The name Spode is synonymous with Penkhull. Spode became the largest land owner and occupier ever recorded for the district apart that is from the Duchy of Lancaster. The title of this chapter reflects the influence of Spode on Penkhull during the 19th century and later the 20th century. But this relationship with Penkhull does not commence with the building of The Mount, it starts years earlier.
Josiah Spode 2nd (1757-1827) was the son of Josiah Spode 1st (1733-1797) and founder of the Spode manufactory in the town of Stoke and known as Josiah Spode 1st, even though his father went also by the name Josiah.
Josiah Spode 1st was born in a village that is now part of Stoke-on-Trent. He was the son of a pauper and also a pauper’s orphan at the age of six. He was apprenticed to potter Thomas Whieldon in November 1749 and remained with Whieldon at least until 1754, the year in which Josiah Wedgwood became Whieldon’s business partner. Wedgwood stayed with Whieldon until 1759. Spode worked alongside Wedgwood and with the celebrated potter Aaron Wood (father of Enoch Wood) under Whieldon‘s tuition, and was with Whieldon at the high point of production. Whieldon Road, Fenton is named after the potter and his works were situated off City Road, Fenton.
The current site, until recently occupied by the Spode works from 1776-2009 was once called Madeley Meadow. The first record of the site is dated 1725 when Benjamin Lewis, a yeoman bought a substantial piece of land consisting of 42 customary acres. This probably comprised land on either side of what was to become High Street, now Church Street, Stoke.
The first reference to a potworks occurs in May 1751 when Lewis transferred the site to his son Taylor Lewis: All those newly erected workhouses, potoven, warehouse, formerly a barn, in Penkhull with the yard to the same belonging. On the 22nd August 1753, Taylor Lewis mortgaged the property for £150 to Thomas Heath a carrier of Newcastle, but three years later on the 18th August 1756, he and his mortgagee sold this property to William Clerk of Caverswall, gent who in turn sold the investment on 7th November 1759 to William Bankes and John Turner.
Serious financial problems followed, a mortgage was raised and on the 7th December 1763, Turner sold his investment to Bankes. Bankes then purchased more of Madeley Meadow from Benjamin Lewis to add to the site on the 18th January 1764. A few more turbulent financial years followed until the property and mortgage was acquired by Jeremiah Smith. After the formal admittance to the copyhold estate through the manorial courts, Smith then sold the estate to Josiah Spode on the 29th February 1776, with the help of a £1,000 mortgage from Smith. A complete list of all the transactions can be found in ‘Copyhold Potworks and Housing in the Staffordshire Potteries’ by Peter Roden.
Josiah I married Ellen Findley on the 8th September 1754. She ran a haberdashery business in addition to bringing up eight children. She died in 1802, aged 76. They had three sons, Josiah II (1755-1827); Samuel (1757-1817) and William (1770-1773) and daughters Mary; Ellen; Sarah; Anne and Elizabeth.
Josiah Spode II (1755-1827) succeeded to the business in 1797. He was magnificently prepared for the role, an experienced salesman as well as a potter, having gained an invaluable knowledge of marketing in fashionable London. He was also a flautist, and was father of Josiah III, and grandfather of Josiah IV, a convert to Roman Catholicism, who founded Hawkesyard Priory near Rugeley.
Josiah II married the daughter of John Barker, a manufacturing potter of Fenton, in 1775 at Stoke. Between that year and the death of his wife in London in 1782, he had moved between Longton and Cripplegate, where he was doubtless manager of the Fore Street warehouse under the guidance of William Copeland, his father’s friend and London partner. Spode became head of the business following his father’s sudden death in 1797. He became Captain of the ‘Pottery Troop’ Cavalry Division affiliated to the Staffordshire Yeomanry, at its foundation in 1798 and remained so until its disbandment in 1805.
Josiah I erected the Foley factory at Lane End for his seocond son, Samuel who produced salt-glazed wares up to the end of the eighteenth century. His sons, Josiah and Samuel both married in 1821 and shortly afterwards emigrated to Tasmaniaand both held positions in Government. Samuel returned to England with his family in 1827. Josiah remained and later some of his decendants emigrated later to Queensland.
