David Proudlove's
critique of the built environment of Stoke-on-Trent


'Villages of Vision'
- page 4 -


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Around the turn of the nineteenth century, Josiah Spode delivered a series of developments in Penkhull to provide homes for workers based in his nearby works in Stoke. Around 1803, he provided forty-eight homes through three separate developments: Seven Row, Ten Row, and Penkhull Square.

As with Wedgwood’s housing in Etruria, Spode’s homes were simple and unadorned two up two down brick and tile cottages. However, Penkhull Square is of some architectural interest in the way it was planned, with a single arched coach entrance leading into a cobbled yard, with only the dwellings fronting onto the road having their frontages on the outside, the rest fronting onto the courtyard.

1872 Plan of Penkhull Square
Plan of Penkhull Square from 1872
The square contained 20 houses built in about 1802-3.
View of Penkhull Square

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Spode’s developments is their location. Whilst many industrialists had begun to provide housing for their workers, the majority made their provision in close proximity to their factories. Spode had built himself a home at the Mount in Penkhull, to take advantage of the village’s hillside setting and cleaner air away from the smoke and filth of Stoke, but at the same time still close enough to his works. In building Seven Row, Ten Row and Penkhull Square there too, he allowed his workers to share the locational advantages that Spode and his family benefited from.

Probably the most attractive and architecturally interesting of planned workers’ housing in the Potteries can be found just to the north of Penkhull in Hartshill, where Herbert Minton came the closest of any pottery manufacturer to building a model village. Minton followed the lead provided by Spode by locating the new housing close to his own home on the hillside above Stoke, away from the choking smoke and depressing environment that his factories helped to create. His development was planned alongside the Holy Trinity church, built by George Gilbert Scott in 1841-42, and its accompanying vicarage, and a new school which was built in 1852.

By 1857, Minton had built a row of ten cottages, which his nephew later added to in the same architectural style. Minton had seen this as a great opportunity to promote and enhance his local status, and also raise his profile further a field, and so he engaged leading architect George Gilbert Scott to build them, having been impressed by the architects’ work on the Holy Trinity, and Scott built the cottages to an elaborate Gothic style, mirroring the approach he took with the Holy Trinity.

Inside, the cottages were extremely well laid out and had three bedrooms, and also a range of modern facilities. The development provided a great improvement in workers’ housing in the Potteries. 

The quality of Minton’s development has been recognised, forming part of the Hartshill Conservation Area, whilst the cottages, the Mechanics Institute (built by Minton’s nephew in the same style), and of course the Holy Trinity, are all Listed Buildings.

Two end cottages initiated by Herbert Minton  Terrace Houses - row of 9 cottages initiated by Herbert Minton
Minton’s Cottages, Hartshill

The influence of the Garden City Movement was limited in the Potteries, though Penkhull is the location of the Penkhull Garden Village. The village was established in 1910, and followed the principles established by the national movement, which was formed as a reaction to the pollution and squalor that had been generated within urban areas following years of industry, a theme that fit perfectly with the smog-ridden Potteries.

However, the village was not intended for local workers, and was driven by and aimed at the middle classes. With the support of local civic dignitaries, and the national Co-Partnership Tenants Ltd, Stoke-on-Trent Tenant Ltd was launched. They garnered the support and expertise of Barry Parker – who was a leading light of the Garden City Movement and alongside Raymond Parker, built the first Garden City at Letchworth. Parker worked alongside local architects W. Campbell and Sons of Hanley, who went on to build the development.

Penkhull Garden Village

The site selected was on an elevated spot south of the centre of Penkhull, and the estate was carefully planned to ensure that the prevailing wind blew the smoke from the nearby factories away from the village. Communal arrangements of dwellings were emphasised, as were communal facilities, with rustic-style homes grouped together around greens. Some social facilities were also provided, in the form of tennis courts and a bowling green, and a small institute, along with a set of allotments.

Penkhull Garden Village was to have been the first of four such suburbs around the Potteries, but no further developments took place. In 2007 Penkhull Garden Village was designated a Conservation Area by Stoke-on-Trent City Council following a long campaign by the village’s residents.

Other planned settlements in the Potteries have been explored previously in these pages, for example Dresden and The Villas in Oakhill (see 'Machines for Living In').

Whilst the planned settlement is still alive and kicking in the twenty-first century, it has been relatively quiet in the Potteries. In the late 1990s there was an urban village mooted in the north of the city in Packmoor, with a masterplan developed through funding from the former urban regeneration agency, English Partnerships. The proposal was met with stiff local opposition, with many people being unable to look beyond the significant housing numbers to the wider benefits of new community facilities and employment opportunities, and was eventually abandoned.

The past decade has seen great efforts to regenerate the Potteries, and a major element of these efforts is the repopulation of inner city areas. New housing developments have sprung up in what would have been seen as the unlikeliest of places in the past, though how satisfying do they prove to be? Much of the new housing is certainly not pleasing from an architectural perspective, and in some cases, they have also been planned appallingly, and this in spite of intervention by the public sector and led by masterplans and design guidance.

We could have done much better and still can. There is still much to do throughout our city, and there are other ways to do things. Owenstown provides a great example of an alternative way of planning new large scale developments. I’m pretty sure that if you harnessed the approach to planning at Owenstown and coupled it with the approach to design in some of the planned settlements within the Potteries, say the Villas or Hartshill, the end result would be something very special indeed.

David Proudlove
8 Sept 2009

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