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Stoke-on-Trent Districts: Burslem


next: the packhorse lane to Newcastle

Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

The need to export:

The eighteenth century saw the development of the North Staffordshire pottery industry from a cottage industry to major industrial manufacturing, exporting to the Americas, Europe and Russia.

In 1710 there were around 500 people employed in pottery manufacture. In the Burslem area alone, by 1760 this had risen to 150 manufactories employing 7,000 people. And by 1785 15,000 people across the whole of the Potteries area.

Fine pottery was the order of the day - a gift of a tea set to Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, produced a appointment of Wedgwood as Potter to Her Majesty in 1765 and in 1770 a commission to produce a dinner and dessert service for Russian Empress Catherine II.

With royal patronage as a mark of approval every household wanted ware from the Potteries manufactories - there was an increasingly great need to bring in raw materials and export finished ware.

The turnpike roads:

The first route to be turnpiked (1714) was the main route through Newcastle-under-Lyme on up to Winsford in Cheshire or Willmington in Derbyshire - this benefited the pottery companies and was supported by the leading potters.

The connection was the packhorse road from the Fountain Place works of Enoch Wood in Burslem, though Longbridge (now Longport) and onto to Newcastle.

For the next 50 years Newcastle was engaged in a contest to retain its control over the rapidly growing pottery towns - it monopolised the tolls on the only adequate road.

In 1763 the potters petitioned Parliament to build its own 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 from the Potteries towns were constructed.


The principle Potteries turnpike road was Hill Street (later Liverpool Road and now Westport Road) - this effectively gave a road from Stoke, through Burslem to Church Lawton, completely bypassing Newcastle.
The packhorse lane from Burslem through Longport to Newcastle was also turnpiked.

This new network of roads giving better and more direct access to the seaports, freeing the pottery towns from indebtedness to the borough of Newcastle. 

The map shows the route (red circles) from Stoke-on-Trent, through Newcastle to Winsford (by road)
and then by the river Weaver, through Northwich and onto the port of Liverpool.
The blue circle shows Church Lawton which was the route used to bypass Newcastle after
the turnpiking of the Potteries roads.

The road to the seaports:

Winsford in Cheshire was important for the transport of raw materials and finished pottery ware -  The town developed as the result of large salt deposits. In the early eighteenth the river Weaver was transformed into a canal to allow freight to transported northwards through Northwich and Liverpool for export.

The Government gave permission for artificial improvements to be made to the River Weaver in 1721, in order to allow large barges to reach Winsford from the port of Liverpool.
At first, this was the closest that barges carrying china clay from Cornwall could get to the Potteries, which was then rapidly developing as the major centre of ceramic production in Britain.

Cornish china clay used in the production of pottery was taken overland from Winsford by pack horse to manufacturers in the Potteries, a distance of about 30 miles.
Locally-produced salt was also transported to the Potteries, for use in the manufacture of salt-glazed stoneware.

Finished ware from the pottery factories was brought back to Winsford, for onward export through the port of Liverpool.

next: the packhorse lane to Newcastle

questions / comments / contributions? email: Steve Birks

10 Feb 2008