Church History - Stoke-on-Trent

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Summary of Christian heritage in Stoke-on-Trent


Saxon times: 
The ecclesiastical history of the parish of Stoke-on-Trent begins in Saxon times; few Staffordshire churches can claim
an older pedigree than that of St. Peter ad Vincula, though scant physical evidence remains of the present building's predecessors. 

Cistercian Abbey: 
Even less survives of the noble fabric of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Hulton, dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1538, and thereafter a convenient quarry for local builders. Those parts which stood quietly mouldering to the 1770's were dismantled and carted away to support the banks of the nearby Caldon Canal. The Abbey's foundations, relatively unscathed, lay buried and forgotten until 1884 when accidentally rediscovered by workmen digging drains at Carmountside Farm. The farm has long since gone, though the foundations continue to lie in situ within the grounds of a former local secondary school. Stoke-on-Trent Archeological Society has carried out extensive excavations of the site over many years and fascinating exhibits pertaining to the Abbey's three centuries of active life and devotion are displayed in the Archaeology Gallery of the City Museum. 

The only complete structure of Pre-Reformation vintage in today's Potteries is the humble Tudor tower of the Church of St. John the Baptist, Burslem. St Bartholemew's Church, in the once isolated village of Blurton, is one of few English churches to be built during the reign of Charles I. 

Period of church building:
The first great period of church building in the Six Towns came in the eighteenth century with the erection of St. Bartholemew's, Norton-in-the-Moors, St. John's, Hanley, St. John the Baptist's, Longton (demolished c.1980), and the replacement of the original nave at St. John's, Burslem. 

Methodism in the Potteries:
There followed an explosion of Methodism in the Potteries, an enthusiastic response to many visits to North Staffordshire by Charles Wesley and fellow preachers in the second half of the eighteenth century. Primitive Methodism, a product of the Six Towns, began when Hugh Bourne and William Clowes turned their backs on their Wesleyan congregations to create a more basic form of worship. The movement gathered momentum and grew to 100,000 members and 5,000 chapels, before reuniting with the Methodists in 1932. 

Spiritual welfare of the working population:
The Government of the day initiated the next wave of local
church foundation in the 1820's and 1830's, granting large sums of money to build new houses of God in rapidly burgeoning industrial towns to counter the desperate shortage of churches ministering to the spiritual welfare of the working population. Some say the aim was also to dissuade the new urban masses from revolution. These 'Waterloo' Churches include St. Mark's, Shelton, St James the Less, Longton and the former St, Paul's, Longport. The existence of several other churches of similar date is due in no small measure to the generosity of local benefactors; outstanding among these are George Gilbert Scott's Holy Trinity, Hartshill and St. Thomas's, Penkhull. 

Catholic Emancipation: 
In the years following the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, Roman Catholic centres of worship began to appear. Many of the early ones were enlarged or rebuilt as their congregations grew and finances permitted. Outstanding among this later generation of churches are Sidney Brocklesby's splendid twentieth-century duo of the Sacred Heart, Tunstall and St. Joseph's, Burslem. 

New churches:
A number of new churches have opened in recent
decades, especially in the suburbs, while others have closed their doors for the last time. Some of these redundant churches and chapels have been granted new leases of life as centres for other religions such as Islam and Sikhism. And then, of course, there's the Sally Army!

Text from: "Six of the Best" - Richard Weir

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email: Steve Birks