Josiah Spode II acquired much land in the area of Stoke around the Liverpool Road, Berry Street and Hill Street area. He also extended his holding beside the Newcastle canal as it travelled along London Road, Stoke including what became known as Commercial Buildings and Penkhull New Road. The Commercial Inn still retains the name today. Spode also purchased much land in the hamlet and district of Boothen.
In keeping with his financial success, Spode, like many of his contemporaries, wished to reflect his position in society by becoming a country landowner. What better situation in which to establish himself than the hill of Penkhull which overlooked his factory in the town of Stoke below. It was this symbolic aspect that encouraged Spode to acquire the largest farm available, Penkhull Farm, when it came up for auction. He signed the lease on the 7th December 1799 from the trustees of the will of Judith and Mary Alsager spinsters, both late of Congleton. The lease was for a period of 21 years, at a rent of £140 p.a., and consisted of not only the farm, but also a considerable amount of farm lands belonging to the Alsagers of Congleton. At this time Spode lived at Little Fenton. Although there is no direct evidence to support the theory he once lived at the farm, documents however point to the fact that the living accommodation at the farm was not being in a good condition, and Spode promptly built a new addition which faced the south overlooking Trentham Hall, something that would have impressed visitors to the new house if Spode actually resided there.
The initial thoughts are that it was Spode’s intention to live at the farm himself but just before he was to move into residence, a large estate of John Harrison, a bankrupt, was about to come up for auction which included the site where Spode built The Mount. Penkhull Farm site was both copyhold and on lease whereas the land belonging to Harrison could be purchased with no lease which in all probability was the deciding factor.
In March 1800 Spode, elder, purchased five dwelling houses from Samuel Turner of Newcastle. By 1831, these five were extended to eight and situated on the South East side on Honeywall. A further seventeen dwellings were purchased by Spode on the 12th September 1803 from the assignees of John Harrison, potter, bankrupt. They were originally purchased in May 1790 from an earlier potter Ephram Booth. By 1831 these seventeen, had a further three added making twenty for workers. There were other land and property acquisitions in many other areas too, outside Penkhull.
The potworks at the bottom of what is now Honeywall (where a number of new three storey houses have recently been built 2008) belonged to John Harrison and were called Harrison’s Works. This also was purchased by Spode on the 10th December 1807. All that dwelling house with outbuildings at Cliffe Bank and afterwards used as a warehouse and manufactory thereto adjoining in the possession of John Harrison and also those pot works, workhouses and warehouses and all other erections contiguous to the dwelling house. A part of this land was occupied as gardens by various tenants. On the 27th March 1824, Spode sold this plot for the sum of £35 to Hugh Booth of Clayton, but it was recorded as in the holding of Messrs Ward and Co.
Reference has already been made to the purchase of a potworks and buildings from John Harrison declared a bankrupt in May 1802. It was from the estate of Harrison that Spode made the largest of his acquisitions of land in Penkhull. The following advertisement appeared in the Staffordshire Advertiser, 3rd July 1802 listing Lots up for auction. To be sold by Auction under the direction of the Assignees of John Harrison, a bankrupt, by Thomas Shorthouse, of Hanley at the Marquis of Granby Public House, in Penkhull near Newcastle-under-Lyme, on Tuesday 20th July, 1802. A valuable copyhold estate, situate at Penkhull late belonging to, and principally in the possession of John Harrison, and which will be divided and put up in the following, or such other Lots as shall be pointed out at the time of sale.
Lot 2. The Homestead, to consist of a Messuage or Farm House, near Lot 1, with barns, stables and other outbuildings to the same known as Tittensors House. Two gardens and an orchard; two crofts adjoining, and such parts of the large piece of land lying at the back of the small messuage (now called Brick-kiln Field, but formerly in several pieces, and then called the Barnfield, the Pear field, and Lamb field) as is staked out to go with this Lot, being the upper part, and what lies next the lower croft, on a line with the outer garden hedge, the whole containing 12a 3r 19p. This is also an excellent situation for a country retreat.
Penkhull is one of the pleasantest villages in that part of the country; the land is of the first quality, adjoining to the premises of Sir Thomas Fletcher, Bart., Miss Terrick, Daniel Whalley Esq., Messes Walker and Ward, and other respectable owners, and the different Lots command very extensive and diversified prospects. The whole of the Estate is copyhold of inheritance within the manor of Newcastle and subject only to a nominal fine.
