Search for the Old Roads of
Historian Fred Hughes writes....
“The routes of forgotten roads fascinate me,” declares Potteries’ historian Steve Birks. “The Potteries’ terrain has changed so much that if you brought people back who lived here fifty years ago they simply wouldn’t recognise the place. Take Old Town Road for instance. All you see now is a short cu-de-sac stripped bare of a thriving community that once lived and worked here. It was a thrilling gateway that led to the heart of Hanley. Now it is a rump of road that leads nowhere.”
He’s right. To use the archaic pub symbols Old Town Road once stretched a half mile from the town centre Angel to the Plough at Providence Square.
This is something Ken knows a lot about for three generations of his family, his father and mother Ken and Betty, himself, then his son Steve, kept the last one of those pubs which happily is still open for business – the Golden Cup.
“Altogether the Cup was in the family for fifty-five years. It has to be something of a record,” claims Ken proudly. “We only moved out last year so I think the Buckley family did its bit for the Old Town Road.”
These days, if you approach Hanley from Providence Square on foot, you have a devil of a job walking across the overpass where the main traffic route was diverted across the land the prefabs stood on to the east of Bow Street. And you can still see a bit of Bow Street as a stubby remnant just behind the Golden Cup.
“Somewhere here, back-to-back with the Cup was a small pub called the Ramping Horse,” recalls Ken. “Between the chapel and the two pubs was a public thoroughfare, called the Slabs. They say that Bow Street was a lawless area occupied by Irish labourers. I heard that the police would only patrol in twos and only then when they were accompanied by a priest.”
“It’s worth remembering that in the early 18th century Hanley was a very poor district,” continues Steve Birks. “Meagre worker’s cottages lay chiefly around Upper Green which then at the junction of Keelings Road and the present Town Road. Upper Green was separated from the next community Lower Green which is now Hanley Market Square. Between these were mines, clay pits, tile works and potbanks.
Both these communities were situated half a mile apart. This is why each community had its own services such as pubs and chapels. They were two communities that became one when they joined to become High Street. We saw much of that start to change in the 1960s with various slum clearance programmes. Then the colliery closed down and by the end of the 1960s the whole area was left as a bleak and empty wasteland. It was a place to pass through and not to stay.”
Yet all that changed in 1971 on with the council’s reclamation scheme to create the Central Forest Park. Now 49 hectares of parkland provide a sanctuary for wildlife and a superb community playground.
“It is exciting to follow the lost roads of the Potteries,” concludes Steve. “They serve to remind us how important it is to know where we came from.”
28 April 2008
click the "contents" button to get back to the main index & map
next: Bournes Bank, Burslem