Pevsner and the Buildings of Stoke-on-Trent

Sir Nikolaus Bernhard Leon Pevsner, CBE, (January 30, 1902 August 18, 1983) was a German-born British historian of art and, especially, architecture. He is best known for his 46-volume series of county-by-county guides, The Buildings of England (1951-74), one of the great achievements of 20th century art scholarship.

This section is an extract of the Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme section of his volume on Staffordshire augmented by photographs and other details of the buildings.......


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next: Inner Burslem - Church of St. John the Baptist







Stoke-on-Trent Villages

Trentham Park


Pevsner writes......

"The Five Towns
are an urban tragedy. Here is the national seat of an industry, here is the fourteenth largest city in England and what is it ?
Five towns - or, to be correct, six - and on the whole mean towns hopelessly interconnected now, by factories, by streets of slummy cottages, by better suburban areas. There is no centre to the whole, not even an attempt at one, and there are not even in all six towns real local centre

Yet a long tradition there is; only one does not see it.
In 1953 at Sneyd Green two kilns of c.1300 were found, and in the manor court rolls of Tunstall in the C14 several men are called Le Potter and Le Thrower.
Early in the C17 the Adams family produced pottery, and the first potter of the Wedgwood family was born in 1617. The family made utilitarian ware and they worked in villages. The trade remained largely domestic until the mid C18.

The turn came with Josiah Wedgwood. His Etruria factory, opened in 1769, was the first large factory, and he maintained a London showroom. He was also instrumental in getting the Trent and Mersey Canal built to make transport of his products easier. The canal was designed by Brindley and completed in 1777.

Pottery factories still exist, if not as old as this, at least of the early C19. The offices face the streets, and in the yard behind were the kilns. But the kilns are disappearing rapidly, which is visually a great loss; for their odd shapes were the one distinguishing feature of the Five Towns and used to determine their character - kilns bottle-shaped, kilns conical, kilns like chimneys with swollen bases. They have a way of turning up in views with parish churches and town halls as their neighbours.
As for the surviving offices and warehouses, some are quite handsome, and they will here be recorded. The DOE [Department of the Environment] has not so far done that adequately. The six towns are sorely under-listed.

The churches of the six towns are interesting too. There is a recurring pattern of no medieval survivals, of quite sizeable C18 parish churches (Burslem, Hanley, Longton), of second parishes with churches of the Commissioners' type, and of a I multitude of Victorian churches. There is also a multitude of Nonconformist chapels, and too few of them are recorded in the gazetteer.

The six towns were united into one County Borough in 1910. That might have helped, but it didn't. In 1925 the whole became the City of Stoke-on-Trent. That might have helped, but it didn't either. Now the population is (1971) c. 265,000, and Stoke is England's fourteenth city.
In the following pages the six towns will be treated individually, and they will be arranged alphabetically. Each town will be divided in an inner, walking, and an outer, driving, area.
For the driver the directions from the centre are added to the addresses."



photos are by Steve Birks, unless otherwise noted - thanks for all those who contributed photos. Many are from and are copyright of the photographer and reproduced under the Creative Commons Licence