Recent BLHS Talk - North Staffordshire Women

Last week's BLHS talk was by Mervyn Edwards. His topic for the evening was 'North Staffordshire Women' and Mervyn chose five women with very different roles, providing a fascinating contrast and a very entertaining evening's talk.


First up was Hannah Dale who lived between 1881-1892. She came from Dales Green, Mow Cop and Mervyn showed moving photographs of her weighing 165 Kg (that's 26 stones in old money) at just 9 years of age. She was exhibited and exploited as a fairground freak because of her weight and age, but then died just two years later.

Next was Sarah Wedgwood (1734-1815). Mervyn described the courtship between her and Josiah Wedgwood and the complexity of winning approval from her father, Richard. Sarah inherited wealth from her father when he died as her brother had also died. This inheritance bankrolled Josiah's scientific work and business activities as well as the design and building of their house and that of his close associate, Thomas Bentley.

Millicent Duchess of Sutherland (1867-1955) came next. She was a socialite, a poet and a writer. She liked hunting, fishing and horses. One of her houses was Trentham Hall and, in 1895, Mervyn showed a picture of her attending Hanley Park Horse Parade.

Amongst other things, she campaigned to reduce the amount of lead in the glazes used in the pottery industry. She also helped to establish hospitals in Belgium and France during WW1. She campaigned for holidays for children in Hanford Hills, to get them away from the smoke and grime of the Potteries in its heyday, and Mervyn went on to explain how Arnold Bennett had parodied her in Bennett's book The Card.

Millicent was followed by Fanny Deakin - the famous political activist. Born in Silverdale, she lived there all of her life. She married Noah who was a miner at Silverdale colliery who in later life was to suffer a serious industrial accident that incapacitated him. We learned that Fanny had championed compensation for Noah and this paved the way for future reform of compensating industrial injuries in the mining sector. Fanny was the first woman to be elected onto Wolstanton Council as a Labour member in 1923 and she went on to play an important role in the General Strike of 1926. She campaigned for better maternity care of women and, successfully, for free milk for children under five.

Last but not least came Clarice Cliff (1899-1972), the ceramic designer, who was born in Tunstall. She became famous for her brightly coloured ceramics and she developed the ‘Bazooka Horse’ - a ceramic sculpture that was shown at carnivals such as the one at Middleport.

A very interesting, informative and engaging talk. Thanks Mervyn.

BLHS visits Audlem

27 of us, 16 from BLHS plus 11 from the Audlem History Society, together with 2 dogs, spent a lovely late spring evening taking a walking tour of the fine old village of Audlem in the wonderful company of Celia Bloor.

After parking next to the new Community Centre, we began in The Square and learned something of the history of the Buttermarket. Glancing across to the church towering over the centre of the village, we passed William Baker's two coaching inns, the Phoenix and The Crown both dating from 1745, and then walked down Vicarage Lane to School Lane, adjacent to the old grammar school.

We passed by the old smithy, once run by a blacksmith by the name of Shukrer, and walked on to the 'new' road bridge dating from around 1760.

We were shown the Baptist Chapel, and Audley Mill to our left across the fields. Waking along Stafford Street, we passed two Georgian houses that were build when 'new road' was put in.

Turning right into Churchfields we passed the old pottery kiln (in the photo of the bungalow with blue car), and then the old chapel on the right hand side.

A little further on we saw the black and white Moss Hall, dating from 1604, across the fields - legend has it that there is a tunnel from Audlem church to Moss Hall!

Walking on into Audlem cemetery, we saw the headstone of Dr. Poggi - a popular headmaster at the grammar school.during the 19th century.

We finally walked across the sports field and dropped down the grass bank to the canal through the car park at the Shroppie Fly.

Walking along the towpath, we passed by Telford's lock-keeper's cottage - the canal was built here in 1835 and there is a 15-lock staircase nearby too. It's worth noting that the railway arrived some 30 years after Shropshire Union canal opened here and, after this, the amount of commercial traffic on the canal began to taper off quickly.

We finally returned past the Shroppie Fly up to the main road - a very interesting tour from a very knowledgeable guide. Thanks Celia.

Incidentally, we’ve put some pictures up on our Facebook Group page here. If you’re not already a member of the Fb group then just click the join button and we’ll have you onboard in no time.

The Victorian Society

Molly, from the Victorian Society, writes to ask for nominations for threatened Victorian buildings - the Top 10 Endangered Buildings of 2019 list. Note the tight deadline for nominations.

Nominations for our annual Top 10 Most Endangered Buildings campaign are now open!

Our biggest push of the year to save the most at risk Victorian and Edwardian buildings is fast approaching. Our annual Top 10 Most Endangered Buildings campaign brings to the forefront the most dilapidated and neglected buildings around England and Wales that are in desperate need of public attention to be saved.

Griff Rhys-Jones, President of the Victorian Society states, “Can you help? It is vital that we draw attention to endangered Victorian buildings. Each year the top ten list from the Victorian Society gets publicity and focuses minds. It works. Councils, newspapers and potential saviours pay attention. The public are interested. General awareness goes up. The individual buildings become noticed. So now is the time to make nominations. If you know of an important or noteworthy Victorian building that needs public attention then do get in touch.”

