David Proudlove's
critique of the built environment of Stoke-on-Trent

 


next: On the Waterfront page 2
previous: Will the Falcon Soar Again?

 

'On the Waterfront'
- page 1 -

Middleport has made the news again over the past few weeks, but - unfortunately - not for positive reasons. The final residents in the Slater Street Clearance Area, close friends David Gourdie and Conny Armstrong, were forced out of their homes by bailiffs appointed by the City Council. 

This will finally see the area handed over to the Council in order for the wrecking crew to move in and do their stuff, at the behest of the Billion Pound Shithammer, RENEW North Staffordshire. As RENEW was wound-up at the end of March, the Sentinel asked: "was it money well spent?"

Did things have to be this way in Middleport? 

Whilst RENEW North Staffordshire and their partners (in crime?) trumpet City Waterside in Hanley as the jewel in their regeneration crown, a new community founded on the area's 'unique waterside heritage' (despite the fact that what is left are mere tokens set in wasteland), they turned their back on the Middleport-Longport length of the Trent and Mersey Canal, the most historic, interesting and exciting stretch of waterside in the city. 

In terms of 'unique waterside heritage', Middleport-Longport has the lot.


 

 

In 1766, James Brindley commenced work on Britainís first trunk canal, the Trent and Mersey Canal, a great technical innovation, which put the emerging pottery settlements Ė at the time a provincial backwater Ė at the heart of a revolution. The new canal linked the expanding town of Burslem to markets in America via the ports of Liverpool and Hull. 

In the 50 years following the opening of the canal, Burslem expanded from a small medieval village and emerged as an urban centre: by 1801 the Mother Town had a population of over 6,500, and by 1851, this had grew to almost 20,000.

Burslemís expansion included the development of the residential suburbs of Middleport and Longport. During the 1800s, many pottery manufacturers and associated industries took advantage of open farmland and countryside alongside the new canal to open new factories. 

These were followed by planned new workers housing, often built by potters for their employees. Thus the canal corridor became a focus for the cityís traditional industries, and Middleport and Longport grew to become working communities.

The Middleport-Longport stretch contains a whole host of different sites and assets, which could have (should have?) been the focus of regeneration efforts. Middleport-Longport could (could still be?) Stoke-on-Trentís answer to Manchesterís Castlefields.


At the end of Newport Lane sits Oliverís Mill, a small and compact complex comprising a two storey workshop range fronting the canal, with five blocked windows and upper loading doors. At right angles to the canalside building sits a single storey range with a series of arcaded arches. 

The site contains two calcining hovels that adjoin the range at the east of the site, one being of narrow cylindrical form, and the other being square in section with a heavily moulded cap and chimney to the rear. The buildings are Grade II Listed.

Oliverís Mill next to the canal at the end of Newport Lane
Oliverís Mill next to the canal at the end of Newport Lane

Adjacent to Oliverís Mill is a small estate of dull and unremarkable modern housing, which fortunately does not front the canal. Part of this is scheme is Midwinter Court, which replaced the demolished and long gone Midwinter Pottery.



A short walk on from the former site of Midwinter Pottery is Middleport Mill, another former calcining works off Milvale Street and alongside Pidduck Street Bridge, another set of Grade II Listed Buildings. 

 

Middleport Mill from Pidduck Street Bridge
Middleport Mill from Pidduck Street Bridge

 

The buildings were largely built in the early 1800s, but have some later additions. The buildings are arranged around a small courtyard, with a square kiln in the centre that has two flues, separated at the apex. Alongside the canal is a long range, formerly single storey, but raised in the early twentieth century to incorporate a narrow tower. Various other workshops sit around the perimeter of the site, including a very interesting early-looking building at the junction with Pidduck Street. 

 

Junction of Milvale Street and Pidduck Street
Junction of Milvale Street and Pidduck Street

 

In recent years, the site was in the ownership of local charity Middleport Environment Centre, an organisation committed to recycling and environmental sustainability, and was used to support their recycling initiatives. In addition, small pottery manufacturers were housed in small outbuildings. However, in 2008, the site was the subject of development proposals, alongside Port Vale Mill (see below).


On the other side of Pidduck Street Bridge is the Port Vale Mill, an imposing building constructed directly to the waterís edge. The building is a former flour mill, and gives some indication of the diversity of uses along the Middleport Waterfront around the turn of the twentieth century. 

The structure of the building is quite unusual for the area, being an internally expressed structure of cast iron columns and beams, and a number of round-headed windows with iron glazing bars. Surprisingly the building is not listed, but it makes a great contribution to the character and identity of the area.

Port Vale Mill
Port Vale Mill



Unfortunately, the building is in a very poor condition (indeed its roof has been missing for many years), but in 2008 the City Council approved plans for the redevelopment of the site by a local developer and Leek-based architects, Christopher Taylor Design, alongside the plans for Middleport Mill. 

Visualisation of the proposed redevelopment of Port Vale and Middleport Mills
Visualisation of the proposed redevelopment of Port Vale and Middleport Mills
© Chris Shaw Properties and CTD

The plans included the restoration and adaptation of the mill building for a range of apartments, and the construction of a number of town houses on the rest of the site. Combined with the proposals for Middleport Mill, the scheme would make a massive difference to Middleport Waterfront. However, the current economic climate has meant that progress with the scheme has been slow.

 


next: On the Waterfront page 2
previous: Will the Falcon Soar Again?

 

Related pages


Oliverís Mill, Newport Lane - listed building details. 

Middleport calcining Mill - listed building details. 

Pidduck Street Bridge and the buildings alongside the canal (Goodwin Mill Co. calcining works) (Fitton & Pidduck Ltd. millers & flour merchants).