Search for the Old Roads of
Historian Fred Hughes writes....
One of the longest and busiest roads in Stoke on Trent is Etruria Road. It stretches from the Victoria Theatre in Basford to the Grand Hotel in Hanley. But all that’s left of the original road is now nothing more than a tiny concealed lane that runs beside Basford’s Queen’s Hotel. It takes a historian to trace our heritage so I’ve again asked Steve Birks to help excavate the Potteries’ past.
“The Queens Hotel was built as a superior mansion in 1769 by Derbyshire farmer Robert Emery,” begins Steve. “The house even out-did Wedgwood’s Etruria Hall for spectacular views. Wedgwood was on one side of the valley and Emery was looking down on him. What pleasure that would have given Emery, and I can just imagine how this might have vexed our great Etruscan potter.”
At the bottom of Fowlea Bank the lane slopes into Brick Kiln Lane passing through the well-known company Potclays Limited where I meet its chairman and managing director Jonathan Noake who gives me a history of his family business.
William died in 1939 and his son Warbreck Noake took over the businesses. During the war the company in Brownhills was requisitioned and used as a food storage depot with the manufacturing side producing nothing but coal. But in 1944 Warbreck and his wife Helen formed Potclays as a marketing company. Jonathan continues.
I ask Jonathan about his connection with Etruria Road and Fowlea Bank.
“In the early 1940’s we rented a yard by the canal basin with a wharf that linked directly to our Brownhills Company. For quite a while we shipped our clay from South Staffs to Etruria by canal barge. We even had our own rail sidings at this time as well. When Downings Brick Company moved to Chesterton from Etruria we bought their site.”
I recall there was once a large house at Potclays’ entrance.
“That would be Basford Lodge,” says Jonathan. “It was a handsome building that I wanted to develop into showplace offices. But a valuer advised me that it had unsolvable structural problems so we took it down.”
Halfway on the bank I meet residents Darryl and Jennifer Porter with their neighbours David and Jill Cartlidge.
“Things have changed a lot on the bank over the years and even more so since the D-Road altered the direction and the movement of traffic. There was a time when if you got behind a bus or a lorry it’d take ages to get up the old bank because of its steepness,” says Darryl.
The Porter’s have lived here for 30 years - “It’s much quieter at the back since the road has been moved away,” adds Jennifer. “Mind you the traffic noise at the front is continuous, but you get used to it.”
David and Jill on the other hand have lived on the bank for 40 years.
“We love it for its convenience,” says David. “We use the back rather than the front so I call it Back-Etruria Road.”
Jill tells of the old days - “Before our time of course,” she smiles, “there used to be tethering posts at the top for the horses. After it was diverted quite a few businesses settled near the top.”
David recalls a dentist’s surgery-cum-house -“A later owner told me that every time he dug his garden over there was always a spade-full of teeth that came out with the soil.”
Coal, clay, teeth; what ever next can be dug from Basford Bank?
17 June 2008
click the "contents" button to get back to the main index & map
next: Normacot Road, Longton
previous: Ash Estate, Ash Bank