The predominant aim of our campaign is to bring forgotten buildings into the public sphere. The Victorian Society harnesses the media coverage the campaign gains to highlight buildings that would otherwise lie forgotten and decaying, and utilise this publicity to try and alter their fate for the better.

A light on the horizon for Norfolk’s dilapidated seaside winter gardens.

The Grade II-listed Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth featured in our Top 10 Endangered Buildings list last year. The majestic glass and iron structure is a fine example of the Victorian ability to bring architectural grandeur to a seaside town. This cathedral of glass faced an uncertain future - having been left empty for over a decade. A significant development occurred in March when Great Yarmouth Council stated it is seeking an investor to restore the structure to its original purpose as a public place of enjoyment and recreation.  

However, not every building featured has a positive development.

Fison’s Factory Fire

An irreplaceable part of Suffolk's heritage, the Fison’s Factory, burnt to the ground in May. Featured in our 2017 campaign, the factory served as an example of Suffolk’s thriving industrial past. Fison’s left the site in 2003, and it had since fallen into a dilapidated state. It is crucial that derelict buildings are adequately secured to ensure destruction on this scale is prevented and our heritage protected.

The publicity gained through this campaign helps to drive overall public interest in retaining and protecting the Victorian and Edwardian buildings that are all around us. If you know of a building that is at risk from demolition, neglect, or inappropriate development, nominating it for our campaign provides a tangible path to saving it.

This is a fantastic chance to get involved with the fight to save our heritage. To nominate a building simply email with the year, location, and why the building deserves to be included in our campaign. Nominated buildings must be dated between 1837 and 1914, and situated in either England or Wales. 

The deadline for nominations is Friday 19th July. It is not a voting system – there is no benefit to a building being nominated more than once. The final Top 10 list will be announced on Friday 13th September.

See Around Britain

See Around Britain have written to us - they are organising a Doomsday Survey of a variety of venues for a photo travel app which gives visitors an advance look inside public venues, such as historic houses and museums.

Some information about the See Around Britain Charity:

·         See Around Britain is fully multilingual  (over 60 languages can be used) and uses GPS and a comprehensive use of photos to show how to find a venue and discover its attractions and facilities inside, to enable the user to check out if it is suitable for their interests or needs, including families with young children, older citizens, or individuals with a wide range of impairments.

·         It covers a vast range of venues and public places used in everyday life such as post offices or local shops, and transport provision, and a huge number of heritage sites, including parish churches, gardens, nature reserves and historic houses.

·         See Around Britain is a registered disabled-run UK charity, (No. 116 2172) , which began with over 500,000 photos taken with no public funding by its founder trustee, Marg McNiel, an Irish citizen (his unusual first male name is Norse) who has spent a lifetime in community and heritage education, travelling throughout Europe and the British Isles. Born with a mobility impairment and now an ME sufferer, he has joined forces with fellow trustees Vin West MBE and Trevor Palmer BEM to make the app available to be downloaded free from the Apple and Android Stores.  All 3 trustees are pensioners.

·         “The 21st-Century Domesday Survey will take it to the next level to increase its coverage further and invite online volunteers of all ages and interests using their smartphones or cameras to visit every kind of venue in their local area and village, to add to our website,” Marg explains. “The venue owners that they visit will get an awareness of the varied needs of disabled people, and how to best meet them.”

The Survey also has online volunteering opportunities in writing venue descriptions for the large backlog of photos waiting to be uploaded, social media to raise its profile, and admin and editorial support.

Volunteers can join and get online tutorials, and also submit their Survey photos and videos, at the bottom of the website About Us page at .

For more information contact directly.


Please let us know if you would like to find out more by contacting the charity on

DNA testing comparison site

Olivia from STEMfans, an extra-curricular group looking to encourage more people to pursue study and careers in science, technology, engineering, and maths, has written to me.

She explains that they’ve been looking at various DNA testing services and noted this guide that maps out the pros and cons of various ancestry DNA services, as well as the specific types of information that can be obtained from each:

This isn’t an endorsement, but why not check it out and see what you think.

A new podcast

Simon Shaw wrote to tell us about a new venture that aims to spotlight extraordinary characters from the past, yet who often remain unknown outside of their locality.

“Invisible Lives” is a recent introduction to the world of podcasting, telling true stories from our rich history that are rarely heard.

You can hear the stories either through searching for “Invisible Lives” on the podcatch application of your choice, or by clicking through on the link below:


…and welcome to the BLHS blog.

This page will contain occasional updates reviewing past events and highlight topics that might be of interest to those who are curious about local history.

If you have a topic that you think would be suitable for inclusion then please send it through to me.


A Day in Archaeology 22 July 2019

The Council for British Archaeology’s (CBA's) Festival of Archaeology will take place from 13-28 July 2019 and will showcase the very best of British Archaeology.

Have you ever wondered what archaeologists really do?  Do they just dig or are there other aspects to their work?

A Day in Archaeology showcases "a day in the life" of archaeologists from all over the UK. Anyone with a personal, professional or voluntary interest in archaeology can get involved.

Find out more about participating in A Day of Archaeology here: