Arnold Bennett - Son of Stoke-on-Trent


Bennett, (Enoch) Arnold (1867-1931)

Arnold Bennett was an English novelist, playwright, and essayist, born in Hanley (27th May 1867), Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire (Hanley was the real-life model for one of the "Five Towns" of his novels).

After a local education Bennett finished his education at the University of London and for a time was editor of Woman magazine. After 1900 he devoted himself entirely to writing; dramatic criticism was one of his foremost interests. Bennett is best known, however, for his novels, several of which were written during his residence in France. 

Bennett's infancy was spent in genteel poverty, which gave way to prosperity as his father succeeded as a solicitor. From this provincial background he became a novelist.

His enduring fame is as a Chronicler of the Potteries towns, the setting and inspiration of some of his most famous and enduring literary work and the place where he grew up.

Many of the locations in Clayhanger and other Bennett novels are based in "The five towns" and correspond to actual locations in and around the Potteries district of North Staffordshire click here to see details of some of the key locations and buildings. 

The six towns of
[click for more]
Bennett's Five Towns
[click for more]
      Tunstall       Turnhill 
      Burslem       Bursley 
      Hanley       Hanbridge 
      Stoke       Knype 
      Fenton       the 'forgotton' town 
      Longton       Longshaw 

key locations and buildings in Bennett's 'Five Town's novels

Bennett did not pursue a career as a writer until after leaving his father's practice and moving to London in 1889 when he won a literary competition in "Tit Bits" magazine. Encouraged to take up journalism full-time he became assistant editor of "Woman" in 1894. 

Just over four years later his first novel "A Man from the North" was published to critical acclaim, followed in 1902 by "Anna of the Five Towns", the first of a succession of stories which detailed life in the Potteries and displayed his unique vision of life in its towns.

Between the end of 1903 and 1911 Bennett lived mainly in Paris. During this time he continued to enjoy critical success with the publication of many novels including "The Old Wives Tale" (1908). After a visit to America in 1911 where he had been publicised and acclaimed as no other visiting writer had been since Dickens he returned to England where the "Old Wives Tale" was reappraised and hailed to be a masterpiece.

By 1922 he had separated from his French wife, but shortly thereafter he fell in love with the actress Dorothy Cheston and lived with her until his death in 1931 from typhoid. His ashes are buried in Burslem cemetery. 
Their daughter Virginia Eldin now living in France is today the President of the Arnold Bennett Society.

Although Arnold Bennett never returned to the Potteries to live he never forgot the debt which he owed to his birthplace for giving him a unique setting for so many of his novels, a setting which he enhanced with his penetrating description of people and places. 

It is perhaps unfortunate that Bennett felt the "The Five Towns" sounded more euphonious then "The Six Towns", and thus relegated the town of Fenton almost to literary oblivion, but as a chronicler of The Potteries he assured for the district a permanent place in English literature.

Bennett's Five Towns short stories and novels


Arnold Bennett's home No 205 Waterloo Road

Enoch Bennett, the father of Arnold Bennett, had bought a building site on Henry Meakin’s estate for £200 in 1879 where he built a house at a cost of £900, No 205 Waterloo Road. This is a large three-storey red brick house with a façade much embellished with terra cotta. It has two bay windows at the front and six bedrooms.

more on Bennett's home, where he lived and his memorial in Burslem Cemetery

see also Bennett's life in the Potteries


questions/comments/contributions? email: Steve Birks