with fireplace which led to the "dead bird room". When the roof timbers were dated as 1530 they could be linked to the rebuilding of the roof which links across to the new building. The "dead bird room" has been renovated and is now an office. Work also took place to replace some of the roof timbers of the attic space which had been used as a living space and had a mix of 1530 and earlier roof timbers.
The renovation of the tower was always going to be a problem and a very expensive one at that. It was obvious the tower wasn’t safe as large pieces of masonry and glass were still falling and the structure was probably only being held up by internal and external scaffolding. Originally the tower had been scheduled as an ancient monument by English Heritage which meant that any renovation of the tower was forbidden. In an attempt to save the tower they approached English Heritage to change the status of the tower, suggest a suitable way of repairing and maintaining it and if successful how and who should pay. English Heritage talked of building a supporting steel structure costing £220,000 but fortunately once steel bands had been girdle round the tower a cheaper method using C20th tie rods was found at under £5,000. This has allowed the tower to be repaired; all the stonework on the interior and exterior of the tower has been renovated; a concrete floor to strengthen the tower has been inserted approximately two thirds of the way up the tower; the mullioned windows have been reinforced, preserved and the glass replaced; services, lighting and plumbing have been installed and the conical roof has been re-leaded.
Photograph of the refurbished tower by Mr. D.J. Wheelhouse
The inside of the tower will be fitted with a circular oak staircase to the lower floors. There will be a viewing platform on the present 5th floor of the tower. Mr. Daly reminded the audience that much of the damage to the original Hall was the result of the intolerance to the Roman Catholic Church which was the faith of the Biddulph family, for example, Francis Biddulph, his wife and son from Biddulphs "Nest of Papists" were imprisoned at Stafford for many years. Mr. Daly hopes the 4th floor will eventually be a multi-faith chapel and library to reflect the ownership of the Hall which had passed from Catholic to Protestant branches of the Biddulph family since the English Civil War and an end to the struggle.
The mullioned windows of the tower had small circular centre panes of glass. In trying to find a design to put on the glass one of those strange quirks of fate occurred and a book The Latin Years was offered to Mr. Daly which included some woodcut designs by the artist Robert Bateman. The rest of the evening was devoted to the research into Robert Bateman which will be found in Mr. Daly’s forthcoming book.
Briefly, Robert Bateman, was infatuated with Caroline Octavia Wilbraham (nee Howard) who was born in 1839 and was a daughter of the Howard family of Castle Howard, her father being the Dean of Lichfield and her grand-father of the Earl of Carlisle. She had been 'forced' to marry a much older man the Rev. Charles Philip Wilbraham on the 15th February 1876. The Rev. Wilbraham was vicar of Audley from 1844 to 1874 but he died in December 1879. On his death Caroline moved south to London to live with her mother but married Robert Bateman on the October 18th 1883. They lived at the Old Hall until 1890 when they rented Benthall Hall, Much Wenlock, until 1907 and on to Somerset where they continued to be happily married until they died within ten days of each other in July and August 1922.
The love story of the renovation of Biddulph Old Hall and that of Robert and Caroline Bateman will be the subject of Mr. Daly’s much awaited new book.
After a question and answer session Mr. Derek Wheelhouse thanked Mr. Daly and Mr. Vowles for a most enlightening and spellbinding talk.
Researching Your Family Name - 18/04/2011
The Treasurer of the Society, Kath Walton, introduced the speaker for the evening Mr. Michael Stonehewer of the 'Stonehewer to Stanier Society'. His talk was on his family research into the family name and the work of the Stonehewer Society in tracing members of the family and the links between the different versions of the family name.
The aim of the Stonehewer to Stanier Society (Stanier Society) is to maintain an association of people interested in the origins, history and development of the family name. It is believed that most branches of the family descend from Stonhewer families living on the border between Cheshire and Staffordshire in the 15th century.
The surname comes from the Middle English stanyer, meaning a stonecutter, one who cut and dressed stone.
