- Bennett's Hanley
|In Arnold Bennett's
"Five Town" novels, Hanley is known as Hanbridge.
Whilst Burslem - or Bursley as Bennett
called it in his books - considers itself to be the Mother town of
the Potteries, Hanley has, over the last 100 years, steadily grown
as the centre of economic power. A reflection of which Bennett
recognised in his narrative writings.
Hanley (Hanbridge) was looked upon as
taking away Burslems (Bursleys) trade and position as the premier
town in the Potteries......
half of Mr. Brindley's business was disappearing. People would not
go to Hanbridge for their bread or for their groceries, but they
would go for their cakes. These electric trams had simply carried to
Hanbridge the cream, and much of the milk, of Bursley's retail
trade. There were unprincipled tradesmen in Hanbridge ready to pay
the car-fares of any customer who spent a crown in their
establishments. Hanbridge was the geographical centre of the Five
Towns, and it was alive to its situation. Useless for Bursley to
compete! If Mrs. Critchlow had been a philosopher, if she had known
that geography had always made history,..."
The Old Wives' Tale
streets were lively with the red and blue colours of politics. The
Liberal member for the Parliamentary borough of Handbridge, which
included Bursley, had died very suddenly, and the seat was being
disputed by the previously defeated Conservative candidate and a new
Labour candidate officially adopted by the Liberal party. The Tories has
sworn not to be beaten again in the defence of the integrity of the
Empire. And though they had the difficult and delicate task of
persuading a large industrial constituency that an industrial
representative would not further industrial interests, and that they
alone were actuated by unselfish love for the people, yet they had made
enormous progress in a very brief period, and publicans were jubilant
and bars sloppy."
aspect of the affair that did not quite please the Society for the
prosecution of Felons, was that the polling had been fixed for the day
after its annual dinner, instead of the day before. Powerful efforts had
been made 'in the proper quarter' to get the date conveniently arranged,
but without success; after all, the seat of authority was Hanbridge and
Hanbridge - the
capital of the Potteries
Today the town's a lively mixture of
shopping outlets, a modern shopping centre, law courts, a cultural quarter
and a multitude of ingeniously created public parks. Over the last 200
years the district has become solidly built up and industrialised. As the
town begins the new millennium Hanley lays a powerful claim to be the
capital of the Potteries.
"And then Constance,
from a passive figure of grief, became a menace. She overwhelmed Dick
Povey with her anathema of Federation, for Dick was a citizen of Hanbridge,
where this detestable movement for Federation had had its birth. All the
misfortunes of St. Luke's Square were due to that great, busy, grasping,
Had not Hanbridge done
enough, without wanting to merge all the Five Towns into one town, of
which of course itself would be the centre? For Constance, Hanbridge was a
borough of unprincipled adventures, bent on running the ancient 'Mother of
the Five Towns' for its own glory and aggrandizement. Let Constance hear
no more of Federation! Her poor sister Sophia had been dead against
Federation, and she had been quite right! All respectable people were
Cauldon Bar Ironworks
By the late 1800's a huge iron working
foundry had been established to the west of the Wedgwood Etruria works.
The mill lying alongside the canal at the base of the Fowlea Valley would
paint the night sky of Potteries a lurid orange and provide Bennett with a
colourful reference point within the Five Town novels.
The yellow glow of Shelton
Bennett's "Cauldon Bar Ironworks"
"The bedroom was over the kitchen and faced south. The moon was hidden
by clouds, but clear stretches of sky showed thick-studded clusters of
stars brightly winking. To the far right across the fields the
silhouette of Hillport Church could just be discerned on the ridge. In
front, several miles away, the blast-furnaces of Cauldon Bar Ironworks
shot up vast wreaths of yellow flame with canopies of tinted smoke.
Still more distant
were a thousand other lights crowning chimney and kiln, and nearer, on
the waste lands west of Bleakridge, long fields of burning ironstone
glowed with all the strange colours of decadence. The entire landscape
was illuminated and transformed by these unique pyrotechnics of labour
atoning for its grime, and dull, weird sounds, as of the breathings and
sighings of gigantic nocturnal creatures, filled the enchanting air. It
was a romantic scene, a romantic summer night, balmy, delicate, and
wrapped in meditation. But Anna saw nothing there save the repulsive
evidences of manufacture, had never seen anything else."
The six towns of Stoke-on-Trent federated
to become a city in March 1910. Opposition was vocal in Fenton, Tunstall
and Burslem - all fearing Hanley as an emerging power determined to rule
the roost in the Potteries at the expense of their own ambitions. Indeed,
before finally succeeding to federation, Burslem spent the last of its
capital allowances building a second, and unrequired, town hall rather
than see its money spread across the rest of the region, in particular
Hanley. A spirit that was not lost on Bennett himself writing in The Old
"The vast grievance
of the Federation scheme weighed on her to the extremity of her power to
bear. She was not a politician ; she had no general ideas ; she did not
see the cosmic movement in large curves. She was incapable of perceiving
the absurdity involved in perpetuating municipal divisions which the
growth of the district had rendered artificial, vexatious, and harmful.
She saw nothing but Bursley, and in Bursley nothing but the square.
She knew nothing except that the people of Bursley, who had once shopped
in Bursley, now shopped in Handbridge, and that the square was a desert
infested by cheap-jacks. And there were actually people who wished to
bow the neck to the greedy humour of that pushing Chicago! She could not
understand such people. Did they not know that poor Maria Critchlow was
in a lunatic asylum because Handbridge was so grasping?"
'The Signal' Newspaper
The old Evening Sentinel offices in
Hanley, were built in 1901. The daily newspaper, referred to in Bennett's
novels as "The Signal", has held a powerful grip over the people of the
Potteries throughout the last hundred years. Bennett himself contributed
to the paper when he was a teenager and recognised its influence in the
second of his Clayhanger trilogies "Hilda Lessways,"
saying 'Nothing has ever stood up to The Signal yet'
The paper consumed inch by inch each day
by the population of the Potteries had many hopeful rivals. The Reporter,
The Spice, The Potteries Daily Express, The Staffordshire Daily Times, The
Staffordshire knot, The Weekly Star, The Staffordshire Courier and the
Staffordshire Evening post are amongst the list of publications that have
taken on the Evening Sentinel for a place in the hearts of the local
population and failed.
The Sentinel Offices (Sid
Bennett's "The Signal"
more in the drawing-room, they resumed the subject of newspapers. "You
know," said Mr Myson, "it's really a very bad thing indeed for a
district to have only one daily newspaper. I've nothing myself to say
against The Staffordshire Signal, but you'd perhaps be astonished" -
this in a confidential tone - " at the feeling there is against the
signal in many quarters." "Really!" said Denry. "Of course its fault is
that it isn't sufficiently interested in the great public questions of
the district. And it can't be. Because it can't take a definite side. It
must try to please all parties. At any rate it must offend none. That is
the great evil of a journalistic monopoly. Two hundred and fifty
thousand people - why! There is an ample public for two first class
papers. Look at Nottingham! Look at Bristol! Look at Leeds! Look at
Sheffield!.. and their