| Bennett Index |

Bennett's life in the Potteries


previous: Bennett's parents
contents: index page for Arnold Bennett

also see: locations and people in Bennett's novels

Bennett's life in the Potteries

Baby, boy and young man

NOTE: quotations are from Warrillow's - 'Arnold Bennett and Stoke-on-Trent'

Enoch Arnold Bennett was born in Hope Street Hanley in 1867, his teenage years were spent in Cobridge, a suburb of Burslem, that lies about the road leading south to Hanley. Known as Trafalgar road in Bennett's novels, it is in fact the Waterloo road of today.


After their marriage in 1866, Enoch and Sarah Bennett took up residence in a wedge-, or coffin-shaped house-shop having frontages or side to Hope Street and Hanover Street, Shelton. Shelton was a large sub-district of Hanley in the 19th Century the boundaries of which ran far in various directions.

on May 27th 1867 the Bennett Family Bible records that, "at half-past ten o'clock a.m. at 90, Hope Street, Hanley, the baby Arnold was born."

It was at this house during the early months of babyhood that the child Enoch Arnold lived with the young parents who were busily engaged in the small drapery, pawnbroking and sewing business. In addition the father, Enoch, was studying law. "At No. 90 the ground floor was filled with books." It was at the age of 34, in 1876, that Enoch passed his final examinations in law.

Hope Street, Hanley

former cafe on the same location as Bennett's birth home
Arnold Bennett's birth home on the corner of Hanover Street and Hope Street


This cafe stands where Arnold Bennett, the novelist was born in 1867
later "Five Towns Cafe" on the location where Arnold Bennett,
the novelist was born in 1867
[the cafe is now demolished]

Hanover Street to the left and Hope Street to the right.

this plaque is visible on both the cafe buildings above

photos: Dec 2000


the move back to Burslem

The Bennett family had left their Hope Street home in 1875 and moved to a house with a lower rental in Dale Hall, Burslem, where the family lived for about a year.

It was a period when the family found themselves at their lowest ebb. In 1876 conditions improved for the family, when the Longsons of St. John's Square, Burslem, offered at a modest rent the use of a house, 175, Newport Lane, Burslem. It seemed that in return Mrs. Bennett returned to the shop in St. John's Square, once again to assist behind the counter.

By this time Arnold Bennett the boy had reached the age of about 8 or 9 and from 1875-6 received his education in company with his brother Frank at the infant school of the Wesleyan Chapel and Sunday School at Swan Square, Burslem. He moved to the Burslem Endowed School at the Wedgwood Institute in 1877.

Arnold was a thoughtful type of boy hampered by a stutter in his speech that remained with him, in a greater or lesser degree, throughout his lifetime. It prompted his father to say, "What shall I do with poor Arnold; he will never be able to earn his own living ?"

Swan Bank Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Burslem - c.1908
Swan Bank Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Burslem - c.1908
photo: the Warrillow Collection
from 1875-6 Arnold Bennett received his education at the infant school of the Wesleyan Chapel and Sunday School at Swan Square,

"The Wesleyan Chapel on Duck Bank, Swan Bank, Burslem, photographed about the time 'The Old Wives' Tale' was written. This was the chapel at which the Baines family worshipped."


the Wedgwood Institute, Queen Street, Burslem
the Wedgwood Institute, Queen Street, Burslem

In 1877 Arnold continued his education at the Burslem Endowed School at the Wedgwood Institute.



In Bennett's books Cobridge was known as Bleakridge - the area dates back to the thirteenth century, when the monks of Hulton Abbey first occupied the land.

“A house stood on a hill. And that hill was Bleakridge, the summit of the little billow of land between Bursley and Hanbridge. Trafalgar Road passed over the crest of the billow."

Arnold Bennett was very familiar with Cobridge and the little station there -because he lived there from 1880 to 1888 ....

Bennett's father Enoch, had bought a building site on Henry Meakin’s estate for £200 in 1879 where he built a house at a cost of £900, No 205 Waterloo Road. This is a large three-storey red brick house with a façade much embellished with terra cotta. It has two bay windows at the front and six bedrooms. 

There is no information about the architect but there is a good possibility that it was designed by George Ford, who was living on the other side of Waterloo Road, he designed other streets and houses on the Meakin estate and was likely
the model for Osmond Orgreave, the architect in Bennett's novel 'Clayhanger'

In Clayhanger the Orgreave family, of which the head (Osmond, the architect) is essential to the development of Edwin’s maturity.

1898 map showing where Arnold Bennett lived
1898 map showing where Arnold Bennett lived

The red circle on Waterloo Road was Bennett's home from 1880 to 1888, the blue line was originally to be named Station Road - because the footpath at the end lead to Cobridge Station. It became Rushton Road acknowledging the ancient 'Rushton Grange' estate.

The green square opposite Bennett's house was the home of George Ford the architect who designed many local houses - he was likely the model for Osmond Orgreave, the architect in Bennett's novel 'Clayhanger'.
The Cobridge Territorial Army Centre now occupies this ground.

Marked in light blue is Bleak Street and in purple the location of Bleak Hill House - these are the names Bennett took when he named Cobridge as Bleakridge.
In the mid 1950's Bleak Street was renamed Orgreave Street after the architect in Bennett's Clayhanger.
 Bleak Hill House has since been demolished and a Mosque now occupies this ground. 

Bleak Hill House in 1955

Bleak Hill House in 1955
Warrillow Collection - Keele University Library

“A house stood on a hill. And that hill was Bleakridge, the summit of the little billow of land between Bursley and Hanbridge. Trafalgar Road passed over the crest of the billow.

Bleakridge was certainly not more than a hundred feet higher than Bursley; yet people were now talking a lot about the advantages of living ‘up’ at Bleakridge, ‘above’ the smoke, and ‘out’ of the town, though it was not more than five minutes from the Duck Bank. To hear them talking, one might have fancied that Bleakridge was away in the mountains somewhere. The new steam-cars would pull you up there in three minutes or so, every quarter of an hour. It was really the new steam-cars that were to be the making of Bleakridge as a residential suburb. It had also been predicted that even Hanbridge men would come to live at Bleakridge now. 

Land was changing owners at Bleakridge, and rising in price. Complete streets of lobbied cottages grew at angles from the main road with the rapidity of that plant which pushes out strangling branches more quickly than a man can run. And these lobbied cottages were at once occupied. Cottage-property in the centre of the town depreciated. The land fronting the main road was destined not for cottages, but for residences, semi-detached or detached. Osmond Orgreave had a good deal of this land under his control. 

He did not own it, he hawked it. Like all provincial, and most London, architects, he was a land-broker in addition to being an architect. 
Before obtaining a commission to build a house, he frequently had to create the commission himself by selling a convenient plot, and then persuading the purchaser that if he wished to retain the respect of the community he must put on the plot a house worth of the plot.”

Arnold Bennett - Clayhanger


As the road continues southward towards Hanley, you pass small eighteenth century buildings, which, the further you venture from the Mother Town, give way to the larger and obviously more affluent middle class terraces of the mid 1900's. Number 205 Waterloo Road was one of the many Bennett family homes.

205 Waterloo Road
former home of Arnold Bennett

photo: 2001

In 1960 the house was given over to an Arnold Bennett Museum. However it is now a private home. The Bennett family also lived at 198 Waterloo road, while in Burslem itself, they resided first in Dane Street and then in Newport Lane.

Edwin Clayhanger at Bursley cemetery

Arnold Bennett's monument to the left of the chapel

Arnold Bennett, in his book 'These Twain', has Edwin Clayhanger attending a funeral at the Wesleyan Chapel in Duck Square (actually Swan Square), Burslem and then an interment at Burslem Cemetery - the following is a selection of that event.......

"Edwin was met by a saying that 'the last journey must be the longest': which meant that the cortege must go up St Luke's Square and along the Market Place past the Town Hall and the Shambles, encountering the largest number of sightseers, instead of taking the nearest way along Wedgwood Street. Edwin chose Wedgwood Street.

Edwin scrutinized the coffin, and the wreaths, and the cards inscribed with mournful ecstatic affection that nestled amid the flowers, and the faces of the audience, and his thought was: 'This will soon be over now!

The cortege moved. Rain was threatening, and the streets were muddy.

At the cemetery it was raining, and the walkers made a string of glistening umbrellas; only the paid mutes had no umbrellas....

