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Hanley - The Town Hall

Stoke-on-Trent Federation

Scenes in the Six Towns

"It is natural that to some extent the six towns now federated as the city of Stoke-on-Trent should have their independent lives and local associations existing side by side with their corporate life and wider civic associations. Here then is a short special reference to each Pottery-town."

1947 City of Stoke-on-Trent Official Handbook


Hanley - The Town Hall c.1947
Hanley - The Town Hall c.1947



"At the date of federation (1910) Hanley, the largest of the six towns, was a county borough. Like Stoke, it grew up with the pottery industry. It has a group of notable public buildings, including a fine Town Hall in Albion Street, formerly the centre of Hanley's own extensive municipal activities and now the headquarters of the Education and Police departments of the federated city. In front of it stands the Hanley War Memorial, a fine piece of modern sculpture consisting of a bronze figure of Britannia by Harold Brownsword (a London sculptor who is a native of Hanley), holding aloft a sword sheathed with honour and bearing on the shield emblems of the Navy, Army, Air Force and Red Cross. In the Town Hall are tablets inscribed with the names of the fallen. 

The Victoria Hall at the rear of the Town Hall is used for concerts and contains a very fine organ. In Pall Mall, only a few steps away, are the Hanley public library, museum and art schools, all referred to in more detail elsewhere in this book. The Public Baths are in Lichfield Street. Hanley Park covers over 62 acres and there are two other parks, North- wood and Etruria, as well as fine recreation grounds in Leonard Road and Hanley Road. Churches and chapels form a numerous group representing all the principal denominations.

Hanley has the distinction of being the birthplace of the late Arnold Bennett, the famous novelist, who in his books immortalized the people and the places of the Potteries towns, notably in the "Old Wives' Tale" and in the "Clayhanger" trilogy. Mr. Bennett was born in 1867 and died in March, 1931, at the age of 63. His fame as a novelist, playwright, essayist and journalist is world-wide and the popularity accorded to his works in America and the Continental countries is perhaps greater than that which they enjoy in this country. On 10th May, 1932, a memorial plaque was unveiled on the wall of the premises where Bennett first saw the light. The house is situated on the corner of Hope and Hanover Streets ; it has been divided into several shops and tenements, but the portion now numbered No. 92 Hope Street contains the reputed birth room."

1947 City of Stoke-on-Trent Official Handbook


Hanley in 1828 

"HANLEY a large modern town and chapelry, in the parish of Stoke, is about two miles east by north of Newcastle, and ranks next to Burslem in size, extent and opulence. The town is in an elevated situation, and the streets forming which are irregular, but many of the houses are well built.

The church, or rather chapel of ease to Stoke, is a  handsome structure of brick, erected in 1788, with a square tower one hundred feet in height, containing a fine set of bells. The dissenters of several denominations have eight places of worship here; and the British and national schools, well supported by voluntary contributions.

A mechanics institute is established here; and near the town is and excellent institution, called the 'North Staffordshire Infirmary.' 

Bagnall, Esq. of London, is lord of the manor, and holds a court baron once a year; the King, as Duke of Lancaster, holds also a court baron once in the same period; and a court is held once a fortnight, for the recovery of debts under forty shillings.

The turnpike road from Newcastle to Leek passes near the town, and the Grand Trunk canal close to it, affording great facility of inland navigation, for the conveyance of earthenware to Liverpool, Hull, London, &c. The exportation is of such an extent, that a company is established for the sole purpose of carrying that article.

In 1812, owing to the increase of the population of the town, it was deemed necessary to apply to the legislature to empower certain trustees to enlarge the market and market-place, and an act for 'establishing and regulating the market' and for enlarging and improving the market-place' at Hanley was obtained; the act mentions two market days, viz. Wednesday and Saturday, but the latter is the principal; it is abundantly supplied with provisions of all kinds, and well attended by purchasers.

In 1819 a new market-hall was erected; a bell is rung at ten o'clock at night, at which time all must begin to prepare for their departure.

The chapelry contained, in 1821, 5,622 inhabitants."

Pigot & Co's 1828/9 Directory of Staffordshire


Hanley in 1907 (3 years before federation) 

"Hanley is the Metropolis of the Potteries. It  stands in the centre of the chain of North Staffordshire towns, and though its history does not extend so far back as that of some of the neighbouring places, its growth during the last two generations has been so rapid that it has outdistanced all the other towns in size, population, and general importance. Its name is derived from " Hean," meaning high, and "Ley," a pasture. It stands nearly 600 feet above the sea level, and is accounted one of the highest market towns in England. Its centre is 147  miles from London, 2 miles E.N.E. of Newcastle-under-Lyme, 3 miles N.-W. by N. of Longton, 2 miles S.S.-E. of Burslem, about 1  miles N. of Fenton, and its outskirts are in touch with almost all these places.

