Estates - ownership and development

Stoke-on-Trent Local History 

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The Development of the Henry Meakin's Estate, Cobridge

take a 'walk' around this area


The land on the east side of Waterloo Road between The Limes, No 183 (see 1878 OS map), and the Soho Pottery was the property of Henry Meakin, of The Grove, Burslem. 

In 1878 he engaged George Beardmore Ford, architect and surveyor, to prepare a building plan for his estate. George Ford had his office in the Over House Chambers in Burslem, but lived with his father, William Ford, a builder, in Grange Terrace, Waterloo Road. Ford, then aged 44, was an experienced architect who had designed several schools for the Burslem School Board, and produced plans for the Clowes Memorial Church completed in 1878. He was also surveyor and valuer to the Wolstanton and Burslem Poor Law Union, and to the Star and Talk o’ th' Hill Building Societies. 

The estate building plan produced by George Ford for Henry Meakin shows the four streets laid out between Waterloo Road and Elder Road: 

Warburton Place (now Elm Street) which led to the Villa Pottery originally built by the Warburton family, 
Station Road (now Rushton Road) which led to Cobridge Station on the Loop Railway line; 
Derby Street (now Kirby Street); and 
Grove Street


The adjacent land was divided into building plots and these were offered for sale by Charles Butters at the Queen’s Hotel, Cobridge, on 4 March 1879. The development of the estate was controlled by the building conditions attached to the sale of each plot. 

 Amongst other things they specified the value of the buildings to be constructed along Waterloo Road and restricted their use to private dwelling houses. Plans for houses were to be approved by George Ford who was actively involved in various ways in the estate during the 1880s. He made so much money out of the development that by the late 1880s he was able to move to a larger house, Sidmouth House in Sidmouth Avenue, Newcastle, where he died unmarried in 1902.

George B Ford may have been the model for Osmond Orgreave, the architect, who featured in Arnold Bennett’s book, Clayhanger. In his book Bennett provided a detailed and on the whole an accurate description of the process of estate development in “Bleakridge” (Cobridge): 

“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


Bennett's name Actual name
Trafalgar Road 
Duck Bank
Waterloo Road
Swan Bank


Enoch Bennett, the father of Arnold Bennett, 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. The Bennett family were recorded in the new houses in the 1881 census:


1881 census:

Dwelling: 205 Waterloo Road
Census Place: Burslem, Staffordshire, England


Marr | Age | Sex

  Birthplace Occupation
Enoch BENNETT M 37 M Head Burslem  Solicitor
Sarah A. BENNETT  M 40 F Wife Mottram, Cheshire Solicitors Wife
Enoch A. BENNETT   13 M  Son Hanley Scholar
Frank C. BENNETT   12 M Son Hanley Scholar
Fannie G. BENNETT   11 F Daur Hanley Scholar
Emily V. BENNETT  9 F  Daur Hanley Scholar
Eliza Tertia BENNETT  8 F Daur Burslem Scholar
Septimus A. BENNETT 4 M Son Burslem Scholar
Emily DURBER  U 23 F Serv Burslem General Domestic Servant

Enoch Bennett qualified as a solicitor in 1876 and had an office in Piccadilly Street, Hanley. 
Living on the new estate must have given him the opportunity to secure some of the legal work associated with the sale of building plots and the construction of new houses. 
All of this would have been under the direct observation of his son, Arnold Bennett, who left school in 1883 and went to work as a rent collector in his father’s office before moving to London in 1889.



questions / comments / contributions? email: Steve Birks