Spode also purchased Lot 2 which was described as an old farm house called ‘Tittensor’s House’. This property stood where ‘The Mount’ now stands. The site was copyhold and the court records the transaction:
September 12th 1803 The assignees in Bankruptcy of John Harrison, to Josiah Spode of Stoke upon Trent, Esquire. All that messuage or farm house formerly called Tittensor’s house, situate at or near Penkhull Green, with the barns stables and other outbuildings gardens and orchard to the same belonging.
Before coming to Penkhull, Josiah Spode II was renting Fenton Hall, which hardly reflected his growing importance in the district. Like many industrialists of the period, Spode wanted to be within a short distance of his factory. In was not until the 12th September 1803 that the manorial courts record the transaction twelve months earlier. Tittensor’s House by this time had been demolished by Spode and the present building commenced. Building work progressed quickly, for it would appear that The Mount was ready for occupation the following year.
What is it that made this splendid mansion pre-eminent in the entire borough? The first account of it from Simeon Shaw (Staffordshire Potteries 1829). In one part of Penkhull, is the Mount; one of the best mansions in the district, a spacious and elegant square edifice, with suitable attached offices, surrounded by extensive gardens and pleasure grounds, and enjoying a prospect almost unbounded over the vicinity and the adjacent counties. John Ward later wrote:
(The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent 1843) of the mansions within the Township of Penkhull, we may say, indeed within the compass of the Borough, The Mount erected by the late Josiah Spode, Esq., bears acknowledged pre-eminence. It stands near the village, and is surrounded by plantations and a highly ornamented domain. The house is an oblong building of brick and stone with a semi-circular entrance on the west front with an elegant and lofty dome which lights the staircase and gives an exterior air of grandeur to the structure.
Even today, The Mount remains an imposing structure, built to impress upon visitors the commercial success, wealth and status of its owner. Spode wanted to be seen not as a potter with the basic materials of clay, but as a successful businessman and landowner. The house comprises mainly of brick with stone used to emphasise its architectural features. It was built in two sections; the larger part is rectangular in shape and two storeys stores high. The front elevation is symmetrical, of seven bays, dominated by a large bow in the middle of ashlar with adjacent Roman Doric columns.
To further his status in the locality and with an aim to impress his friends, the Mount was designed to face south west, away from Spode’s factory and the town of Stoke with all its pollution and humble workers dwellings, but towards the estates of Clayton Lodge and Trentham Hall, a significant talking point to his guests and visitors. The rear elevation is of a simpler design, also of seven bays with a slightly projecting central section which originally contained the rear entrance. Internally, two halls lead from the main entrance to the principal staircase with its iron handrail, balusters, and trellis panels. All this is illuminated by a circular skylight. The smaller, plainer structure to the northwest is the service wing which contains a separate staircase for the servants.
The house and its contents were shown off to visitors who were entertained in a lavish style. One large party was held in November 1809, to celebrate the marriage of Josiah Spode’s daughter to George Whieldon, of the Inner Temple, London. Enoch Wood, the potter, who was present on a later occasion the following year records in his diary: November 23rd 1810. Dined at the Mount at Mr Spode’s, the most splendid and sumptuous entertainment I ever attended. No intoxication. Thomas Caldwell, a solicitor, who was also in attendance writes: November 23rd, 1810. Dined at Mr Spode’s with a large party where we partook of the most sumptuous entertainment accompanied with every mark of kindness and hospitality.
