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Another 'Grand Tour' of the Potteries
- David Proudlove & Steve Birks -

buildings North of the City

next: Tunstall Park
previous: Brindley Ford First School
contents: index of buildings North of the City - Part 1

No 3 -  Chatterley Whitfield  

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'Ruins and Monuments'

The last couple of weeks have seen some Good News for the Potteries, if the City Council’s Spin Doctors are to be believed. Firstly the Council approved the Stoke Town Masterplan which looks set to pave the way for yet another supermarket in the city…and that was followed by the Government awarding a pile of cash for the City Council to complete demolition work that was canned following the axing of the Housing Market Renewal programme. The new cash is to enable part flattened streets to be ‘finished off’, in order ‘rescue’ stranded residents. It is unfortunate, criminal maybe, that it has come to this, but you simply cannot leave people in limbo living in circumstances such as these. Maybe once this final raft of demolitions has been complete, the wrecking ball can be retired in the Potteries? I’m not holding my breath.

In announcing the new cash, Housing Minister Grant Shapps visited the Potteries, and attacked the previous Government for pursuing mass demolition. Now whilst the previous Government did make hundreds of millions of pounds available for Housing Market Renewal, the money was made available to help deliver locally-shaped strategies. Hmm…local, localism, isn’t that a theme banded round by the current Government? 

Yes, serious errors of judgement have been made in respect of the regeneration of the Potteries, but I’m afraid those errors of judgement were made locally. But then Mr Shapps was hardly likely to point that out whilst he was in the company of senior councillors from the local authority. And anyway, why let the truth get in the way of a good political soundbite?

But what happens next? It has been made crystal clear that There is No More Cash to help redevelopment of former clearance areas. “You’re on your own Jack”, seems to be the message; “We’ve helped you assemble sites for new development, now get on with it”. But without the comfort blanket of public sector support, a continuing lack of development finance, and mortgages for first time buyers, housebuilders and developers will look dimly on these ‘development opportunities’, leaving the Potteries with blitzed neighbourhoods, sites that will scar the city for at least a generation. So you don’t believe me? You think this is scaremongering?

Take a trip to Packmoor.





the ruined mining village of Fegg Hayes

the ruined mining village of Fegg Hayes
Chell Heath Road / Oxford Street



One of the areas that will ‘benefit’ from this new injection of Government cash is the ruined mining village of Fegg Hayes. The core of Fegg Hayes is a series of terraced streets off Chell Heath Road, some of which were of particular historic interest, dating from the 1800s, and which will have been aimed at miners that were employed at the nearby Chatterley Whitfield colliery. The village was extended through municipal housebuilding, but following the collapse of the coal mining industry and the closure of Chatterley Whitfield and other pits in the area such as the Norton and Victoria collieries, Fegg Hayes and the neighbouring communities of Chell Heath and Norton-in-the-Moors fell into a spiral of decline, a decline which now sees the areas residing near the top of lists of Official Statistics when it comes to deprivation.

And so the good doctors from the City Council had a good look at the sick, ailing patient, and prescribed ‘regeneration’. What this meant for Fegg Hayes was a bit of demolition, and a few quid here and there to tart-up the neighbourhood’s Council housing stock. 

The majority of the funding that has been made available to the Fegg Hayes area has been channelled into the former Chatterley Whitfield colliery, which is still a domineering presence in the area, despite the fact that it closed its doors to working miners almost thirty-five years ago.


Chatterley Whitfield as seen from Fegg Hayes Road

Chatterley Whitfield as seen from Fegg Hayes Road 


Chatterley Whitfield is one of the most important sites in the Potteries: it is one of the most complete former colliery sites in Europe, and has been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a host of buildings on the site have Listed Building status. In its heyday, Chatterley Whitfield was one of the most productive sites in the country, and indeed, was the first colliery in the country to achieve an annual output of one million tons.

The colliery lies on the Potteries coalfield, the largest of the North Staffordshire coalfields. The early potters favoured the Great Row seam which outcrops quite often towards the Pennine boundary, and this helped to determine the location of the Potteries towns of Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Fenton and Longton, while the western edge of the seam runs south-west from Biddulph for some twenty miles.

It is thought that the first extraction of coal in the Chatterley Whitfield area may have occurred in the fourteenth century by the Cistercian monks of Hulton Abbey from the other side of the East Valley; there is evidence to suggest that they mined coal from bell pits in nearby Ridgway. However, the first recorded evidence of mining activity dates from 1750, when a coal merchant from Burslem worked the area.

By the mid 1800s, a colliery had started to develop, and there was an on-site engine house, wharf, carpenter’s shop, and a brickworks. During the 1850s, prominent local businessman Hugh Henshall Williamson expanded production, and after initially working footrails, he sank a number of shafts including the Bellringer, the Ten Foot, and the Engine Pit. Further expansion took place following the opening of the Biddulph Valley Railway in 1860, and in 1865, a consortium of businessmen from Tunstall acquired the colliery and formed the Whitfield Colliery Company Limited. 

Just seven years later in 1872, the managing director of the Chatterley Coal and Iron Company – C.J. Homer – acquired the site and invested heavily in railway infrastructure. This led to insolvency and the voluntary liquidation of the company by 1878. Production continued via an administrator until 1890 when the business was purchased by a newly formed Manchester-based company, the North of England Trustee Debenture and Asset Corporation, who continued to mine from the site until the coal industry was nationalised.

