Historian Fred Hughes writes....
ONE OF the best views in Longton is from the office of Richard Cresswell, owner of RD Cresswell & Co Ltd. Richard is also Longton Chamber of Trade's vice-president.
Most people I speak to refer to the collection of roads in front of the imposing town hall as Times Square. It is pivotal to the distribution of Longton's streets where its quirky layout takes you in a merry-go-round unlike any other in Stoke-on-Trent. Times Square should be central to the town's activities, and yet all it seems to be is a hodgepodge of lane ends.
"Maybe the clue is in its name," says my fellow traveller Steve Birks, who is on a journey of his own in search of Stoke-on-Trent's old roads.
"Ask most people to tell you the difference between Longton and Lane End and they will say Lane End is just another name for Longton. And yet nothing could be further from the truth."
So where does all this confusion come from?
"Confusion often arises over where exactly Lane End and Longton were," explains Steve. "Originally they were two separate and contiguous townships that were incorporated in the Borough of Longton in 1865. Longton was adjacent to Longton Hall and included Longton Hall Colliery and Brickworks. Even in 1900 that area was mainly fields.
"On the other hand, Lane End was an individual place centred on the area around Market Street and the bottom part of Anchor Road with a major crossroads in Times Square."
So it looks as though Lane End was a town within a town.
"That's a simple way of putting it," agrees Steve. "But not strictly accurate. We know in 1841 Longton's population was just over 10,000 against the population of Lane End of 1,952. This indicates that Lane End was a small location but with a distinct constituency."
"That may be so," says Steve. "But the important buildings that set it aside as a community have gone. Take St John's Church, for instance. The graves have been moved and there is no evidence that a church was ever here, even though it was an important part of Lane End."
St John's towered above the Crown Hotel in what is now King Street.
"King Street was then named Church Street," Steve continues. "Market Street was High Street, leading to Weston Road, since changed to Uttoxeter Road. The names of nearly all these town centre roads were changed. I don't know where they got the name Strand from, or Times Square for that matter."
But according to Ward's History, the name was changed from Lane End to Longton because Lane End was offensive to the new inhabitants, conveying the idea the townsfolk were mean.
"Nevertheless Lane End was an important junction," says Steve. "Main routes left here for Stone, over Sandford Hill to Hanley and Leek. You could get to Liverpool and London by stage from Lane End but not from Longton.
"And there's no doubt the road passing south-east through the square was a Roman road. Turnpike roads greatly improved the town's status, maintaining an important link to the growing Potteries; the connection to Longton Hall was relevant, and so the two locations became one."
This then was Lane End, more important than Longton as junction and terminus. And in some way it lends weight to my own conviction that Stoke-on-Trent will always be a collection of towns federated for convenience rather than for strength.
But we shall see as the journey along the old roads progresses...
next week: The village of Meir
27 November 2007