In addition to the parties for friends, the working classes of his factory in Stoke were allowed in on special occasions. One such occasion was the 50th anniversary of the accession of George III which was celebrated in style by Josiah Spode II. The Staffordshire Advertiser reported on the 28th of October 1809 under the headline ‘The Jubilee in Staffordshire’. At no place in the Kingdom could the jubilee be celebrated with more demonstration of joy, than it was by Josiah Spode, Esq., China Manufacturer to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, at Stoke-upon-Trent, in the Staffordshire Potteries. Before the time of divine service, the servants began to muster at the works, and being collected together, walked in procession to the church, where a most appropriate and impressive sermon was preached by the Rev. William Robinson, Rector to a very crowded congregation. The servants afterwards were drawn up at his manufactory, headed by a band of music, chosen out of his own servants. Mr Spode, attended by about thirty gentlemen of the neighbourhood and the servants two by two, to the number of near 600, paraded up to the Mount, an elegant mansion, recently built by Mr Spode; the music playing ‘God save the King.’ The line of servants extended a long way, and the fineness of the day, with the great number of spectators attending, all dressed in their Sunday clothes, together with the happy countenances of the whole, rendered it a most pleasing sight. When they arrived at the Mount, they were marched round the lawn in front of the house, when the skies resounded with three times three. They afterwards paraded as before, close to the house, where each person drank the good Old King in half a pint of good Staffordshire Ale. They were then formed three deep round the Bowling Green where ‘God save the King’ was sung in full chorus, the whole of the spectators, not less than three thousand joining heartily in the song. Two additional verses, written by one of Mr Spode’s servants, were sung and received with the loudest plaudits.
On the16th July, 1827, Josiah Spode II, (1755-1827) died at the age of 72 years leaving his son Josiah Spode III (1777-1829) to take over the business. Sadly he died only two years later on the 6th October 1829, aged 52. His widow Mary and his young son Josiah IV continued to live at The Mount for ten years, until 1839 when they moved to their new home at Armitage Park, near to Rugeley. A number of years ago I had occasion to stay at Spode House, Armitage Park where Mary and Josiah IV lived. It was strange as it was from this address that many letters were despatched to prospective tenants of The Mount all of which I have handled.
In 1831, a survey of the estate of the late Josiah Spode III was conducted to secure a mortgage amounting to the sum of £10,000 from William Baker of Fenton. The Mount was described as follows, The Mount stands together with stables, coach houses, offices and other buildings, hothouses, greenhouses, gardens, orchards, pleasure grounds, plantations, shrubberies, paddocks, pools, roads, walks and avenues thereto belonging. Also those several closes or parcels of land, lying together in a ring fence near The Mount, containing in the whole over 150 acres. These 150 acres acquired between 1803 and 1827 covered the area from Stone Street, down Honeywall to Hartshill Road, up this road to The Avenue at Hartshill, down and across in a line where now Lodge Road lies to Newcastle Lane, then along Queens Road to the end of Doncaster Lane and back to The Mount.
In 1838 Mary Spode, widow of Josiah III, decided to leave Penkhull and placed The Mount on the market ‘To Let’. The advertisement in the Staffordshire Advertiser is dated the 24th November 1838.
TO BE LET
For a term four of years (furnished or unfurnished) and to be entered upon at Lady-day Next Year
A Capital first rate Mansion called The Mount, eligibly situated in Staffordshire with a handsome entrance lodge.
This most desirable residence is spacious and convenient as may be seen from the following brief statement. It comprises excellent cellars of good temperature for wine, ground floor spacious double entrance hall with handsome staircase, dining room, 27 feet by eighteen, drawing room 26 feet by 24 feet, billiard room and library 24 feet by 18 feet and breakfast room 18 feet x 18 feet all 12’ 6” high.
The bedroom floor contains a delightful morning room, with bow window, seven principal bedrooms to several of which dressing rooms are attached and a suitable number of convenient sleeping rooms for servants. The domestic offices, which are quite commensurate, adjoin the house, and are equally well built. The stable, coach house and harness room form two sides of a well-paved and enclosed yard. Large walled garden, stocked with choice fruit trees, in full bearing, hothouse, pinery, green-houses, and excellent ice-house. The pleasure grounds are extensive, and tastefully laid out, and include an ornamental sheet of water.
This delightful abode, replete with every convenience is fully adapted to the accommodation of a high respectable family. It stands upon an eminence and commands views, including the park, woods and ornamental grounds of Trentham, Butterton and Keele.
The roads are good in every direction; situated within two miles of Newcastle-under-Lyme; 150 miles from London and 6 from the Grand Junction Railway station at Whitmore. About 120 acres of land together with 9 labourer’s cottages and convenient farm buildings will be let, if desirable, to tenants.
From a schedule dated 1839, indications are that certain repairs were necessary, probably caused through the lack of maintenance after the death of Josiah III. For example, in the cellar the boiler which provided hot water for the bathrooms was out of repairs for want of use.
