Timeline of Stoke-on-Trent

[ dates in the development and growth of Stoke-on-Trent]

Pottery manufacture grew as an industry from a very strong base. By 1740 it was already the centre of production for England, by 1800 it was the most important centre in the world. 

In AD 48 the Romans marched into the county of Staffordshire, establishing a base at Lecocetum, now known as Wall, near Lichfield. Another important Roman base was also established at Rocester in North Staffordshire.
48 on the Romans
The Domesday Book does not mention a village at Stoke, but does record the existence of a church. This site served the neighbouring village of Penkhull, a hilltop settlement which remained an important town or village until the 19th century. The word Stoke seems to be derived from the Old English for a holy place.
1066 Shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066, William I came to Staffordshire to put down a revolt, in the process designating huge areas, including Cannock Chase, for royal hunting.

1282 Coal and ironstone were being dug in the area.
1467 the Great Row coal seam was being mined and used for firing pottery.       

Pottery from the 1400's found under Burslem Art Collage

1670 Introduction of saggars  

1693-9 Elers Brothers in Staffordshire - salt glazing, sprigging and casting.

Starting as a small community of farmer-potters in the mid-seventeenth century, the trade of making butterpots for the easier marketing of butter developed in the town of Burslem. Thus Burslem earned the position of mother town of the Potteries. Before 1700, potters were criticised for digging holes in the roads to obtain clay - a practise which gave rise to the term ‘potholes’. Good red-burning clays and excellent long flame coal (essential for firing pottery ovens) could be dug from the surface along a belt running in a Northwest/ Southeast line, due to geological formation causing outcropping of these materials. 

The grinding of flint in water was patented in 1726 by Thomas Benson and on improving the method in 1732. James Brindley, improved the method still further in about 1757 and his method was used until recently. 


Josiah Wedgwood was born in Burslem, Staffordshire, on July 12, 1730, into a family with a long tradition as potters. At the age of nine, after the death of his father, he worked in his family's pottery.  1730

1755 Sadler and Green use transfer prints to decorate pottery.

1762 Josiah Wedgwood introduces Queensware, a cream coloured earthenware.

1766 Brindley begins the Grand Trunk Canal (Trent and Mersey).

1768 Cookworthy uses Cornish stone and china clay to produce a type of porcelain.

1776-1800 Josiah Spode II introduces bone china.

By 1740 Stoke-on-Trent was already the centre of pottery production for England. 1760 Methodism
John Wesley regularly visits the area between 1760-1790.
on the Christian heritage of the Potteries
Development of transport in the late 1700's: late 1700's  
The Potteries is a landlocked area but the introduction of canals opened access to the Trent and Mersey. The cutting of the canals was essential for the future of the pottery industry. It meant that bulky raw materials could be brought in and that the delicate finished products could be transported across the world via the main eastern and western ports. Josiah Wedgwood and James Brindley were key figures in the development of the canal system in North Staffordshire. Wedgwood cut the first sod of the Trent and Mersey canal in 1766 but the construction work took eleven years to complete (in 1777). Brindley died before the work was finished.

Turnpike Roads

The town of Stoke only began to really emerge with the arrival of the Derby and Uttoxeter to Newcastle turnpike road, the first turnpike in the area. Control of the turnpike highlighted the political battle to retain control of the area waged between the medieval borough of Newcastle and the growing industrial towns of the Potteries.

In 1782, following James Watts' patent rotary motion steam engine, Josiah Wedgwood ordered one for his Etruria works and this was installed in 1783. By 1785 Staffordshire was second only to Cornwall in the number of steam engines in the county . By 1795 Staffordshire had installed more Watt steam engines than any other county in England. 

By 1800 a network of turnpiked road served north Staffordshire and the surrounding country.


By 1800 Stoke-on-Trent was the centre of pottery production for the World.


Primitive Methodism
Strongly associated with working class evangelism, Primitive Methodism was born after a series of emotional open air meetings at
Mow Cop on the Cheshire and Staffordshire border between 1807 and 1812. Hugh Bourne and William Clowes, both extremely active Methodists, had been expelled from their respective circuits for continuing to organise large and illegal open air meetings. Methodism has been a strong Christian movement in the Potteries ever since Wesley's regular visits between 1760 and 1790.

1842 saw riots in the Potteries centred around Chartist demands.

