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Bennett's life in the Potteries


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Bennett's life in the Potteries

Baby, boy and young man

NOTE: quotations are from Warrillow's - 'Arnold Bennett and Stoke-on-Trent'

Enoch Arnold Bennett was born in Hope Street, Hanley in 1867, his teenage years were spent in Cobridge, a suburb of Burslem, that lies about the road leading south to Hanley. Known as Trafalgar road in Bennett's novels, it is in fact the Waterloo road of today.


The Victorian Potteries....

"LET us cast our minds back to the time when, like the pall of a Victorian funeral, masses of black smoke poured from the bottle-kiln ovens a multitude of which dotted the Six Towns of Stoke-on-Trent. Drifting slowly through the mean streets, the gusts of smoke seemed to give movement to these strange sentinels until, in unending procession, they merged into the deepening sky of a winter twilight, epitomising the staple industry of the district.

To the Potter the smoke had a nostalgic smell always to be remembered.

'masses of black smoke poured from the bottle-kiln ovens'


As the twilight deepened into dusk hundreds of gas lamps shed their yellow light as each in turn was touched, as if by a glow-worm, by the lamp-lighter's torches. At night, lamp light and smoke played their games of hide-and-seek until the whole valley became a low sky of twinkling stars, beneath which, as the hours passed, shawl and apron clad pottery workers hurried homewards through smoke-laden streets. Six towns—full of industrial beauty and yet so commonplace. Soon electric lights replaced the hissing of the gas in the lanterns causing the Potter to glance upward and hurry on—each according to his station in life, bent on enjoying the parochially simple, yet fascinating, life of the Six Towns. Such was the Victorian and Edwardian setting of Arnold Bennett's Five Towns Novels."

'hundreds of gas lamps shed their yellow light'
'Six towns—full of industrial beauty and yet so commonplace'


Bennett's father 'Enoch'.....

"Bennett's parents were superior working class, or, if you wish, middle class people of the Potteries at a period when class distinction was very marked in England.

Pitt Street, Burslem - a street once overshadowed by a pall of black smoke
Arnold Bennett's father was born here in 1843

picture: the Warrillow collection

The Father, Enoch Bennett, was born at No. 41, Pitt Street, Burslem, on May 6th, 1843, and was in his early years a working potter. Pitt Street, in which the family owned some property, was a typical street of the Six Towns with houses blackened with smoke, with front doors opening from the pavement into a parlour and with narrow dark entries at the side. These entries led into narrow backyards at the end of which was the closet hard by the back gate yet still too near the back door!"

Bennett's father Enoch, was a working potter -at the age of ten he assisted in teaching other children in the evening schools for four pence per night—and this after working with his Father in a pottery factory during the day time.
He became first a schoolmaster and taught in Sneyd Church of England Schools, Burslem, but later became a Pawn-broker in Hope Street, Hanley. He then again interested himself in the manufacture of pottery.


Enoch Bennett "after studying law with Mr. Arthur Ellis (Mr. Duncalf of the novels) one time Town Clerk of Burslem who had an office in the Market Place, set up in practice as a solicitor. His offices were on the ground floor of the Old Town Hall of Hanley, which later became Lloyds Bank and on which site the present bank was erected."

Postcard of Fountain Square, Hanley 

The imposing building behind the fountain was Hanley's Old Town Hall which was where Bennett's father set up business as a solicitor.

The marriage of Bennett's parents.....

Enoch Bennett married in 1866 Sarah Longson of a Derbyshire family. They lived over their draper's and haberdashery shop situated at the foot of St. John's Square, Burslem.

The two girls who assisted behind the counters were outstanding and determined women. The youngest married Ezra Bourne, a china manufacturer of Bournes Bank, Burslem, later to be immortalised as 'Auntie Hamps'.

Small wonder that with such a background of determination and industry a son would be born to Enoch and Sarah Bennett whose name and works were to become legendary wherever the English language was spoken.


St. John's square, Burslem
(St. Luke's Square of Bennett's novels)

picture: the Warrillow Collection

A photograph of "The Square" presenting an accurate picture of the square at the time of Arnold Bennett's 'Old Wives' Tale'.
draper's and haberdashery shop (Baines of the Bennett novels) can be seen at the bottom left hand corner - this belonged to Bennett's wife's family - who lived over the shop.  



After marriage Enoch and Sarah Bennett took up residence in a wedge-, or coffin-shaped house-shop having frontages or side to Hope Street and Hanover Street, Shelton......


next: Bennett's birth, life & death
contents: index page for Arnold Bennett

also see: locations and people in Bennett's novels