The only information there is regarding the furnishings in the house comes from the sale of part of the contents which took place in 1839 on the departure of Mary Spode. Some of the items listed below were probably originally purchased by Josiah Spode II and inherited by Josiah Spode III on the death of his father.
On the premises, at THE MOUNT, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (if necessary), the 10th, 11th and 12th days of December, 1839.
There were three entrances to the estate and at different times, three lodges. The first front entrance was from Honeywall where it joined just below what is now Stone Street and then called Old Coach Road. From this junction, the road ran through what is now the Allotments Estate to The Mount.
The rear entrance to The Mount was via what is now the end of Greatbatch Avenue, where until just a few years ago stood the giant pillar which supported the gate. The stables and coach houses associated with Mount farm were adjacent. There was a cobbled courtyard in earlier days, with a fountain in the middle, where tired horses, after their climb up Honeywall would take a welcome drink. Behind these buildings was Mount Farm which was later converted into three cottages. Here also stood south lodge overlooking the corner of Greatbatch Avenue where a school playground still remains. This lodge was built prior to The Mount for it was described in 1839 as a dwelling now used as the south lodge’ containing in fixtures a door lock five spring latches, two sash fasteners, one bolt and two shelves in the pantry.
The Lodge was occupied by various tenants including the father of Mrs Winnie Roberts, Mr Alldis, and later the late Burt Pattinson. I understand that when these cottages were demolished, there were found walls made of wattle and daub which indicates that they were well over three or four hundred years old and a part of the original Tittensor’s House estate.
The old coach road became unused when a new splendid drive was laid by February 1831. The cost of constructing this new carriage drive across this land north to Hartshill, amounted to £406 6s. The entrance to this new prestigious drive was near to the junction of what are now Queens Road and Princes Road and the long drive to The Mount was bordered by a fine line of trees. In the triangular section at the road junction, there are still visible the remaining few trees marking the drive. The northern exit was fronted with iron gates set in iron railings and by a handsome stone Lodge which is recorded in the advertisement dated 1838 To Let. The new tree-lined drive can be seen on early maps of the area. The old drive from Honeywall was cleared away although a short section survived at its junction from Honeywall continued to be called The Old Coach Road until the end of the 19th century. The cottages here remained in occupation until the early part of the 20th century and the road was replaced by an electricity sub-station in the 1950s.
The only lodge remaining today was built by Frederick Bishop in 1861 and is located near to the entrance of what is now Mount Avenue. It was built of a cream brick with classical stone portico entrance. At some time, either late 19th century or early 20th century, the building was enlarged to accommodate a kitchen and an additional bedroom. It was re-roofed in the early 1970s and has undergone extensive interior repairs and modernisation by the owner Mr George Bowden. The lodge is now listed by English Heritage. The Coach Road passed right in front of the lodge, not up Mount Avenue as it does today. No doubt the path was re-routed when the site was sold off in plots and housing developments progressed. Just a few yards in front of the lodge, under the garage floor of the house called Doon Ville on the corner of Mount Avenue, there is a deep well supplied with fresh running water. Lewis Adams vacated The Mount at the expiry of the lease.
The next occupant of The Mount was William Allbut. Allbut was the Editor of the North Staffs Mercury and at the time living at Northwood, Hanley. He apparently wanted to tenant the mansion so his wife could transfer to the Mount an already established ladies’ school from their home at Northwood. However, Josiah Spode IV at the same time became of age and in doing so, took over the management of his estates from the trustees of his late father. In his new role he wanted to view the property before all future contracts were signed.
The original contract drawn up for the rental of The Mount to Allbut was for the sum of £60 per year, on a lease for seven years up to 1852, but Spode decided to hold up the lease until he had visited the property.
Allbut was the Editor of the North Staffs Mercury and at the time living at Northwood, Hanley. He apparently wanted to tenant the mansion so his wife could transfer to the Mount an already established ladies’ school from their home at Northwood. However, Josiah Spode IV at the same time became of age and in doing so, took over the management of his estates from the trustees of his late father. In his new role he wanted to view the property before all future contracts were signed.
The original contract drawn up for the rental of The Mount to Allbut was for the sum of £60 per year, on a lease for seven years up to 1852.
