Master Potters in Georgian Burslem (1714-1837)
The Town Hall
The growth of the town was accompanied by the construction of new public buildings. The most important of these was the Town Hall.
The first local name in the list of subscribers to the undertaking was Thomas Wedgwood and two other members of the family, Josiah Wedgwood and Burslem Wedgwood can also be found in the list which appears as an appendix to John Ward's book, 'The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent, (1843)'. He described the new venture as follows:
"In the year 1760, the more opulent inhabitants set on foot a plan for erecting a public Building, in the present Market Place; in furtherance of which, they presented a memorial to Sir Nigel Gresley, Bart., and Ralph Sneyd, Esq., the Lords of the Manor, praying a grant of a piece of waste land "where the Maypole did formerly stand," on which to erect a piece of building for a School, stating that there was but one School in the Town; for which reason, two parts of the children out of three were put to work without any learning... But the object for which the grant was solicited. seems to have undergone some extension; for in the Lease which followed this application, and bears the date the 24th June, 1761, a piece or parcel of waste ground, situate in the Town of Burslem, opposite to the dwelling-house of John Shrigley, containing in length 16 yards, and in breadth 10 yards, is demised to 30 Trustees, for the term of 500 years, at the yearly rent of sixpence; with power to such Lessees to erect thereon a public edifice, or building, for a Market Hall, School, or such other public use and purpose, as should be thought needful; and to enclose a court, or yard, to the same, from the adjoining waste land, not exceeding 8 yards in breadth, from the side or end walls of the building. Thus originated the present Town-Hall of Burslem.
The exterior has, however, undergone subsequent improvements, by the coating of Roman Cement, a slated roof, (supplanting the old tiled one,) with a balustered parapet, an elegant cupola, and a new clock with four dials, one of them illuminated; and the building now presents a handsome appearance to the eye of the passing stranger, as the plate introduced hereafter indicates. The upper story is partitioned, and the east end used for the Police-Office. The other portion is a large and handsome room, in which public business is transacted, and the Magistrates hold their sittings. The arched basement is partly used as lock-up rooms for delinquents.
The Market commenced about the time of erecting the Hall, and grew by little and little; some country butchers, and others, occasionally bringing a carcass or two of meat, and a few bags of meal and potatoes for sale. Its increase, within the following 30 years was considerable; and tressels and boards were provided by the Trustees of the Hall, for the use of the butchers and other chapmen, for which they paid a weekly sum as rent or toll; the income being expended in keeping the Town-Hall and Market-Place in repair. The original Trustees having followed one another "to the house appointed for all living," the regulation of the market devolved on the most influential and active of the succeeding inhabitants; and Mr. Enoch Wood, who for more than half a century occupied such a station in Burslem, and is now the patriarch of the existing generation of Potters, undertook its chief management, with the general concurrence of his neighbours, to whom his accounts, as Treasurer, were submitted periodically. In the year 1816, a fresh appointment of Trustees was determined upon, and thirty of the most respectable inhabitants of the day were chosen; to whom the Lease of the Town-Hall was assigned. These gentlemen continued to superintend the market concerns, until an Act of Parliament was obtained, in 1825, for regulating the markets and police, and lighting and watching the Town."
The illustration above shows the first Town Hall in 1843.
It was a very much smaller building than the second town hall
which now occupies the site and was built in 1852-7 (see 1851 map).
on the second Town Hall
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