Index - of the Six Towns of Stoke-on-Trent

Tunstall Burslem  Hanley  Stoke-upon-Trent Fenton  Longton


[ All about Stoke-on-Trent in 5 minutes]


The story of the Staffordshire Potteries (apart from the beautiful pottery produced) has not often been told, and yet this area has a far richer character and a more distinctive heritage than many better known parts of Britain. Here a skilled and industrious workforce, located in an isolated rural backwater and often in wretched conditions working with the simplest of tools and raw materials, made objects of great beauty and worth and won a worldwide reputation for themselves and their native area which still continues today.

Life in The Potteries:

The many unpleasant facts of life in the Potteries, which were common even in recent memory, have been obscured by the scores of books on the wares produced, but the character of the Potteries was formed by the Click for child labour reportpotbanks and the working life and people they enclosed. The early country potters, throughout Britain, worked on a small scale, often supplying only local markets. near the sites where they found their clay. They faced competition first from the metropolitan centres, such as London, Bristol or Norwich. where from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries British and foreign craftsmen captured important high quality markets. and then from a rural, isolated and otherwise undistinguished area of England, North Staffordshire. 


Why the Potteries?:

During the seventeenth century the community of potters working around Burslem began to use coal as a fuel and this appears to have given them an economic advantage over other rural workshops still dependent on diminishing supplies of timber. Coal was abundantly available, outcropping on the crests of ridges throughout the area now known as the Staffordshire Potteries. The slender supply of ivory clay was soon consumed, but the red or blue firing Etruria Marl still occurs in abundance. From the late medieval period Burslem potters are known to have supplied Midland markets with simple cylindrical butter pots. As Josiah Wedgwood noted, by 1710 Burslem had become a prominent pottery centre, probably the largest in Great Britain, and had acquired a name for skill and craftsmanship.

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The development of the Six Towns:

The Potteries may look like one long sprawling conurbation, with little to distinguish one town centre from another, but the core of Burslem still survives, as do those of Tunstall, Hanley, Stoke-upon-Trent, Longton and, to a lesser extent, Fenton, the town which Arnold Bennett did not use in his novels when he referred to 'the Five Towns'. [he preferred the sound of the phrase "five towns" rather that "six towns"]

These towns had their rivalries, dialects and special characteristics, and each was surrounded by smaller satellite village communities which were gradually engulfed as the towns grew. In 1910 the Six Towns were unwillingly united to form one city called Stoke-on-Trent. The older borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, a mile or so to the west, retained its independence. 



Tunstall Burslem  Hanley  Stoke-upon-Trent Fenton  Longton


[ All about Stoke-on-Trent in 5 minutes]

updated: January 2008