TUNSTALL

Grid Ref: SJ 863 512
17 Sept 2003 and 3 Feb 2011

Christchurch   Town Hall
   Christchurch   Town Hall
Market   Victoria Jubilee Buildings
Market Hall   Queen Victoria Jubilee Buildings
Clock   plaque
Tower Square  

Plaque on Clock Tower

 
The Clock in 2011   Front of the Science wing of the Jubilee Building, 2011
 
The War Memorial, 2011   Tunstall's Future? 2011

 

Tunstall is not on the tourist trail for walkers but I strolled through it out of sheer curiosity. It is the northernmost of the Pottery towns. Like the cotton towns of East Lancashire, where I was born, the towns of the Potteries made a great contribution to Britain's industrial strength in the 19th century. Immense amounts of money must have flowed through them in their glory days as their products went to virtually every home in the country and to many abroad. Now, their prosperity has been undermined by a long period of slow industrial decline, caused by imports from low wage countries and the end of coal mining. New enterprises do not seem to have arisen to replace the old ones, leaving a largely Victorian landscape in the town centre.

Pevsner, writing in 1974, described the Stoke-on-Trent area as an urban tragedy - "the seat of a great industry and the fourteenth largest city in England with no centre to the whole or an attempt at one." Since the 1970s, Hanley had emerged as the leader of the six towns with several civic developments including a very fine museum. Perhaps best known is the Potteries Shopping Centre with a multistorey car park, food hall, market and indoor shopping mall. It was the first of its type in the region, predating Meadow Hall at Sheffield and the Trafford Centre near Manchester.

Here are photographs of Tunstall town centre on a sunny September afternoon. Christchurch was a Commissioners' church built in 1830-31 by F. Bedford; the transepts and chancel were added in 1886-86 by A. R. Wood. Wood was also the architect for the town hall, built in 1883-5 and the Queen Victoria Jubilee Building, built in 1889 and extended in 1898. It bears the inscription "Free Library, Public Baths, Science and Art Institute". The market was built in 1857-8.

In Tower square is the clock tower erected in 1893, in honour of a local benefactor, Sir Smith Child (1808-1896). He was the son of John George Child and the grandson of Admiral Smith Child. From the Admiral's mother, Mary Baddeley, the Child family inherited the estates of the Baddeley family, which had lived at Tunstall for four hundred years. Smith Child married Sarah Hill in 1835 and in 1841 moved from Newfield Hall in Tunstall to Rownall Hall in Wetley. Newfield Hall was demolished in 1958. Smith Child became Conservative MP for North Staffordshire 1851. On the death of his father-in-law, Smith Child inherited Stallington Hall. He was created a baronet in 1868. He was a benefactor for several local causes including colliery disaster funds at Talke in 1868 and at Leycett in 1880. He founded the North Staffordshire Incurables Fund in 1875 and two years later, he built and endowed the Smith Child ward at the North Staffordshire Infirmary.

When I returned in February 2011, I found the town centre quiet, albeit on a Thursday when the market was closed. The centre of gravity looks destined to move to the new retail park a couple of hundred yards to the south which has a bold new metal sculpture. On the east side of the Jubilee Building there was scaffolding but through it I could still see the wonderful wrought iron sign of "The Tunstall Free Library. Tho: Nash Peake gave this 1901"

Sources:

The Buildings of England, Staffordshire, by Nikolaus Pevsner, Penguin, 1974, ISBN 0 14 071046 9
People of Stoke on Trent

 

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Strolling through Staffordshire
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