The earliest variants of the name are William Stanhewaa of Oxfordshire, mentioned in the Doomsday survey of 1085-6; Thomas Stonhewa or Stonewaa, who is in the Hundred rolls for Oxfordshire in 1275-9; and Walter Stanhewer from 13th century Kirkstall, Yorkshire. These dates are early in the history of hereditary surnames, which did appear in England shortly after the Norman Conquest, but as Norman references to the estates in Northern France from which they came, rather than native English. It is thus possible that these names merely show the occupation of the man rather than his family.
More local names, in Cheshire and Staffordshire, include a Thomas Stonehewer who is recorded as renting a quarry in Congleton CHS in 1372-3, and a Roger Stonehewer renting the same quarry in 1423. If these men are related, this could be the time at which the occupational name became the surname. The Stonehewer Society was formed to help the family tree research of people with the names Stonehewer, Stanier, Stanyer, Stonier and Stanway by providing a club for members who shared information and kept in touch with newsletters and 'get togethers'. At present the membership is 75. In Biddulph the coat of arms of the Stanyers can be found on the gateway to Biddulph Old Hall and the tower of St Laurence's Church. There is also a coat of arms in a stained glass window in St. James' Church in Sutton which are probably those of William Stonehewer Newbold.
The Stanier Society provides members with information about family trees, known Stanier street names, a Stonehewer to Stanier facial survey, a data research project and more recently offers DNA analysis. One of the largest groups of 'Stonehewers', 127 in total, had a family get together in Vancouver in 1964. These Canadian families are believed to be descended from a soldier who enlisted at Chester to fight the French. More information on all of the Stanier activities are available on the Internet through the Societies website which you can visit here.
The DNA research involves finding answers to the following questions. How many different common male ancestors are associated with the Stanier surname? How are your Stanier ancestors related to other families with the Stanier surname? How are the different Stanier family lines related? Are all Staniers from an ancestral country related, or are there many different families with the name Stanier? Which Stanier researchers should be collaborating because they share a common ancestor? Is the Stanway family connected with the Staniers?
How does DNA testing work. There are two types of DNA tests now available for genealogical testing: the Y-chromosome (Y-DNA) test and the mitochondrial (mtDNA) test. A direct female line can be traced by testing mitochondrial DNA. However, the Society is presently interested in tracing surnames, which are usually passed from father to son, and so the society is interested in Y-chromosome testing. The Stanier DNA Project will perform the Y-DNA Test on men with the Stanier surname (including all variant spellings). DNA Heritage, one of the most prominent research firms in this field, has been selected for this Y chromosome DNA project. The Society has a Project Administrator for the Stanier DNA Project who will receive the results from DNA Heritage. Each participant will receive a certificate, a report containing their personal test results, and help interpreting the meaning of their test results.
Michael then introduced the meeting to the 'GOONS' which is the 'Guild of One-Name Studies'. A one-name study is a project researching facts about a surname and all the people who have held it, as opposed to a particular pedigree (the ancestors of one person) or descendancy (the descendants of one person or couple).
The Guild is a charitable organisation dedicated to promoting the public understanding of one-name studies and the preservation and accessibility of the resultant information. Founded in 1979 in Britain, the Guild has members all over the world, and is widely recognised as a centre of excellence in one-name studies. Only one person may register a specific surname, but membership of the Guild is open to all with an interest in surname studies, and is not restricted to those who wish to register a name. This is distinct from family history, in that it is the surname that is of interest, rather than the family tree of members of the same family with several different surnames. However, it does involve many of the same research skills and techniques as family history, and most one-namers are actively researching both their own family and their one-name study.
'One-namers', Michael being the Stonehewer representative, build up a unique understanding of their name and its significance both geographically and historically. As a recognised centre of information on the name, they will also receive enquiries from, and exchange information with, members of the public with an interest in the name. Over time, they become the worldwide expert on the name and make new friends around the world. You can visit the 'Guild of One Name Studies' website here.
More recent interests of the Society have been the links to Stanier the railway engineer and two of the Black 5 steam engines found underwater in Egypt; and, Stonier and Co., a ship’s chandler of Liverpool with works in Stourbridge, which supplied goods to the ill-fated 'Titanic'. Michael answered a number of questions on the many variants of the Stonehewer name from members of his audience before Kath thanked Michael for his talk. She also announced that instead of a fee Mr. Stonehewer had asked for a donation to be made to MacMillan Nurses and this the BDGHS is pleased to do.
