Stoke-upon-Trent - Local History

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Stoke-upon-Trent - Local History

Turnpike and Packhorse Roads in North Staffordshire



"The public roads throughout the District (like most other roads in the kingdom) were in a very wretched plight, narrow, circuitous, miry and inconvenient…

1448 - Richard Adams and his brother William were fined for 'digging clay by the road' between Burslem and Sneyd.

1768 – Arthur Young in his ‘Tour through the North of England’ said of the road from Knutsford to Newcastle ‘a more dreadful road cannot be imagined….. the ruts and holes most execrable – let me persuade all travellers to avoid this terrible country’

In the year 1762 we have the following petition presented to Parliament in favour of an Act for making a Turnpike Road, from the Liverpool and London Road at Lawton, to Stoke-upon-Trent; there to unit with the Newcastle and Uttoxeter Turnpike Road, which had recently been improved:-

Petition to Parliament:

"In Burslem, and its neighbourhood, are near one hundred and fifty separate Potteries, for making various kinds of stone and earthenware; which, together, find constant employment and support for near seven thousand people.

The ware in these Potteries is exported in vast quantities from London, Bristol, Liverpool, Hull, and other seaports, to our several colonies in America and the West Indies, as well as to almost every port in Europe.

Great quantities of flint-stones are used in making some of the ware, which are brought by sea, from different parts of the coast, to Liverpool and Hull: and the clay for the making of white ware is brought from Devonshire and Cornwall, chiefly to Liverpool; the materials from whence are brought by water, up the rivers Mersey and Weaver, to Winsford, in Cheshire; those from Hull, up the Trent, to Willington; and from Winsford and Willington, the whole are brought by land-carriage to Burslem.

The ware, when made, is conveyed to Liverpool and Hull in the same manner as the material brought from those places. 

Many thousands of tons of shipping, and seamen in proportion, which in summer trade to the northern seas, are employed in winter in carrying materials for the Burslem ware; and, as much salt is consumed in glazing one species of it, as pays annually near £5,000 duty to Government.

Add to these considerations the prodigious quantity of coals used in the Potteries, and the loading and freight this manufacture constantly supplies, as well for land-carriage as inland navigation, and it will appear, that the manufacturers, sailors, bargemen, carriers, colliers, men employed in the salt-works, and others who are supported by the pot trade, amount to a great many thousand people; and every shilling received for ware at foreign markets is so much clear gain to the nation, as not one foreigner is employed in, or any material imported from abroad for any branch of it; and the trade flourishes so much, as to have increased by two-thirds within the last fourteen years.

The Potters concerned in this very considerable manufacture, presuming from the above and many other reasons that might be offered, the Pot trade not unworthy the attention of Parliament, have presented a petition for leave to bring in a Bill to repair and widen the road from Red Bull, at Lawton, in Cheshire, to Cliff Bank, in Staffordshire; which runs quite through the Potteries, and falls at each end into a Turnpike road. This road, especially the northern road from Burslem to the Red Bull, is so very narrow, deep, and foundrous, as to be almost impassable for carriages; and in the winter, almost fro pack-horses; for which reason, the carriages, with materials and ware, to and from Liverpool, and the salt-works in Cheshire, are obliged to go to Newcastle, and from thence to the Red Bull, which is nine miles and a half, (whereof three miles and a half, viz. from Burslem to Newcastle, are not Turnpike road), instead of five miles, which is the distance from Burslem to the Red Bull, by the road prayed to be amended." 

Opposition from Newcastle:

By 1720 white clay and flint from the south of England was being brought by sea and river to Winsford in Cheshire or Willington in Derbyshire.

Then by packhorse along the trackways to the Potteries

The first road to be turnpiked was the main route through Newcastle - 1714
This was supported by the leading potters – Whieldon, Wood, John Harrison, Thomas Wedgwood, John Bourne, William Adams

‘For the next 50 years Newcastle was engaged in a contest to retain its control over the rapidly growing pottery towns’

Because of the vested interest of the Newcastle Turnpike Trustees there was strong opposition to the turnpiking of the alternative route from Stoke directly to join the main road at Church Lawton. The Mayor, Bailiffs and Burgesses, Gents, Clergy and principal inhabitants of the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme stated ……....

"it will be greatly prejudicial to the interests of the said parishioners and to the traders and manufacturers of the said borough ... nor would the road be in its nature of any public utility ... which does not lead to any market town but only through small villages so that the same seems calculated to serve the interests of a few private persons.”


1763 - The potters petitioned Parliament to build turnpike roads. The corporation of Newcastle-under-Lyme opposed this move since it would mean a loss of revue to the town - they had their own toll gates.


A House of Commons Committee called for evidence from the petitioners and in 1763 Wedgwood told them that the roads were "in very bad condition, narrow in some parts, and in the Winter Season impassable in many places". Parliament granted their Bill and turnpikes were constructed.