The monks of Hulton Abbey
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next: the monks and Sneyd Green
Historian Fred Hughes
Lynam was certainly a larger than life Potteries character. He took over
his father’s architectural and surveying business in Glebe Street in 1850
and soon had total monopoly of the building commissions awarded by local
public bodies. How he achieved this is a matter of which side you take, he
was after all an alderman and a councillor, a position some rivals
suspected he used to his advantage. He was at the same time surveyor to
Stoke on Trent’s improvements commissioners, so you might say he had his
pick of the jobs among which were Stoke’s library, baths and market hall.
But his big passion was archaeology. He was a founder member of North
Staffs Field Club, vice-president of the Archaeological Institute and a
Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
Lynam who retrieved and re-erected the original arches of Stoke church.
But perhaps his great work was unearthing the remains and preparing the
ground plan of Hulton Abbey.
Plot's map of North
Staffordshire c.1670 showing "Hilton Abbey"
Heritage Inspector of Ancient Monuments Bill Klemperer, in his seminal
work on the Hulton Abbey excavation written jointly with City
archaeologist Noel Boothroyd, praises the preparatory work done by Lynam.
was known of the site until drainage work was started in 1884. It was a
magnet to Lynam who immediately established the ground plan of the inner
court,” explains Bill. “The site had been a farm for some time. Ultimately
a large housing estate was built around it with a long-demolished school.
But let me take you back even earlier when, in 1854, a new farmhouse and
outbuildings belonging to Ralph Sneyd were constructed. A small cellar
containing human remains was discovered. Naturally this attracted much
attention because it was thought that everything pertaining to the abbey
had been removed or dispersed since it was sacked and abandoned in the 16th
wasn’t until 1884 when some fragments of the abbey’s stone was uncovered
that Lynam came on the scene and literally took charge.
remains of the wall of
fair to say,” says Bill, “that had he not done his preparatory work the
ruins of the abbey may never have revealed their secrets. Lynam’s
archaeological labour led to the opening-up of the whole of the Trent
valley for further projects including my own department’s long-term work
there. Between 1972 and 1994 we unearthed the remains of 91 individuals
following on from the 22 individuals recovered from the earlier digs.
There’s no doubt the Hulton Abbey research is among the most important
undertaken by the city.”
the report on the major excavations by Stoke on Trent Archaeology
Department 1987-1994 makes fascinating reading as good as any mystery
thriller. More importantly it has enhanced our understanding of our social
Abbey is a hugely important asset to the City’s history,” claims
historian Steve Birks. “It was originally settled in a remote part of
the upland valley of the Trent by the Cistercian Monks who were austere
farmers. Hulton in 1219 was the last of four Staffordshire abbeys to be
built, five years after Dieulacres near Leek. The name of the site
recorded in the Domesday Book was Heltone (Hill Town) and was a
settlement with just six inhabitants who shared the use of land enough
for one plough.”
interesting to note that Hulton was connected with Cobridge, known then as
Rushton, even before the monks arrived. The Domesday Book notes that Lord
Robert was the owner of Heltone and Rushton together.
Robert of Stafford.....'
Robert also holds the third part of 1
hide in HULTON and RUSHTON. Wulfgeat holds from him. He held it
himself before 1066. Land for 3 ploughs.
3 villagers and 3 smallholders with 1 plough.
Woodland 1 league long and ½ wide.
monks were serious farmers operating almost on an industrial scale” says
Steve. “Throughout the period from the 13th through the 15th
centuries it would have been commonplace to see them walking from the
abbey over the ridge calling at the hamlets of Birches Head and Sneyd
Green where they possibly traded with the villagers before arriving at
the farms in Cobridge. No doubt the villagers got to know them quite
to retrace the steps of these white monks, so called because of their
identifiable hooded clothing. I’m also eager to meet people who live along
the way to gauge their knowledge of the importance of their neighbourhood;
residents like Potteries’ comedian Pete Conway whose house faces the
junction of Chorlton Road where the monks turned to negotiate the climb to
the ridge of Sneyd Green.
“I probably did realise I was living on a historic road,” says Pete. “But
you don’t think about how much history is on your doorstep until someone
tells you about it. Just think all those white-cloaked monks passing by my
front door. I read that Hanley was just a sloping field in those times so
the bright lights of Cobridge would have been a big pull. How strange.
They’d probably call in at the Sneyd Arms on the way for a flagon or two;
break the day up a bit. I don’t think I’d fancy being a monk myself,
especially one of those silent ones. I’d crack a gag and nobody would
laugh. I think I’m more of a black monk type any way, a sort of Rasputin
kind of monk, that’s me.”
more on Hulton
Abbey & Rushton Grange