detailed index for the 'walks'

Write to Roam - exploring Stoke-on-Trent City Limits with Fred Hughes
interviews and articles by Fred Hughes - pictures by Steve Birks (unless otherwise noted)
- when reading these articles remember that areas may have been developed/demolished since the original article was written -


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Blurton - hunting land for the Dukes of Sutherland


According to an 1851 local gazetteer Blurton was ‘a pleasantly situated village above Trentham including the Lightwood Forest, the hamlets of Cocknage, Cold Ridding, and Spratslade.’ 

It sounds idyllic doesn’t it, a place where you’d half expect a foxhunt to come crashing over the heath. But industry and resettlement has changed Blurton out of all recognition from when it really was hunting land for the Dukes of Sutherland. These days the boundaries are so confused you wouldn’t even know you’d passed through on the road from Longton to Trentham. To the greenhorn Blurton is simply one huge community housing estate comprising Hollybush, Blurton Farm and Newstead. 


I ask retired teacher and blue badge guide Sid Bailey to help me find my bearings.

“Its one place I certainly have connections with and yet know very little about,” says Sid, “But I’d be happy to explore the place with you.”

Sid’s connections come via his wife Brenda, a former head of music at Blurton High School which opened in 1956. 

“The school was built to accommodate the new communities,” explains Brenda. “Situated alongside Tilery Lane on the boundary of Hem heath Colliery, the council estates appeared overnight. An overspill from Longton built for growing families in the post-war baby-boom years.”


Blurton High School
Blurton High School
- now (2012) the Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy -

Blurton High School is actually located on 1536 houses Blurton Farm Estate that stands in tandem with the Hollybush Estate, 280 house, and the Newstead Estate with 800. 

“I suppose this is what you would call rapid growth,” suggests Sid. “It fitted in with the post war slum clearance where we saw Stoke-on-Trent council using former industrial land in order to take the massively overcrowded town centres into the suburban countryside.”


1878 map of part of Blurton
1878 map of part of Blurton  


Blurton Tileries - the mineral railway passing nearby
Blurton Tileries - the mineral railway passing nearby 




Sid and I introduce ourselves to the staff and users of Blurton Farm Residents’ Association in a converted council bungalow in Ingleby Road. Sid was interested in the population of Blurton.

“Well,” offers Community Development Officer Val Nicholls, “In 1841 the population of the whole of Blurton was 876. Today there is about 11,000 registered to vote, so you can see how it has grown.”

But how did it grow so fast.

“That’s a mystery,” says 79 year old Reg Wilkinson. “My wife Lucy and I came here from Longton in the 1950’s. Houses were going up all around us. Even as we were getting accustomed to settling down new roads were being laid out and soon we had a community with all the amenities we needed like shops and public houses. 

Pubs were considered to be the community centres of the day. If you didn’t like pubs you’d have to go back to Longton for pleasurese,” he grins.

Blurton Farm Estate was built on the saddle of a hill lying between Longton and Trentham. It’s even more difficult to place these days in view of the diversions created by the restructured A50.

“It was originally the Blurton Waste Farm,” recalls community organiser Christine Pratt. “Before the estates arrived farmland ran all over this location. Originally you could see features such as the bone mill, the millpond, the tilery, the priory and of course the church.”


Tilery Lane
Tilery Lane 


At the head of Tilery Lane, the line of late 19th century terraced cottages
At the head of Tilery Lane, the line of late 19th century terraced cottages



Sid wants to see the church but Reg first offers to take us to some old cottages where the tilery once stood. And oh how things have indeed changed!

“The farm lane stopped by the cottages. Fifty years ago it was all very rural. You could see all the way across the main towns of Fenton, Stoke and Hanley,” he says.

At the head of Tilery Lane, the line of late 19th century terraced cottages look as good now as they did then.

“Quite remarkable,” enthuses Sid. “And those bungalows nearby look as though they’ve seen some good times as well.”

Referring to two 1930’s bungalows beside a detached cottage, the whole scene looks as though it could have been lifted from a different era light-years away from the sprawl of council houses that surrounds them. Here we meet resident Kathleen Peake.

“My father had this bungalow built and I’ve lived here all my life,” explains 62 year old Kathleen. “Even then all this was farmland.” 

“But why was it known as waste land,” queries Sid? 

“Because it was just that – waste meaning human sewage,” responds Kathleen. “It was a sewerage works that serviced the whole of the south of Stoke-on-Trent until it became inefficient in 1946 when it was moved away. The cottages were smallholdings that were situated on the edge of the farm. My grandfather was head-cowman at the big farm, and the corporation who leased the land out owned that. The farm was the main supplier to the City General Hospital with all its daily milk.”



St Bartholomew's - Blurton Parish


St Bartholomew's - Blurton Parish
St Bartholomew's - Blurton Parish


The tranquil church of St Bartholomew stands on the Trentham Road, sheltered by century-old trees and its fascinating graveyard edging directly on to the main road. Church records here go back to 1754, but the Trentham registers that include Blurton chapelry cover the period 1558 to1812. The old priory once stood next to it.

“Of course nowadays you can only imagine where that was because it was lost too many years ago,” says Reg pointing to a cluster of new dwellings where the priory may have once stood. 

Interesting the grave of Henry Heathcote who was once the master of the long-demolished Longton Hall testifies to the movement of land-power from the Dukes of Sutherlands before Longton Corporation adopted Blurton at the end of the 19th century and developed its giant sewerage plant into the landscape making a great deal of profit from its neighbouring towns.

“The beauty of visiting a place like Blurton and meeting people who live here gets you down to the real business of uncovering local history,” declares Sid. He wants to know more about the past, but there are more contemporary things that our companion wants us to see.

“Come on,” urges Reg, “I’ll show you the Douglas Macmillan Hospice.”

Right on the border of Blurton running alongside Barlaston Road is the famed cancer specialist care unit, itself a former farm until the hospice was established here in 1973, overlooking rolling pastures that flow and skirt Newstead Wood all the way to Wedgwood Hall at Barlaston.

“Of course it’s nothing to look at,” declares Reg. “But it is really impressive simply because of the great work it does.” 

And that’s what really sums Blurton up. Blurton is definitely nothing to look at, but it is home to a large percentage of the population of Stoke-on-Trent, hemmed-in by the new industrial sheds of commercial Trentham Lakes, itself a former home to one of Europe’s largest coalmines, where the Sutherlands once hunted and rode to hounds in feudal England. 

Fred Hughes [Written in 2006]


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