Hanley's rise really dates from about 1777, in which year the Trent and Mersey Canal was  completed. Eight years before then Josiah Wedgwood had established and opened the new factory which he called "Etruria" on the canal banks. From this period the town's progress has been steady and continuous, the population having grown from 7,090 in 1801, and 31,953 in 1861, to 61,599 in 1901. The estimated population in July, 1906, was 86,360.

From 1824 to 1857 the town was governed by commissioners, but on May 22nd of the last-named year it was incorporated, and this year (1907) it celebrates its municipal jubilee. The borough was constituted a county borough by the Local Government Act of 1838. On November 9th, 1905, the borough boundaries were extended so as to include part of the parish of Milton, containing an area of about 194 acres, a population of 1138, and a rateable value of 3,279. The present borough contains 1,962 acres, it has 11,470 burgesses on the roll; its rateable value to the poor rate is 245,544; to general district, rate, 239,075; a penny borough rate produces 890, and a penny general district rate 870.

Hanley contains districts known as Shelton, Etruria, Northwood, Birches Head, and part of Cobridge. Many of the leading potting factories in the world are situated in the borough, notably such houses as Wedgwood, Cauldon-place, Ridgways, Twyfords, Clementson's, Bishop and Stonier's, J. and G. Meakin, Johnson Bros., Bullers, Taylor and Tunnicliffe, and Howsons.

The great iron and steel works and collieries of the Shelton Iron, Steel, and Coal Company, Ltd., together with the colilieries of the Hanley Borough Colliery Company Ltd., find employment for many thousands of hands, in addition to those employed in the potting industry, and there are also large engineering works, and potters mills, colour works, and other manufactories incidental to the staple industry, in the borough.

Hanley has derived much of its importance in recent years from the enterprise and wide-awakeness of its tradespeople, who have drawn trade which formerly went elsewhere. Hand in hand with their progressive measures has gone a system of careful local government, which has brought increasing success to the town, though not without accompanying heavy expanses.

The town has to-day the finest Town Hall in North Staffordshire, to which is attached the Victoria Hall, a noble building which is the venue of the leading musical and political fixtures held in the Potteries. It has a magnificent Park, in which every year one of the chief of the provincial horticultural shows is held, besides a big pleasure fair. In addition there is a smaller Park at Etruria and another very-charming little Park at Northwood which, though not finished at the time of writing, will probably have been opened before this Directory is published.

Hanley maintains its own Turkish, vapour and swimming baths: a well-stocked public library and reading-room, with a branch reading-room at the Grove Schools, Northwood; admirable secondary and Art Schools; .An efficient system of elementary education; a Mechanics' Institution; a well kept museum, principally devoted to collections of pottery; a playground; a cemetery: commodious and remunerative wholesale and retail and meat markets; a municipal system of electrical supply both for heat and power; and a dust destructor. The town is equipped with one of the latest and most up-to-date  sewage works in the country. Over 70,000 has already been spent upon it, and its total cost will probably be 80,000, or even more. The trams, water, and gas are in the hands of companies.

Hanley has two fine theatres, the Theatre Royal, in Pall Mall, and the Grand Theatre of Varieties, in Trinity-street. Both are -comfortable and admirably equipped, while the entertainment is invariably of the best. The Grand has two separate performances nightly. The two theatres belong to the same company, of which Mr. Charles Elphinstone is the managing director. There is a third theatre, under the same proprietorship, in New-street, but it has not been running regularly for some years.

Each of the three leading political parties has a central premises of its own. The Liberal Club is in Percy-street; the Conservative Workingmen's Club is in Pall Mall; and the Workingmen's Club (the headquarters of the- Labour party) is in Glass-street. The Temperance Hall in High-street is much used for public meetings, which are also sometimes held at the Volunteer Drill Hall, a commodious building in Victoria-road, Shelton.

This hall is the headquarters of the 1st V.B. North Staffordshire Regiment, which is commanded by Colonel Dobson. Captain A. E. Blizzard is the commander of the Hanley detachment ("B," " K," and " 0 " Companies). The Artillery Barracks are  close by in Victoria-square. Lieutenant-Colonel Favell commands this corps, and Major H. E. Bishop is the headquarters staff officer. 

