Pounding the streets of Stoke-on-Trent
in search of a buried past

Lane Delph - 'following Roman Road is a route back in time'

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Historian Fred Hughes writes....   

Tracing the old Roman road into Stoke-on-Trent is pretty straightforward until you reach Lane Delph.

If you're wondering where Lane Delph is, it's at the end of King Street, Fenton. Over the years, many intercepting roads have so obscured the old Roman Road that it can now only be followed with difficulty.

Local writer Alan Myatt says: "Some years ago, I drew a template over a modern OS map and saw that the Roman Road left King Street past the Angel Inn and into Park Road.

"Then it went through Hitchman Street and William Street and into the grounds of the Sixth Form College. From here, the line passed Stoke Station, then through Wolstanton Marsh and Golf Club into Chesterton and Apedale, where the garrison was based. The thing that really interested me was that until you get to Fenton, the Roman Road had always been clearly in use. But from then on, it had literally become extinguished."

This is quite an impressive observation. And it indicates how spectacularly industry has changed the landscape of Stoke-on-Trent over a relatively short period of 300 years.

If we look at Alan's map and remove the built environment, it's easy to see that when the Romans passed this way, very little existed other than the Trent tributaries flowing through woodland from the outskirts of the Moorlands.

Alan adds: "If you want to see the road as the Romans might have seen it, it's worth a climb to Fenton Park where the telecommunications mast is. Here you are surrounded by wild fields. Block out all signs of human enterprise and you're back nearly 2,000 years."

He's right. High on Fenton Park I can see the line of the road back to Draycott. And in the opposite direction, there is the headland of May Bank with the landmark Wolstanton church on the ridge before the skyline dips into the Apedale valley. And below me is the last bit of road recognisable from Roman times.

Historian Steve Birks says: "Lane Delph was one of the earliest populated areas in Fenton and home to a number of early pottery families.

"As a result of the growth of industry, there were, by 1775, three main centres of population in this district: Great Fenton, formerly Fenton Culvert; Little Fenton, and Lower Lane and Lane Delph. Fifty years later, Lane Delph was still one of the largest centres continuing to grow in buildings and population throughout the early 19th century. The heart of Lane Delph lay along the main road and around Duke Street and China Street."


These days, evidence of domestic occupation on this side of King Street is buried beneath industrial residue, while the community around Fenpark Road still has rows of Victorian terrace streets.

Jane and Mick Lockett own M&J News in King Street.

"We've been here 18 months," says Jane. "We chose this business because it was in a thriving area. In fact, more houses are being built around here all the time. Mind you, I never guessed we stood on a Roman Road. It might be worth looking at as a publicity angle."

the Angel Inn - Park Road
the Angel Inn - Park Road

Lane Delph starts with a pub, the Miners Arms, and ends with one -the Angel in Park Road. This late Victorian hostelry once stood next to a Mason's pottery. Interestingly, the Masons called their works Minerva after the Roman goddess for arts and crafts. Before its demolition in 2001, it was owned by Coalport, and new houses now occupy the site, bringing more business for Jane and Mick.

On the other hand, being a publican is harder than it's ever been, according to the Angel's landlord Michael Powell.

"The smoking ban is the latest in a series of issues that have changed the way we use pubs and treated them as community centres," he says. "The future of traditional pubs has become very insecure. But we do all right for the moment."

The Angel stands on the brow of a hill looking along the Roman Road towards Chesterton. It's easy to imagine the Victorian pub as a Roman tavern with Legionaries pausing for refreshment on their journey.

But what is the origin of Lane Delph's name?

"Delph has references to clay pits or quarries - it was rural and rugged," says Steve. "The expression 'drowned in a delph' was used to certify the cause of death in a number of parish records. It was also the birthplace of Josiah Spode.

"But Miles Mason was the important figure here. An account i 1829 refers to a large number of new houses for the working classes, more than likely built for the Masons' workforce. Charles and George Mason, sons of Miles, established a regular shambles market which was very popular.

"Only a few years later, historian John Ward was referring to the community as Middle Fenton. He explained it was to replace the ancient, but discarded and 'inelegant' name of Lane Delph, which is a shame really, because Lane Delph sounds much better. Ward insisted though that the new name gave the location the character of the respectable small town it has grown into."

In 1843, the local manufacturers decided that a speedier route to Hanley was needed so the old Roman road was abandoned and the new Victoria Road was built.

"The new road was set for speed and to save going into Stoke to get Hanley," says Steve. "It drove across Fenton Low, over the Trent by a farm called Trent Hay, through Joiners Square and up the hill into Eastwoood finishing by the Albion Inn. And, of course, this is the Victoria Road we so love to hate these days."

The Albion Hotel - Hanley
The Albion Hotel - Hanley


So this is Lane Delph, lost among one of the city's busiest intersection. And yet there are few similar places in the Potteries that resonate with the past more than this formless a forgotten hamlet.

on Lane Delph

next week: Lower Lane

click the "contents" button to get back to the main index & map
next: Lower Lane
previous: The Foley


27 December 2007