Pounding the streets of
Historian Fred Hughes writes....
Percy Adams of Woore Hall was one of North Staffordshire’s most accomplished historians particularly in his study of the Adam’s family of potters. He was certainly ahead of his times when it came to ancestral research into many well-known Staffordshire families. But perhaps his most important contribution was his restoration of Trubshaw Cross in 1949 that lit up the shadows of a world that was nearly lost forever.
It is easy to speculate that the site was marked by a medieval cross to provide a focal point through what must have been dangerous terrain. Such intersections were identified as much for safety reasons and for location identifiers as for ancient religious gathering places.
“Over a long time the cross at Trubshaw had often been threatened with removal for being gratuitous,” comments Steve. “In fact Ward notes in 1843 that only the stone base remained even though a handsome lamp post had been erected alongside it. He also remarked that the road still ‘maintained its former rude character,’ which presumably meant the surface, was in a pretty bad shape.”
Ward would have seen the line of the road much as we see it today. But only a few years earlier the stretch that turns left from Trubshaw Cross to Porthill wasn’t there. Instead the road went straight on passing by today’s Westport Lake.
“The road became more used with increased horse-laden shipments when the potteries started to become industrialised,” Steve continues. “A 1775 map of the area shows just a few buildings at the junction of Trubshaw Cross. And the way to Tunstall via Brownhills is still just a foot track known as Small Bridge Bank. The turnpikes changed all this. But a bigger change came when the Trent and Mersey canal was fully opened in 1777.”
On the opposite side of the road is British Waterways’ Longport Marina, and a business owned by boat builder Mike Adkins.
“I’m an accountant by occupation but I’ve traded here since 1980 as Stoke on Trent Boat Building Company. I suppose you can call it my life’s passion, or even life’s sentence,” he smiles wryly. “I broker purchases and manufacture of boats. I employ nine trades’ professionals who build canal boats from the laying of the steel plate to the final brushstroke of traditional paintwork. Since we’ve been here we’ve built around 200 boats from start to finish many of which have been planned to the tailored designs of the customer.”
At the entrance to yard a faded sign sprawls across a depot gable pointing out that this was once the Anderton Navigation Company.
“Anderton’s were a powerful Victorian company involved in shipping and freight handling,” says Steve. “The warehouses you see here were not on the 1851 maps but are marked on the 1900 map. It shows that even though rail transport was now shifting bulk freight, the development of canal transport was still growing in this area.”
The chaotic Longport roads are at times a jammed nightmare that probably
requires urgent traffic management. Nevertheless Trubshaw Cross is one of
Stoke on Trent’s major gateways. It’s where Percy Adams gave us a glimpse
of an ancient world where the packhorse was once king of the road.
next week: Brownhills
10 March 2008