Vehicles, by some municipal caprice, were forbidden to enter the cemetery. And in the rain, between the stone-perpetuated great names of the town's history -the Boultons, the Lawtons, the Blackshaws, the Beardmores, the Dunns, the Longsons, the Hulmes, the Suttons, the Greenes, the Gardiners, the Calverts, the Dawsons, the Brindleys, the Bainses, and the Woods - the long procession proceeded by Auntie Hamps tramped for over a third of a mile along the asphalted path winding past the chapel to the graveside. And all the way Mr Breeze, between Edwin and Albert, with Bert a yard to the rear, talked about boils, and Edwin said Yes and No, and Albert said nothing. And at the graveside the three ministers removed their flat round hats and put on skull-caps, while skilfully holding their umbrellas aloft.

And while Mr Flowerdew was reading from a little book in the midst of the large, encircling bare-headed crowd with umbrellas, and the gravedigger with absolute precision accompanied his words with three castings of earth into the hollow of the grave, Edwin scanned an adjoining tombstone, which marked the family vault of Isaac Plant, a renowned citizen. ....

.......And even in that hilly and bleak burial-ground, with melancholy sepulchral parties and white wind-blown surplices dotted about the sodden slopes, and the stiff antipathetic multitude around the pit which held Auntie Hamps, and the terrible seared, harsh, grey-brown industrial landscape of the great smoking amphitheatre below, Edwin felt happy in the sensation of being alive and of having to contend with circumstance."

Arnold Bennett, These Twain (1916)

.... some 15 years later Bennett's ashes were to be interred in the same cemetery.


The internment of Arnold Bennett's ashes

Internment at Burslem Cemetery

"In accordance with the unanimous decision of the near relatives, and in pursuance of the believed desire of the writer himself; the ashes of Mr Arnold Bennett, were interred at Burslem Cemetery today, the service being of the simplest and most private character.
The only mourners present as the beautiful and hallowed words of the committal prayers were recited were the widow (Mrs Arnold Bennett), Mrs Beardmore (the eldest sister) and Mr Frank Bennett (brother).

Though the ceremony was thus so characteristic of the austere and the retiring nature of North Staffordshire's greatest interpreter, there was not lacking the companionship of the sights and sounds which he knew and described so well.

The brilliant freshness of the cemetery green, beneath the sunny sky, contrasted with the overlooking grey pitmound, which shut out the view of "Bursley." Away to the left the hill could be seen climbed by "Trafalgar road." A slight breeze sighed through the trees, and in the distance an engine working on the colliery sidings could be heard, its continuous "chuff -chuff" being softened almost to a croon.

The internment was in the grave where Arnold Bennett's mother and grand-parents lie - on the east side of the chapel, near the centre of the cemetery. Above the grave there is a grey granite monument.......

Exceptional precautions had been taken to secure the privacy of the service, and even the officiating clergyman - the Rev A L Lamb, Rector of Burslem - was not informed until he entered the cemetery office today the identity of the ashes over whom he was to read the service.

The ashes were conveyed from Colder 's Green Crematorium today by train, accompanied by Mr T Bridgman (of Messrs J Kenyon Ltd, London, the under-takers). In the same train Mrs Bennett and Mrs Beardmore travelled to Stoke. Mr Frank Bennett travelled to Stoke from Rochdale today, and there met the ashes, and the party proceeded by car to the cemetery. The two ladies waited at the graveside, while Mr Bennett and Mr Kenyon went
to the cemetery lodge, there meeting Mr Myatt, superintendent Registrar of the City Cemeteries, and Mr A Walker, Assistant Registrar at Burslem Cemetery.

Led by the Rector of Burslem, the party - consisting of Mr Bennett, Mr Myatt and Mr Bridgman - then made their way slowly to the grave. Mr Bennett himself carried the ashes, which were contained in a bronze casket of severe, but graceful design, on which was inscribed, in plain Roman lettering: "Enoch Arnold Bennett, died 27th March, 1931, aged 63 years."

Thus, though the suggestions that the internment should take place in the Potters' Corner in Stoke Parish Church, or elsewhere in circumstances permitting public homage to North Staffordshire's distinguished son, have been overruled the district has received back its own. Enoch Arnold Bennett travelled widely and achieved greatly in many fields, but it is fitting that the soil which he trod in youth, and trod again so often in imagination, should afford his ashes their last resting place."

Evening Sentinel, 22 July 1931

previous: Bennett's parents
contents: index page for Arnold Bennett

also see: locations and people in Bennett's novels