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Did you know? - The State of the North Staffordshire Potteries Towns in 1845
the Second Report of The Commissioners for inquiring into the State of Large Towns and Populous Districts



Burslem - Hanley - Longton

"I now have to state the general condition of three towns in North Staffordshire—Burslem, Hanley,(1) and Longton,(2) where the people are chiefly occupied in the potteries; and of Newcastle-under-Lyme, an ancient town of the same vicinity. 

These towns have all some points in common, which may be first noticed; and their points of difference will be afterwards noted. 

The three pottery towns(3) are of comparatively recent date, having risen and increased with the trade which chiefly supports them. They are built in an irregular and rather dispersed manner, on moderate declivities affording good fall to water, and have the advantage of the houses not being packed close together; and sometimes gardens, or intervals of unoccupied land separate groups of dwellings. 

The principal streets are tolerably wide and open. On the other hand, these towns bear all the marks of their recent origin; they have no sufficient powers by Act of Parliament for adequate drainage,(4) cleansing, or the removal of nuisances; and the condition of the courts, alleys, and narrow streets, where the poorer classes reside, is in almost all these particulars greatly neglected, to the injury of their health, and the destruction of their comfort and all habits of decency.(5)






"The same remarks as to the want of attention to the state of the lower orders may be applied to the ancient town of Newcastle, placed in a very advantageous position, and having many local advantages.

Though the authorities have a local Act for cleansing and improving the borough, and by the Municipal Corporation Act the town-council act as Commissioners to carry it into effect, little is done for the health or comfort of the large majority of the poorer inhabitants.

The main streets are generally open and well drained, but there are many narrow entries, alleys, and courts, quite neglected.(6) 

Some new streets of sufficient width are unpaved and undrained; and although the water is generally good in quality, frequent complaints were made by the poor women, that the public pumps, from which many were supplied, were out of order(7) or gave an inadequate supply. 

Part of the town is supplied by pipes, and the whole might in the same way be easily furnished with this indispensable necessary at a moderate cost, from an unfailing source."

Comparative State of the Pottery Towns

"A few extracts from the returns of local committees will exemplify the state(8) of these several places, and some matters peculiar to each.  

None of the pottery towns have any open or public walks, or any places where the working classes are permitted to bathe. These towns are in one point superior to the mining towns, as the vaults of the privies are generally, however imperfectly, covered over, which is seldom indeed the case in the latter.

There are many small gardens let to the working classes, near Newcastle, and they enjoy the rare advantage of some good public walks, well laid out, and planted in ils immediate vicinity. These want some stone benches. 

The National School of the town, with 232 boys on the books, is very close, "and wants ventilation very much," according to the statement of the master. The girls' school also requires improvement. Those conveniences necessary for health and cleanliness were much neglected at the boys' school.

The mortality of Newcastle, notwithstanding its many natural advantages, is near 2-8 per cent, on the population, probably owing in a great measure to the want of proper regulations before described.(9)

The chief employment in this place is the manufacture of hats, which has long been established there.

The population in 1841 was about 10,000, having increased from 8,500 in 1831—about 16 per cent, in 10 years."



(1) The following comparison of the mortality of two districts in the township of Shelton (part of Hanley) is of much interest:-

Comparative Mortality of two Districts for Six Years, from August 1, 1837, to August 1, 1843, from the Registrar's Account; stent by J. B. Davies, Esq. Member Royal College of Surgeons, London.

No. 1, including Hill, John, and Albion streets, parts of Lechfleld, Bethesda, High, and Broad streets, Bagnall, George, and Cannon streets, containing in June, 1831, 839 inhabitants, being well-drained, ventilated, and kept clean, and pretty well supplied with water: deaths, in six years, 85 persons.

No. 2, including King, Queen, Princess, Castle, New, Cambridge, Oxford, and Buck streets, containing 921 inhabitants in 1841, being badly drained; ventilated; houses much crowded, always dirty, badly supplied with water; deaths, in six years, 171 persons, reducing the population of No. 2 to that of No. 1: deaths stand (in No. 1) 85, in No. 2, 156, or nearly double, i. e. above 3 per cent, per annum.