The colliery suffered badly during the recession of the late 1920s and early 1930s, but as the economy recovered in the years leading up to the Second World War, over £300,000 was invested in new plant, workshops and railway equipment, and it was in 1939 that Chatterley Whitfield became the first colliery in Britain to achieve an annual output of one million tons.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the coal industry was nationalised, and the colliery saw significant modernisation. At the dawn of the Swinging Sixties, ambitious plans were developed to merge Chatterley Whitfield with the nearby Norton and Victoria collieries to create a ‘super colliery’, that – it was envisaged – would be capable of an annual production of two million tons. However, this would have required investment of over £3,000,000, and so the plans were never implemented.

Chatterley Whitfield ceased production and closed its doors to working miners on 25th March 1977, and the remaining coal seams were worked from Wolstanton colliery.

Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum

from the Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum


The following year, the site reopened as the Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum, with access to the underground workings via the Winstanley Shaft, and its peak, it attracted 40,000 visitors a year. However, in May 1986, Wolstanton colliery was closed, leading to fears that the Chatterley Whitfield workings would flood. 

As a result, the National Coal Board invested £1,000,000 in the construction of a simulated “underground experience” in former railway cuttings near to the Institute Winding House. In August 1993, the Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum was put into liquidation, and the site returned to the owner of the site’s freehold – Stoke-on-Trent City Council. In November of that year, the site was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and a number of buildings on the site were listed at Grade II and Grade II*.

The Insitute Shaft

The Insitute Shaft 


 electrical and mechanical fitting shop

electrical and mechanical fitting shop


From 1994, work began to secure a new future for the site, and in 2000, the Chatterley Whitfield Partnership was formed (an informal arrangement between the City Council, English Heritage, and local MP Joan Walley) to deliver a new strategy for Chatterley Whitfield. In 2002, the site received a major boost through its inclusion within English Partnerships’ National Coalfield Programme.

The project to regenerate Chatterley Whitfield is well underway, and over £20,000,000 has been invested to date. The principal partners to the project include Stoke-on-Trent City Council, English Heritage, the Homes and Communities Agency, English Heritage, and the Friends of Chatterley Whitfield.

The vision for the future of Chatterley Whitfield is that of a destination containing a vibrant mix of commercial and non-commercial uses that “captures the essential and unique historic character of the site”, and the two main elements of the project are the creation of a “sustainable business park”, and a new “heritage country park”. Recognising that the site’s unique heritage value is fundamental to its future development, three primary goals were identified, being to:

• Secure the long-term survival of the whole complex;

• Achieve and safeguard an appropriate setting for the historic colliery; and

• Make the site accessible, understandable, and enjoyable to the public.

And so how successful has the ‘regeneration’ of Chatterley Whitfield and Fegg Hayes been? As stated above, to date, over £20,000,000 has been invested in the site from various sources. Key buildings on the site have been restored. The new “heritage country park” has been laid out. But what about the “sustainable business park”? Well, the first phase has seen the opening of an Enterprise Centre, but little else has been seen since. Maybe that’s because the idea of a business park in such a far-flung location on the fringe of the urban area was fundamentally flawed? Sustainable? If you work at the Enterprise Centre, what do you do at lunchtime? Where can you pop out to get a paper or a loaf of bread without climbing into your car? The answer is you can’t. 

Dead sustainable.

the new country park - a nice space to walk around

the new country park - 'a nice space to walk around'


And how has the ‘regeneration’ of the colliery site benefited the original mining community of Fegg Hayes? The simple answer is not much. Yes, the new country park is a nice space to walk around and enjoy, and access to a part of their locality that was previously out-of-bounds has been restored, but how has that investment changed people’s lives? 

How many jobs have been created at this “sustainable business park” that local people can access? 

Does this site actually have the potential to improve the fortunes of the people of Fegg Hayes?

Only time will tell, but it is almost twenty years since the Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum closed its doors, and we have now entered an era of unprecedented austerity. Gorgeous George’s Autumn Statement last week painted an unbelievably grim picture: the structural deficit will not be eliminated during this parliament, as originally promised; there will be further cuts to public spending; employment will rise and living standards will fall; and despite his reluctance to say the ‘r’ word, it is clear that double-dip recession is just around the corner (that is of course, if we haven’t already moved into such territory). 

So what does that mean for the future of Chatterley Whitfield and Fegg Hayes? Well, at least the City Council now has the funds to complete their demolition of part of Chell Heath Road…

Whilst the colliery site and its buildings have seen some attention, the people of Fegg Hayes have seen little. In these dark days, there is constant talk of a ‘lost generation’; in Fegg Hayes we also have a forgotten generation. A generation whose livelihood disappeared, whose industry was obliterated. A generation abandoned by successive Governments. In any future strategy for coalfield communities, the people must be put first. Now isn’t that similar to a slogan that has been peddled by Stoke-on-Trent City Council in the past…?

The future for Fegg Hayes may mean more ruins, but very few monuments.

 D.P. 8th December 2011



Chatterley Whitfield is one of the most complete former colliery sites in Europe, and has been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument
Chatterley Whitfield is one of the most complete former colliery sites in Europe, 
and has been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument



next: Tunstall Park
previous: Brindley Ford First School
contents: index of buildings North of the City - Part 1




Related Pages

Chatterley Whitfield - listed buildings

Black Gold - 2008 saw the 25th anniversary of the start of the Miners’ Strike, which ultimately led to the demise of the coal mining industry as a major powerhouse in this country, the fall out of which coalfield communities are still dealing with to this day.

Chatterly Whitfield Project

external links..

The Friends of Chatterley Whitfield