Pounding the streets of
Historian Fred Hughes writes....
The young surgeon, Dr Thomas Oliver, cut a pathetic figure as he was led to the gallows at Stafford Gaol in 1797 for shooting dead John Wood of Brownhills.
Thomas Oliver was a well-liked Burslem doctor, not as popular for his medical ability as for his sociable aptitude with a gin bottle. And he was over the moon to be walking out with the daughter of a leading potter. But matters took a turn for the worse when her father, John Wood, put a stop to the affair. A depressed Oliver decided to commit suicide in front of the Wood’s at their Brownhills residence but shot and killed Wood instead.
Stych Lane was separated into two tracks by a gully caused by the proximity of the Scotia Brook where there was a corn mill and a couple of early potteries.
It’s difficult to define sytch or sitch. It may have something to do with the brook. The terraced streets were unmade and often flooded with domestic and industrial pollution. But it was once a thriving community with a school, public houses, shops and chapels.
Nowadays all that has changed; the old community has disappeared and new houses are being erected along the sites of the demolished potbanks.
Local legend suggests that Oliver’s ghost still haunts Brownhills.
“Oh yes, we’ve often had reports of ghost sightings,” smiles Sue. “But that’s all part of the Brownhills’ legend, don’t you think?”
next week: Tunstall
20 March 2008