Stoke-on-Trent Local History


The land, resources and Settlement

"The situation on the ridge of the lower part of the Moorlands, is so much diversified with hills and dales that however little might be its value for agricultural purposes, or bleak and barren its aspect, no inconvenience is every experienced by the inhabitants from the volumes of smoke arising from the coal consumed in making bricks, tiles and earthenware."

(S.Shaw, HSP,3-4)

The following description is from "The making of the Six Towns" p.5-6:

"Early occupation seems to have been sparse. The poorly drained clay soils of the Potteries were never easy to cultivate and for this reason the early farmers of the Neolithic period (latter part of the Stone Age, 3000-1800BC) seem only to have colonised the area when the better land had already been taken up. For much of this period we should perhaps imagine a low level of land use, such as cattle-grazing through the forest.

The nearest monumental graves of this period are the Bridestones on the Cheshire border and a group in the Peak District. No domestic settlements have been found for the Neolithic or Bronze Age but this does not mean that they did not exist. In fact, domestic settlements for these periods are rarely found in any part of Britain. A number of stone implements dating back about 4000 years have been found in the city. These include some ground stone axes made of rocks quarried many hundreds of miles away. These implements and the so-called 'maceheads' and flint arrowheads indicate that the land was not totally uninhabited in the Neolithic and Bronze Age.

Naturally an intensely built-up area like the Potteries is unlikely to preserve many sites from ancient times.... There were almost certainly burial mounds of barrows of the Early Bronze Age at Penkhull and Normacot, though all that survives are the fragments of pots that were buried along with the bodies. Now these places have been so extensively developed that we shall never know whether others existed.

Towards the middle of the Bronze Age, about 1400 BC, barrows ceased to be constructed. The best evidence for the following period are the occasional finds of bronze implements, such as spearheads and daggers. Though not numerous in North Staffordshire, sufficient of these are known for it to be certain that there was some continuity of occupation through these centuries.

Another kind of evidence which becomes significant towards the end of the first millennium BC are place names. Some of these, such as Trent, Lyme (as in Burslem), and Penkhull are Celtic in origin and these can be pointers to the pattern of settlement in pre-Roman times. The fact that the hilltop village of Penkhull has a Celtic name may be an indication of a hillfort here.

With the Roman conquest a network of roads was established and this included the road across the north of Staffordshire linking Derby and Chesterton. A mile or two from this road on the banks of the Trent a pottery kiln was set up soon after the conquest, presumably to supply the Roman army".

Next: resources: water, clay, coal etc...


on Roman Roads
on history of Chesterton

questions / comments / contributions? email: Steve Birks