AGM followed by Searching for Biddulph Ancestors - 21/03/2011
The meeting was held on Monday March 21st at 7pm. The Chairman of the Society, Derek Wheelhouse, welcomed the members and guests to the AGM and started by thanking the members of the committee for their hard work throughout the year. He thanked Mr. David Outhwaite for his unstinting work as Secretary of the Society and organiser of the successful 'Arnold Bennett Evening'. He thanked Mrs. Elaine Heathcote as Archivist and writer of the successful 'Gillow Heath' book. Mr. Roland Machin, David Sheldon and Mr. John Sherratt were thanked for their contributions as committee members. Derek announced the search for a volunteer to act as an Excursion Secretary had been answered by Mr Michael Turnock, who with Mr Machin, have organised the first trip - which will be to Pugin’s Church at Cheadle in early June.
Mr. David Moore was thanked for maintaining and updating the BDGHS website. Mrs. Kath Walton, Society Treasurer then presented the accounts which showed the Society was in as strong position this year as last and has also been able to purchase copies of both the 'Gillow Heath' and 'Biddulph in Pictures 2'. He also thanked Irene Turner for the use of the Library facilities and book sales and sent a further appreciation to Jayne who has set out the seating and provided refreshments this year.
The evening then continued with 'Searching for Biddulph Ancestors' which gave members and guests the chance to look at how to trace a relative using various sources of information, with members of the Society offering help and advice on how to begin and complete the quest. The strength of any society can be measured by the activities of the members and instead of looking at the evening from the guest's point of view here is a list of the resources that were available. Thus the Family History Evening included:
- a PowerPoint presentation by Kath Walton on the Doorbar family covering 500 years of history which included lots of examples of resources used.
- display on tracing Biddulph ancestors. This has been in the library since the beginning of the month.
- Mike Turnock brought his collection of files on Biddulph soldiers of the Great War including a number of PowerPoint presentation on tracing military ancestors.
- funeral cards - Janet Booth has an amazing collection of funeral cards. There are nearly 100 and most have connections to Biddulph families with a surprisingly wide variety of styles reflecting funeral fashions over time.
- Directories. The society has a collection of photocopied pages for Biddulph entries from directories dating from 1818 until 1940.
- volumes one and two of monumental inscriptions for St. Lawrence church yard.
- Derek Wheelhouse and Roland Machin were in charge of maps and plans including the tithe map of 1840 which with accompanying schedule are invaluable to family historians. Also on display were examples from the 1841 Enclosure Award Map, an 1830 plan of the sale of the Hurst estate, the 1919 Heath sale plan and a copy of the 1597 Mainwaring map.
- Jackie Bradley and Madelaine Lovatt had a feast of information on display on their table: Copies of pew plans for St. Lawrence dating from 1634, 1809 and 1839, copies of parish accounts: those of the Overseer, Headborough and Churchwarden along with some removal orders and details of Quarter Session records.
- a selection of Biddulph wills, petitions, lists of subscribers and transcribed copies of the land tax records for Biddulph. The census returns for Biddulph as hard copies: parts of the 1851 and 1911 census, transcribed copies of the 1779 and 1801 census and transcriptions of parts of the parish registers of St. Lawrence. If you need help, Kathleen Walton is manning a 'Help Desk'.
- Irene Turner, the Biddulph Librarian had kindly allowed the Society to make use of the computers and library staff member Mary, along with Phil Walton, were on hand to help with any internet searches and the use of Ancestry, which is available free of charge in the library.
- John Sherratt, had kindly brought in his collection of family memorabilia which always proves to be interesting.
This last booklet complemented the display and family history evening. It was entitled 'Biddulph Born & Bred – A guide to tracing ancestors in the parish of Biddulph, Staffordshire' written by Elaine Heathcote and Kathleen Walton.
The booklet is a short guide to family history research and provides details of resources held locally and at Staffordshire and Cheshire Record Offices with special relevance to tracing Biddulph ancestors. Sources discussed include directories, local newspapers, civil registration, the census, parish registers, monumental inscriptions, wills, parish accounts, maps and plans, rental lists and tax records. The booklet is 40 pages long and costs £3.50. It is available from Biddulph Library and at the next meeting of the Society.
