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Stoke-on-Trent Districts: Bradwell

 

 
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Bradwell, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire.


My native town and its social condition:

From 'when I was a child' by Charles Shaw - Shaw was born in Tunstall and in the 1830's played in the Fowlea valley and Bradwell wood. Here he describes how the rural playground of his youth was destroyed by the industrial developments on the west side of the valley in the 1850's-1900........

"The town of T[unstall], where I was born, is built on a long hillside. It slopes upward from the south to the north, the north standing in close proximity to a mining district, bordering on Cheshire, and the southern part of the town tailing off towards the town of B[urslem].

The western side of the town was the most built upon, though in later days the eastern side has become more occupied. Looking from this western side, there was at that time a little valley, through which a tributary of the Trent ran. I have often caught Jack Sharps in the tiny stream, and gathered buttercups, daisies, and lady flowers on its banks.

In spring time the flowers were most abundant in the fields lying in the valley. In the midst of them stood Chatterly Farm, then a farm of some consequence, as it mainly supplied the town with milk. It was, too, a centre for Sunday wanderings, especially in spring and summer, for the heavy workers of the town, where they got refreshing supplies of milk and curds and whey.

Poor "Billy Brid"a half-daft cowboy or cowman lived at the farm. Who will ever forget his small figure, his half-opened eyes, and his self-possessed merry whistle ? Why he was called " Billy Brid " I never knew, and can only suppose this "dub" was given him owing to his persistent whistling.

Birds abounded near the farm, and through the valley, which was uninvaded and as peaceful as Arcadia itself. On the other side of the farm, and rolling southward, was a well-wooded hillside, called Braddow Wood (Bradwell Wood) in the common speech of the time. This wood was divided by the same common speech into the Big Wood and the Little Wood. The Big Wood was a home of birds and rabbits, strictly watched by two keepers, who lived in cottages, one at each end of the wood.

Bold was the man or boy who strayed off the footpath leading through the wood. Beside the two keepers were two ferocious dogs, their constant companions, and probably no constable in those days, or policeman now, was such a terror to evildoers.

The Little Wood, however, was the most trespassed upon, for birds' nests in summer and for blackberries in autumn. Blackberries then meant not only a luxury, but meant also less butter and less treacle to be used in the poor homes of the people in the town. Children were encouraged, in spite of perils from dogs and keepers, to invade the Little Wood at the proper season. Happy those who came away with their cans full of the precious berries ; but woe to those pursued by keepers and dogs, and whose cans lost their precious treasures in the pursuit.

This pursuing was a brutal business, for little harm could be done by the children in tramping on such rough scrub as the wood contained. But game was sacred then, even rabbits, and rather than these should be disturbed a useful and wholesome fruit was allowed to perish largely on the trees.

This lovely, peaceful, and fruitful valley is now choked with smoke and disfigured by mining and smelting refuse.

If Cyclops with his red-handed and red-faced followers had migrated upwards from the dim regions below and settled on the surface amid baleful blazes and shadows, a sweater transformation could not have taken place. Huge mounds of slag and dirt are seen now, filling the valley, burning for years with slow, smoky fires within them.

Poor Chatterly Farm stands like a blasted wraith of its once rural buxomness. The Big Wood is blotched and scarred with heaps of slag in enormous blocks. Where birds once sang in the stillness of its trees, a railway engine now snorts and blows like an o'er-laboured beast, and trucks mangle and jangle with their wheels and couplings.
A railway runs through the valley, and it seems a mystery to every observer from the town how the trains find their way through the mound encumbrances which would seem to block the road.

Such is the march of Civilisation ! Such is the progress of industry !"


Old times in the Potteries:

Bradwell Wood, from Well Street (Tunstall) - about 1760
Bradwell Wood, from Well Street (Tunstall) - about 1760
from 'Old times in the Potteries' by W. Scarratt

PEACOCKS HEY AND THE HEIGHTS ABOVE

One bright August Sunday afternoon, in the company of an acquaintance, I journeyed to the summit of Bradwell Wood We both looked with admiration on the scene, disregarding the ravages commerce had lately made, and picturing in our minds the past. The northwest view is still a picturesque delight, with its hillsides and valleys, the green fields, and high hedgerows of Staffordshire. Strangers and pilgrims who have left the district, now and then silently stray to an elevation to have a refreshing glance at this scenery before they again return to their distant homes and lands, and leave behind them a farewell sigh for that " which once hath been."

  
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