A photo walk across Stoke Fields to Winton's Wood, Stoke-on-Trent
- the parish of St. Simon and St. Jude



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Growing population & industry:
If we fast-forward to 1785 we would find that despite all the difficulties, the dawning Industrial Revolution was drawing people in from the countryside, and the population had grown to 15,000 for the area, and to 4,500 for Hanley and Shelton. Small cottage-potteries were being superseded by new brick-built and tile-roofed manufactories, with the consequent demand for housing, goods and services, the brick-making industry not lagging far behind the potteries and coal mines. Our traveller, now elderly, could be walking the same route as in 1750,  perhaps this time accompanied by his small grandson, musing on the throngs of people who seemed to be everywhere, and on the latest visit to the area by Mr John Wesley who had last year preached at Handley Green, breathing fire and Dissension.

The canals:
Being a staunch member of the Established Church, hence his frequent journeys to the Parish Church of St Peter ad Vincula in Stoke, our Man disapproved of these new ideas, but as he stepped along his way, he marvelled at the sight in front of him. Mr Wedgwood's new Caldon Canal, opened about five years ago, lay in his path. He paused on the hump-backed bridge to watch a horse-drawn barge glide slowly but surely past, with a cargo of limestone from the Moorlands hills away to the northeast. Wedgwood's engineer, James Brindley had designed the canal  along  the  brow  contour  of  the shallow escarpment that encircled Shelton and Handley Green, so that on the level it required less locks. The Caldon Canal was supplied with water from man-made lakes and conduits up in the hills. Wedgwood's major project,  the Grand Trunk Canal of which the Caldon Canal was but an arm, had been started in 1769 and was opened in 1777,  connecting the River Trent with the River Mersey through the  Harecastle Tunnel.

From this point in history the only way was forward. Even before 1769, Wedgwood had opened his new pottery at Etruria on the line of the new canal. Other potters as well as his engineer James Brindley scrambled to buy land and to relocate on or near  this new marvel. The  canals needed good road links, and road building was improved at the same time thanks to the enterprise and diligence of men like John Metcalf (Blind Jack of Knaresborough) whose methods soon became widely used.

The Wedgwood factory from the canal bridge at Etruria Road in 1794


We  had  left  our  travellers  on  Caldon  Canal  bridge, looking down towards Stoke. Their onward journey would be largely unchanged in this predominantly agricultural environment, but new building especially ribbon development along the highways was becoming noticeable. On the way to church when crossing Winton's Field they stopped to dabble in the small man-made channel that ran from the Trent near Trent Hay Farm, to the Grand Trunk Canal in Stoke.  This feeder was the first contribution of water from the river to the canal that would one  day bear  its  name-  the  Trent  and  Mersey.

The line of the canal feeder

As they crossed the Grand Trunk Canal they saw a much busier waterway than the Caldon with wharves and loading docks in both directions; a veritable hive of activity. Sadly James Brindley died in 1772 and did not see the completion of his last enterprise.

Stoke Church was even more dilapidated than ever, and   Grandfather was of the private opinion that it was in danger of falling down. The Domesday Survey had valued it at 10 shillings.

on Domesday

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John Alcock - (c) Copyright 2006