Working at the Victoria Colliery - 21/02/2011
The February meeting was held on February 21st. Derek Wheelhouse, started the meeting by admitting that the evening was a departure from the usual format. In fact, he and the following "Brains' Trust" Messrs. Roy Duncan, John Sherratt and Eric Whalley, would be discussing working at the Victoria Colliery to try give an insight into what mining was like in the Biddulph Valley.
There had been mines in the Biddulph Valley for many years but when in 1857 Robert Heath leased the mineral rights to Knypersley Hall Estate from John Bateman new shafts were built to access the coal seams. Robert Heath deepened and widened many of the shafts and no.2 shaft was deepened and became first the Magpie Shaft and with further deepening the Victoria shaft.
A new shaft called the Deep Pit was sunk which was later called Engine was deepened and named the Havelock Shaft. A third shaft known the Salisbury pumping shaft (240 yards deep) was sunk at Victoria in the 1890s and so the Victoria Colliery had three shafts: the Victoria, Havelock and Salisbury. An internal railway system connected the Colliery to Birchenwood Colliery in Kidsgrove to which coal was transferred for gas making purposes. By the 1960s the mine was operated by the National Coal Board. All the shafts were closed in 1982 with the Victoria Colliery, also known locally as Black Bull, which was the last deep mine in the Biddulph Area. At the end of the 1980s the site was open casted and many parts of the ironworks site as well as numerous old shafts were uncovered. After closure in 1982, the 6ft diameter balance rope pulley wheels were donated to Biddulph Council, and were erected outside the Town Hall.
All four of the panel worked at the Colliery - Derek as a surveyor, Roy looking after the steam and underground diesel engines, John as a miner and Eric as an electrician. They all described the working conditions, the managers and men that they worked with. Before machinery was introduced all had seen the coal face worked by hand and then the introduction of cutting machines. The winning of coal at Victoria was despite the large volumes of water running through the workings. The only advantage was that the pit was usually too damp for gases to develop. All had amusing anecdotes about the people and situations that arose. Billy who lost his wig on the belting. Arthur Archer known as Old Soul and Eddie Davies, one of the pump men who in the 1950s painted a series of portraits and landscapes on the pump room walls using colours found in the mine water. Because the mine worked a number of seams with varying qualities of coal it was a sacking offence if poor quality coal was used for the manager's fire instead of coal from the Holly Lane or Cotterill seams as John found to his cost.
Although a rope and tub system had been used to get the coal to the surface, later four fifteen tonne flameproof Ruston Hornsby engines were shunting underground, which were followed later still by the introduction of belting from the cutting machines.
As mentioned earlier the Havelock shaft was used for pumping water which totalled 300 million gallons per year. Eric had been in charge of the three electric pumps which could pump 600 gallon per minute each but for which the contact brushes where hand made in the workshop. Although the local collieries were not supposed to encroach within 40 yards of each other - to avoid the problems of flooding across the levels there was always competition to extract coal from the various seams - in fact labelling the tubs with those of your own level was often practiced improving your work group output. As Eric said this was a 'family pit' and despite such wet conditions for many years the record for output from the colliery would be broken on a daily basis.
Also attending the meeting was Mr Bill Whalley with a collection of interesting documents and a diary from the Holditch Pit where he was working at the time of the disaster in 1937.
An interesting question and answer session followed. Derek thanked the speakers for taking part, the packed audience for listening so carefully and for agreeing it had been a unique and successful meeting. Then the meeting broke for tea and biscuits.
The Heavy industries of the Biddulph Valley - 17/01/2011
Especially the Engineers Cowlishaw Walker
The January meeting was held on January 17th where Mr. Roland Machin introduced Mr. Norman Dean to a packed library. Roland explained that Mr. Dean was an enthusiastic volunteer speaker wishing to share some of the information he had found since moving to Biddulph Moor a few years ago and taken an interest in local heavy industries. This research will be part of an Open University course he intends to pursue and can be summed up by the title “The Social Impact of Industrial Companies in Staffordshire”.