A handsome new Post Office for Hanley, situate in Tontine-street, was opened by the Postmaster-General in 1906, but though Hanley is the head telegraphic office for the Potteries, for postal purposes it is only a suboffice to Stoke.

Hanley Station is on the Loop Line of the N.S. Railway, which runs in one direction to Waterloo-road, Cobridge, and Burslem, and in the other to Etruria and Stoke. Etruria Station, which is on the main line, is practically on the boundary line of Stoke and Hanley.

Elijah Fenton, one of the minor poets, was a citizen of Hanley, having been born at Shelton Hall on May 25th, 1683. His history was written by Dr. Johnson and his epitaph by Pope.  

Fourdrinier, whose inventions in paper-making were of the utmost importance to the world at large, made his  name and fame in Hanley, and so, of course, did Wedgwood, the father of the English Potting trade. Wedgwood, it need hardly be said, was born at Burslem.

Early in August, the  annual holiday of the operatives, called "Stoke Wakes," is the occasion of the assembling in the streets of Hanley of a great pleasure fair, which some of the tradespeople and residents are agitating to abolish. Long before the town's charter of incorporation was granted, a number of convivial Hanley gentlemen, disliking being outvied by Newcastle in their civic feast, established a mock civic banquet. The first of these junkettings was held about 1783, and. the custom still survives. The feast is now called "The Hanley Venison Feast" and the members form a body called "The Ancient Corporation" The event is the occasion every year of a most enjoyable gathering, and the Duke of Sutherland still supplies a haunch of venison to grace the festive board. Another ancient body is the Hanley Association for the Prosecution of  Felons, -which still offers rewards for the detection of -crime. The Association's annualbanquet is one- of the social events of the year.

An annual treat to the old folks of Hanley is given at the Victoria Hall under the management of a Committee of the Council. It was formerly called the Gilbert Charity, after its founder. Since 1887, when the late Mr. George Meakin gave 200 for the purpose, a series of highclass popular "Meakin" Concerts has been given during the winter months of each year at the Victoria Hall. The concerts are excellently managed by Mr. George Barlow, the borough accountant.

Though Hanley's rates at the present time are 9s. 7d. in the , the town's financial position is a strong- one, the abstract of accounts for the year 1906 showing; that its indebtedness was only .348,026, whereas its nominal assets amounted to 659,266. In 1904-5 the rates were 9s. 10d. in the &, the highest point reached; but a quarter of a century ago they were only 4s. 8d. all told. Under the control of the Education Committee there .are at the present time twelve council schools with an average attendance of 7,985 scholars and four " non-provided" schools bringing up the total average attendance to 10,672.

The Parliamentary borough of Hanley was constituted by the Redistribution Act of 1885, and today it includes the municipal boroughs of Hanley and Burslem, with the exception of one small area of Hanley which is in the N.W. Division. The number of Parliamentary electors for 1907 is 16,243, including 9,996 in Hanley and 6,248 in Burslem. The sitting member is Mr. Enoch Edwards, M.P. (Lib.-Lab.), of Burslem, President of the Miners' Union, who polled 9183 votes at the 1906 election against the 4,287 polled by Mr. Arthur II. Heath, his opponent, who previously held the seat.

The principal Hanley Officials are:-Mr. A. Challinor (town clerk), Mr. J.  Lobley (borough surveyor and engineer), Mr G. Barlow (borough accountant), Mr. J. Clare (medical officer), Mr. G. E. Phillimore (clerk to the justices), Mr. R. J. Carter (chief constable), Mr. C. H. Yeaman (electrical engineer), Mr. W. T. Bonner (registrar of births, etc.), and Mr. W. M. Huntbach (coroner).

Petty Sessions are held at the Town Hall daily, and the Stipendiary sits at Hanley every Monday A separate Quarter Sessions was granted to Hanley on November 16th, 1880, and Mr. W. H. Clay is the present recorder. The 1907 Sessions will be held on Friday, April 12th, Friday July 12th, ;and Friday October 18th.

Hanley is in the Stoke Poor Law Union and sends eight members, one from each, ward, to the Stoke Board of Guardians."


1907 Staffordshire Sentinel 'Business Reference Guide to The Potteries, Newcastle & District'




"Hanley was an important mining town during the 1930s, and has also been acknowledged as the main shopping centre of the city since the federation of the six towns in 1910. Since then it has become the city centre, and is home to the city's Cultural Quarter. Other famous sons of the town are legendary footballer Sir Stanley Matthews and the captain of the Titanic, Edward Smith."


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