One of the early developments designed specifically to house the working classes was Penkhull Square. It was a group of twenty cottages built on a courtyard plan and approached by a single arched entrance into a cobbled courtyard in the middle of which stood a stand-up water pump. The structure was of brick and tile construction reminiscent of many courtyard housing developments in the area.
Only the dwellings bordering Trent Valley Road had their frontages facing the outside, those on the other three sides of the court faced inwards. At the front were casement windows, at the back tiny sashes. The cottages consisted of a living room and a small scullery with two corresponding bedrooms above approached by a stairway from the main room below.
The second bedroom was too small even to contain a full-sized double bed. The small projecting sculleries to the rear of the cottages were not added until 1907. The privies, a short distance behind the Square were approached through a narrow opening at the back of the square, or from the front around the side. There were two sets of communal privies in block form, one-marked boys and other girls, which drained out into an ash pits situated further down into the field.
The land upon which Penkhull Square stood was purchased by Spode II in 1802 only a few months after his purchase of substantial property from the estate of John Harrison. The manor court entry reads: October 25th 1802, John Jones, (Trustee for Lovatt as in preceding Recovery), to Josiah Spode of Stoke upon Trent Esq. All that copyhold dwelling house and barn, and all land called the Great Hough and Far Hough in Penkhull, which said pieces of land were formerly in three parts and then called the Three Hough’s, were formerly in the holding of Richard Heath, afterwards of John Slaney, but late of John Townsend and were late the estate of Thomas Lovett previously of William Lovett, and formerly of Joseph Lovatt otherwise Lovatt the younger; fine 1s/5d.
As Spode was engaged in the building of The Mount from 1803 to 1804, it is unlikely that there was any progress on the building of Penkhull Square during that time. In reality, it may have not have been until after The Mount had been completed in 1805/6 that work commenced on the building of Penkhull Square. This assumption is supported by the parish lune book for 1807-8, which records that five out of the 20 dwellings remained unoccupied. The early occupants were Messrs Eaton, Taylor, Hatton, Dinney, Bird, Smith, Mason, Martin, Williams, Robinson, Yates, Parker and Spooner. The amount paid to the parish was assessed at 1s 3d for each dwelling.
In a schedule of all the property owned by Spode compiled after his death in 1827, Penkhull Square is described as follows: And also all those twenty messuages standing at a place called The Square near the south end of the Village of Penkhull now or lately in the holdings of Ann Shaw, John Pugh, Samuel Harding, Ann Shaw the widow of William Shaw, John Steele, Samuel Davis, Thomas Underwood, Robert Hollinshead, Richard Pye, Joseph Bird, Thomas Ridgeway, Samuel Simpson, Thomas Critchley, William Robinson, Thomas Forrester, Richard Ball, Myatt Brookes, William Spooner and John Ridgeway or their under tenants with outbuildings yards, gardens etc.
The 1841 census return makes interesting reading. All properties were occupied. The occupations included potters, labourers, wheelwright, bricklayer, cordwainer and a shoemaker. The total number of people living in the square numbered 110, an average of 5.5 per dwelling. The numbers varied from a family of three to that of ten. As there were only two bedrooms, one too small to contain a double bed, the living conditions would have been cramped.
Results found in the 1861 census are similar to those of 1841: pottery workers, a widow, Mary Tunstall a domestic servant, aged 51 with 8 children, five of whom went to work. An exception was George Herritt, aged 47, an army pensioner. He came from Cheadle, married an Irish wife and one of his children, Margaret, aged 15 was born in East India.
The 1871 census continues the theme of pottery workers, although one occupation is that of a pig dealer, George Horne, aged 55, who came from Leek. He was in possession of both No. 19 and 20 Penkhull Square but the census records that he was taking in a lodger, William Roberts as well as his wife and daughter. The largest occupancy was that of Mr John Wright, aged 38, a potter’s presser, who with his wife and nine children from 1 year to 16 years of age, all managed to live in such a tiny house. They were still in occupation in 1881, although the three eldest children had left home, but in the intervening ten years a further two children had been born.
Evidence extracted from the census returns show that there was a high turnover of occupiers because the properties were built to a very low standard. Coal for example was kept at the side of the open fire, up a corner, there being nowhere else to store it. Bath night, once a week on a Friday was with a tin bath on the hearth, cleanest first.