Mr. Dean began by taking the meeting back to 1897. Some of the events in that year were the Queen’s 60th Jubilee; the British Army was in Benine deposing a King so the bureaucrats could create the new country, Nigeria; Aston Villa won the League and Cup double; Bram Stoker was having a family holiday in Whitby prior to writing “Dracula”; Oscar Wilde was released from prison and whisked away to Paris; there was a gold rush in the Klondike; on the Isle of Man 14 miners died in an accident caused by fire damp; a 30-day Greek and Turkish war; the first reference to a computer and Mr. Dean invited the meeting to join him on the railway bridge near the Castle Works of Bagnall’s in Stafford.
As we walk down into the works a deep throbbing fills the air and on reaching the delivery yard horse drawn wagons carry raw materials and finished products to the railway sidings. Open a lych-gate and walk into the deafening noise of presses, lathes and hammers in the machine shop where we rely on lip reading and sign language to communicate. We have entered the heart of one of the most successful railway companies in the world. W.G. Bagnall was a locomotive manufacturer founded in 1875 by William Gordon Bagnall. The majority of their products were small four- and six-coupled steam locomotives for industrial use, and many were narrow gauge. They were noted for building steam and diesel locomotives in standard and narrow gauges. Customers of Bagnall’s can order a complete railway line from the company and have it delivered to any of the four corners of the earth. Narrow gauge railways allowed steeper gradients and more broken land to be accessed by railways – so the plantations of the West Indies and the gold and diamond mines of South Africa could be cheaply connected to the coast.
Isabel was outside the Castle Works until 1963 when it moved to Stafford Railway Station. In 1983(?) the engine (preserved in steam) was moved to the Amerton Farm Railway, entrusted to the Staffordshire Narrow Gauge Railway Society.
Mr. Dean then discussed the types of engine that Bagnall’s produced handing copies to the meeting and asked two ladies on the front row to demonstrate the difference between the narrow and stardard guage railways and how this affected the ambit of turns. In Great Britain a standard guage of 4ft 8½in was set by George and Robert Stephenson in the North East which was to be adopted nationally for the rail network although Brunel built his Great Western Railway at 7ft ¼in. Mr. Dean then treated the meeting to a discussion between the senior foreman (with his bowler hat) and one of the pressmen. This dialogue demonstrated that Bagnall’s were a good employer having a Saturday Hospital Fund – most workers were only free on Saturday afternoon which cost the worker 1d but was subsidised by the employer so workers could buy medicines and healthcare for themselves and their families. Another scheme was the issue of tool cheques which could be used at the Tool Shop in exchange for tools and other equipment.
So what had Bagnall’s to do with Biddulph? Bagnall’s relied on cast iron and the largest manufacturer of cast iron in the world in 1897 was Robert Heath of Biddulph (even if all the iron was stamped Stoke-on-Trent). Both were large thriving companies employing hundreds of men and essential for the local economy. Up until the outbreak of the First World War, Robert Heath and Sons was extremely profitable. During the First war they became important for bi-products of the cast iron they produced including coke and sulphuric acid. However, between the wars the company Low Moor took an increasing interest in the Heath’s business and a gradual decline occurred. For many years the Heath family subsidised the factory's production but a series of events, the explosive accident at Birchenwood and the failure to invest in wrought iron and steel sounded a death knell for the company.
Robert Heath and Sons Ironworks, Biddulph c. 1920
Amazingly the site with all the “fug” from the coking ovens and iron furnaces, steam from the cast beds, sulphurous smoke and dirt have completely disappeared and evidence of this once proud world leader is hard to find. Note: Bagnall’s ceased trading in 1962 when it was taken over by the English Electric Co Ltd.
An interesting question and answer session followed before Derek Wheelhouse thanked Mr.Dean for an unusual and exciting evening. Mr Dean asked to be invited back when he has completed more research into the heavy industry that flourished in North Staffordshire.
Local and Family History for the Biddulph area
These web pages are hosted by 1and1, and the site was originally
created by the late Mr. David Moore
Last updated: On the 1st of December 2017 by DJO