(2) In Longton there is a good supply of water from reservoirs through pipes, "but no regulations for draining, except those by the surveyors of highways under the general Act. There are no public scavengers. A large proportion of the liquid refuse is thrown into the water-courses; it either soaks into the subsoils or remains stagnant on the surface." —Report of Local Committee. [back]


(3) In Hanley the water brought by pipes is of very indifferent quality; purer water is brought in water-carts and sold at a halfpenny per pailful. Good water it much wanted, and might be had from a pure spring at Washerwell." —Report of Local Committee. [back]

(4) The principal streets in Hanley are drained under the Highway Act only; there are no regulations for the draining of the back streets, courts, or alleys; behind the dwellings of the poor there are generally open drains to carry off the surface water and refuse from the houses, which the occupiers of land use for manuring the meadows; this occasions a great nuisance."—Report of Authorities [back]


(5) Burslem—Old and New Bag-street and courts very bad; open privies, filth overflowing; causing, said the people, a sad stench in summer. 
"Navigation street—Bad, open sewer in front," &c &c.—MS. Notes, confirmed by the report of the Local Committee and Chief Constable.
There is no drainage but under the Highway Act.'

(6) Back of Friars—"New filthy open privies, cesspools, pigsties; very bad." Back of Corn-street—"Bad open drains, to float meadow with sewer water." MS. Notes.  [back]

(7) Public pump in Pump-street, higher land—"out of order for a fortnight till now. Drayton-street sadly plagued for want of water for weeks from pump." —MS. Notes. [back]

(8) Burslem—"Daniel's-row—filthy open drain. Hole Houses—very damp, open dirty drains. Filthy open mud-hole, near Old Church, receiving sewers and filth in a populous neighbourhood, for manure."—MS. Notes.

"Great complaints of want of water near Old Church, obliged to carry it from spring, a quarter of a mile off, and scant supply there."—MS. Notes.

"Hanley is cleaner than Burslem; Swan-street and Chapel-fields unpaved; no drain ; damp courts; open stagnant drains."
"Marsh-street—All complain of want of water; no water company as at Burslem; water purchased at a halfpenny a pailful; filthy open drains close to houses; foul ditch near houses dammed up for irrigation."—MS. Notes.

"There are no regulations for draining back streets, courts, and alleys; the only regular scavenger is the rain."—Report of Local Committee.

"Longton—Gallamore's-bank; small houses, very bad open privies; refuse in heaps; puddles; no channels; water plenty; 2d. per week." Back of Flintstreet and George-street no drain.

Mayer's-court—many small houses; open filthy drains and puddles; open privies. New Bridge-street and Waterloo-street, very bad.

"Mayer's-passage—filthy open drain; many complaints. Green-dock, very bad. Paradise-row, bad cesspools. Daisy-bank—filth, pigsties, &c. Chillock's-lane— open drain. Meat won't keep.—MS. Notes.

Newcastle. Back of Union-street—open filthy privies, running over into the street. Pump-street—open stagnant drain; choked; many complain it was so for three months. Courts at back of Pump-street—very bad; open privies; stagnant water.

Cross-street—lower side overflowed from rain; no drain. "Drayton-street—very bad;" so Mill-pool, filthy drain, enters in front of the barracks.— MS. Notes.

Newcastle. Lower-street, back of lodging-house—filthy places; cesspools, &c. Court—upper side "very bad." Second court very bad; filth running down the passage. 

Blue Ball-entry—open privy; choked drain; dry pump. Courts Breeches-square, very bad. Back of Old Churchyard—open drain; very bad. 

Back of Holborn—" Open rivulet, receiving filth and drains in the midst of the town." 

Court near "side," soughs stopped; landlords do nothing."

Newcastle—Fine spring wells, want cleaning, road and stone work round want improvement. Dung-heaps and gathered manure in all courts and waste corners in heaps.

Filthy open privy at alms-house, filthy court below, open filthy ditch across Bridge-street, a principal street. 

Bath-street—back yards bad, open privies, pigs; all streets onpaved. Hayle-street—back courts and yards "very bad." Princessstreet—not paved, bad drain.—MS. Notes.

Newcastle—All on the Stoke-road without drains and badly off for water. Fever near Hartshill church from want of drains. 

Gaswork-road — courts in Rathstreet very bad, privies, pigsties, &c. 

Corporation house in Penkull-street—back premises a nuisance, full of filth. 

Yard of Golden Lion—large open cesspool in the heart of the town. &c.—MS. Notes.

Back of London-row—"privies full, ash-holes, sad stench."—MS. Notes.

"There are no fixed regulations for draining the town, consequently many parts of it are without public sewers, the filth allowed to accumulate in courts and alleys.

"In the modern-built parts of the town, where no sewers have been constructed, the refuse and slops are thrown into the water-courses."—Reply to Questions by Mayor and Local Committee. [back]

(9) An intelligent inhabitant says, "The refuse from the houses is flung into one promiscuous heap contiguous to each property, and removed when it is incapable of receiving more." 

The same respectable authority says, " there are now 600 Irish in the town," (most of the lowest class) and he remembers as a youth when there was only one in the place, in an English family.—Mr. Mayer's Letter. [back]


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