The 1911 census provides a further snapshot of the Square, its occupants and social status. The occupations had changed from the early days when most were potters, but now a wide variety of unskilled workers. No tenant remained the same as recorded in the previous census. The average age of the head of families was low at 36 years, the majority were small families compared with previous census returns.
At No 1, James Moss, aged 54, was the eldest head, a potter’s labourer. At No.2 William Ball was 46 years. His wife Elizabeth was aged 41. Six children were recorded as living at home from the ages of 6 months to 15 years although a total of twelve were born during their 20 years of marriage. The highest occupancy by a single family was found at No.4. Here, Thomas Wright, aged 44, a telegraph wireman and his wife, Susan, aged 36, had produced seven children who were all still living at home.
For the first time, the 1911 census records how many children were born to a family and how many had died. The totals reflect the times, poor diet, poor housing and bad sanitation and health services that few could afford. Out of a total of children born to the families listed as living in Penkhull Square, there were 56 children born, of whom, 34 died either at birth or in infancy, representing a 61% mortality rate. In comparison, Brisley Hill across the road with a mortality rate of 26%.
A report by the sanitary inspector in 1865 illustrates the seriousness of the problem: There were twenty-one houses in the square with seven privies, six of them connected and placed in gardens behind the houses. The contents discharge into open receptacles in the adjoining fields. The large ash pit is full and there are no back doors to the houses. About one hundred people live there. The inspector also noted that the square was conspicuous by the number of deaths recorded from typhus and other fatal forms of fever. In 1865, there were 26 burials in Penkhull churchyard followed by 48 in 1866. All were from Penkhull Square.
At the time of mass demolition of Penkhull in the mid-1960s, there were considerable protests against the demolition of the Square. Yes, they were in their existing form unfit for habitation, but the uniqueness and the historical value made them a target to be retained. Ian Nairn, a Daily Telegraph correspondent wrote in 1963. That Penkhull Square itself must be saved, as reconditioned, it would be tailor-made for old people and childless couples and for anyone who wants to live in a place with some identity to it.
Yet again, despite protests against the proposals on the grounds that it could indeed be converted into substantial old people’s secured housing, with a central square with seats and flowerbeds, the thoughts were ignored by the city council. The powers that be at the town hall ignored every approach and proposal, only to confirm one thing – compulsory demolition.
In a description dated 1810, a part Hassell’s Croft comprised of a barn formerly having been many years ago converted into dwelling houses by Spode II but
the exact date that these five cottages were converted into ten is not known.
Following the death of Josiah Spode III 1829 a list of all his properties was prepared and transferred at a court held on the 13th May 1831. Under the description of lands and property formerly owned by Chapman is the following:
And also all those ten other messuages or dwelling houses, with the outbuilding gardens and appurtenances to the same respectively belonging, situate and being in the village of Penkhull aforesaid, near to a messuage formerly called Doody’s Messuage, which said ten messuages and premises last mentioned are now or lately were in several holdings.
As Ten Row was built on a steep hill, they were approached by a narrow blue-brick terrace with a number of steps at one end. They were in typical Spode style of brick and tile, each with its own ash-pit, privy and small garden to the rear. The rent reflected the quality of the houses, 8s 9d per month compared with 7s for Penkhull Square. These houses had their own privy at the bottom of the garden, not communal. This in its time was quite a status symbol.
Because of the better quality of house, the turnover of tenants was far less than for other properties such as Penkhull Square. By 1841, the front room of No.35 had been converted into a out-door beer house run by Ann Grocott for which she paid a higher rent than the others.
The last census of 1911 reflects a changing occupation. No longer did they all work in the pottery industry as only two are recorded. Others are: one stonemason, two working on the railways, two house painters, one a miner, and at No.67 Absalom Hollins, aged 42, from Silverdale, recorded his occupation as navvy working on the Garden Village. He was married to Florence, aged 32, at house duties and all children three boys and three girls, were attending school.
Looking at the number of child deaths, there were a total of 35 children born of whom nine had died representing a death rate of 26%, which, compared with that of Penkhull Square at 61%, was good.
All the above are extracts taken from The Royal Manor of Penkhull.
Please respect Copyright Richard Talbot