A walk around Dresden, Longton, Stoke-on-Trent
Dresden & the Longton Freehold Land Society



Freehold land societies came into existence in the 1840s as part of a politically inspired movement, organised by Liberal radicals to effect Parliamentary reform. These societies were initiated and encouraged as mechanisms by which the supporters of reform could become enfranchised within the existing system, and thereby change the balance of political power, and ultimately the system itself. Following the Reform Act of 1832, the two most important voting qualifications were the ownership of a freehold with a minimum value of 40 shillings, and the occupation of a house worth at least £10 a year.

James Taylor, a Birmingham nonconformist minister devised a means of extending the number of 40 shilling freeholders by registering the first freehold land society in Birmingham in December 1847 under the 1836 Building Societies Act. The society bought an estate with the financial assistance of trustees which was divided into plots worth 40 shillings which were purchased by members with money borrowed from building societies. The successful Birmingham venture was rapidly replicated in other urban areas including Stoke-on-Trent where a meeting to establish a North Staffordshire Freehold Land Society was held in Hanley in June 1849. Initially branches were formed in each town but by the end of the year both Longton and Burslem had separated to form their own independent societies as was the case with the other towns in 1850.

The activities of the society were governed by their certified rules which in the case of the Longton Society were drafted by their solicitor, George Lockett Robinson. The rules specified that “the principal object of the society is that of purchasing land.” Such purchases required the approval of three-quarters of the members, and the society would thereafter be responsible for “surveying, mapping, dividing, planning... draining.... And laying out and forming roads or streets.” The allotments were, as far as possible, to be of equal value, and worth £30. The number of allotments was to be calculated by dividing the total cost of land purchase and improvement by £30. They were to be distributed amongst the members “according to the priority of the number of shares held” — presumably a system of rotation — but within each priority group allocated by ballot. A member had the option of declining to take his allotment until a future date, but otherwise it would be conveyed to him and mortgaged back to the trustees to secure his subscriptions. Members who wished to free their land from this encumbrance could do so by paying up their subscriptions in advance.

The rule book of the Longton Society lists the officers, trustees and members of the Committee of Management in 1850. These are listed below with their occupations and place of residence taken from White’s Directory of Staffordshire, 1851.

PRESIDENT John Ayshford Wise Esq., Clayton Hall, Liberal M.P. for Stafford
VICE-PRESIDENTS George Nixon (Grocer, Wood Street, Longton)
 James Wardle (Manager, Stone Road, Longton)
George Lockett Robinson (Attorney, Bridge Street, Longton)

TRUSTEES John Ayshford Wise Esq. (as above)
John King Knight Esq. (Manufacturer, Foley Pottery, Goldenhill)
Benjamin Singleton Brough Esq. (Manufacturer, Vauxhall, Longton)
William Green Esq. (Manufacturer, Longton)

SECRETARY Mr Joseph Knight (Manufacture, Ashwood Lane, Longton) 
STEWARD Mr James Riddle (Manufacturer; house, Barker Street, Longton)


John Adkins (Hosier, Market Street, Longton)
John Emberton
Robert Hill (Auctioneer, Market Street, Longton)
Edwin Oxley (Gardener & Seedsman, Daisy Bank, Longton)
Isaac Legge (Brick and Tile Maker, Bridge Street, Longton)
Samuel Hartsborne
Edward Prime (Plumber & Glazier, Union Market; house, Caroline St., Longton)
John Cooper (Boot & Shoemaker, Gold Street, Longton)
Charles Bullock (Tailor, High Street, Longton)
Thomas Birks (Manufacturer, Stone Road, Longton)
Joseph Hulse (Market Inspector & Agent to the Gas Co; Chadwick’s Row, Longton)
William Barker (Manufacturer; house, Caroline Street, Longton)