Memories of Stoke-on-Trent people - Jim Bridden


Jim Bridden


I was born in a little street consisting of ten, two up and two down  terraced houses that ran from Dean St mission square to Shelton Old Road. They backed to the Fowlea brook which in the 1920s to the 1950s  was foul indeed, the smells to put it mildly were obnoxious at times especially when Etruria gas works turned the effluent into the brook from their gas producing plant, it made the water black with an oily surface with streaky colours as oil does, lots of other stuff went into it in addition from potbanks as well. All this completely polluted the river Trent as far as Burton-on-Trent and further. 

This was the area of my childhood.


"Fowlea by name and foul by nature"
"Fowlea by name and foul by nature"

The Fowlea brook (2000) as it runs at the bottom of
Leason Street in Stoke.
On the left the brown building is
part of the Spode factory and in the middle the blue building is an
industrial electrical factory on Elenora Street. The Fowlea Brook
runs through a culvert under Elenora Street


Liverpool Road, was a busy road and I can recall that there were about  forty businesses in this road almost all of them privately owned excepting the Burslem co-op plus their large emporium where one could get a clothing cheque worth one pound and pay it back at a shilling per week. 

There were eight pubs, four chip shops, three newsagents eight grocers green or otherwise, two barbers and various others, I could name them all but better not. 


Even in our own street there was plenty of activity there was an oatcake baker a small shop who made their own ice-cream, a backyard barber for the kids a cobbler and a lady who made herb beer, from nettle flowers I think.  

The side streets were fairly free from traffic in those days so they were our playgrounds and many and varied were the games we played, never wandering very far from home unless it had been pre-arranged, my father made it a strict rule that we always told  him where we were going and when we would be back; it was a good rule and saved some worry for him and mother.              

In our house meal times were rather strictly observed being the last born in the family it will be realised that my parents and elder brothers and sister were of the Victorian and Edwardian era so we were kept to certain rules. 

 In the local streets there was most days some activity, like traders and buskers a fish monger on Tuesdays and Fridays, or an occasional knife sharpener with his tricycle-come-grinder, crockery man and many  rag and bone men inciting the kids to hurry      
 home gather any rags or scrap to give in exchange for a balloon or maybe a goldfish. 

 The buskers many of them good musicians and singers  were mainly ex service men from the 1914 war who were disabled or out of work because of world depression. There was a disused potbank near to us that the Salvation Army had the workshops adapted as dormitories for the homeless men and the workhouses were still taking people in. If they wanted any money from the authorities they had to go to what was called the public assistance office and usually all they got was some vouchers to take to a food shop to exchange for goods, a very demeaning system.

So, I can count myself as one of the lucky ones to have had a loving family and four meals a day.


The Poor Rates Department building still stands (2000) in Hanley
The Poor Rates Department building still stands (2000) in Hanley
The wording above the windows and doors reads:

"Parish Offices"; Poor Rates Department"; Relief; Vaccination



My father had been working at Shelton Bar since 1912 apart from the four war years. He was a shunter and later a driver on locomotives in the thirties. The works were in production 24 hours per day and so that the men could change shifts and have a week off periodically.   One of the men on each section had to work a double turn every third  Sunday from 6am-10pm, on the Sunday that my father did that my mother used to put fathers lunch in a basin tie a red spotted kerchief over the top of it to form a handle and this we took to dad.

The reward for this was a ride on an engine I can smell the oil steam and smoke now, The kerchief was always the same and most of the other men had the same as if it was a tradition.   

In 1935 my brother Alan, who was working at the Co-op bakery near the canal at Burslem, used to bike along the tow path from Stoke. One morning as he passed a barge horse it kicked towards him Alan thought that it had caught his rear mudguard so turned round to     look but by doing so he bumped into a post used to tie the barges to, he went over the handlebars and landed on the towpath and fractured his femur bone which naturally put him in hospital for three or four weeks. The reason that I relate all that, is because Alan and I were so close to each other I felt very lonely and to placate me my father allowed me to spend one or two Sundays with him on his engine, therefore the seeds were sown for me to get the urge to  do the same work when I would be old enough.  

next: working at Shelton Bar

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