Report on child labour in the potteries.
In 1840 the House of Commons set up a commission to inquire into the state of children employed in the mines and  manufactories. Samuel Scriven visited the area of Stoke-on-Trent from December 1840 onwards to collect evidence.
The canal network had been essential in opening up the local pottery industry to the world markets.
It was however, a slow means of transport. During the 1840s a national railway system, faster and more economical, competed with destroyed the canal companies as viable forms of transport. Stoke station completed in 1848, became the centre of the North Staffs Railway Company, the lines of which were compared with an octopus, reaching out around the growing city and beyond.

Stoke was put on the railway in 1848 and the canal was gradually superseded. Many small tramways lined the factories, collieries, and the main line railways. 

See a 1893 trade journal for a fascinating insight into the potteries at the end of the 19th C.


1888 Shelton Iron and Steel Company
The north Staffordshire area is known for its pottery industry. It is less well known for its iron and steel mills. These were located close to Wedgwood's Etruria. 
It was not until 1898 that any restriction on age was introduced into the pottery industry.

After 1st August 1898 no person under 14 years of age, and after 1st August 1899 no person under 15 years of age shall be employed in:
Dipping house or dippers drying room or in the processes of -

Ware cleaning after the dipper
Glost placing
Colour dusting
Ground laying
Majolica painting
Glaze blowing
Transfer making
China scouring.

After 1st January 1899 all workshops had to be ventilated, and workplaces cleaned at the end of the day.

In 1899 it was decreed that no more than 5% standard solubility of lead would be allowed in glazes, but this was hard to enforce.

1910 1910 the population of Stoke-on-Trent was 240,000
Federation of the 6 Towns
During the 19th century, each of the six towns appointed local commissioners responsible for services such as street improvements, lighting, etc. From the middle years of the century local boards of health were appointed with greater responsibilities. Stoke became a borough in 1874, Hanley in 1857, Longton in 1865 and Burslem in 1878. Fenton and Tunstall were created urban districts in 1894. This structure remained in place until 1910 when the towns joined to form the County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent. There has always been close rivalry between the six towns. This is best expressed in the town halls each have built. These are striking buildings, standing out amongst the terraced streets and potbanks, competing with other municipal and institutional buildings in the local landscape.


1938 half the workforce of Stoke-on-Trent worked in pottery factories. 2,000 bottle ovens in use.      

1948 79,000 employed in pottery industry.

1924 Creation of the City
It was not until 1924 that Stoke-on-Trent became a city. The early years of the county borough were marked by the Great War, restricting development of services. The borough also had designs on expanding its boundaries into the surrounding areas. A Royal Letter Patent was granted by George V on 5 June 1925. 

1949 the use of all lead glazes which were not low solubility was prohibited. Since 1949 there have been no deaths from pottery industry related lead poisoning.

1952 - See a 1952 Trade Journal of Stoke-on-Trent

Clean Air Act
Pollution has been a major problem in the Potteries because of the large number of kilns. It was not uncommon for the sun to be virtually blacked out by the smoke. Many people remember walking the streets and not being able to see their companions next to them. Not surprisingly the area had a very high death rate associated with diseases of the lungs. The Clean Air Acts of the post war period have done much to improve the environment.

1958- 438 bottle kilns in use, 654 tunnel and other gas/electric kilns.
1958 - 298 pottery factories
1958 - Industry highly concentrated in North Staffordshire . Of pottery workers in country 94% general earthenware workers worked in North Staffordshire.

1958 70,184 employed in pottery industry.

1965- no bottle ovens in use.

1968 62,000 employed in pottery industry.

1986 National Garden Festival
Stoke was chosen as the site for the National Garden Festival in 1986. It was located around Wedgwood's Etruria, reclaiming an expanse of land devastated by the effects of heavy industry. The site is now Festival Park, a complex of leisure and business facilities attracting visitors from the Midlands area and beyond and contributing to the City's economic infrastructure.
1991- 285 pottery factories

1991 22,497 employed in pottery industry.

Unitary Status
In 1997 the City became a unitary authority reclaiming services lost to the county of Staffordshire in the local government restructuring in the 1970s
1997 1995 the population of Stoke-on-Trent was just below 250,000
As the new millennium starts there are still about 20,000 people directly employed in the pottery industry and a further 20,000 in allied industries (machinery suppliers, colour & glaze producers).  2000 6th March 2000 - Sadlers Ltd pottery closes.

28th April 2000 - Shelton steel works closes.



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