Pounding the streets of Stoke-on-Trent
in search of a buried past

The Foley - 'half remembered name hints at former glories'

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Historian Fred Hughes writes....   

Anybody know where Foley is? Certainly two of the local councillors I contacted struggled to define its geography. Stan Bate goes way back. He knows it well, but mainly through boundary changes.

"It reminds me of an upside-down map of Australia," he says. "Turn it over and you'll see a great chunk out of the top. Boundary changes caused Fenton to lose that big chunk to Hanley East. I can't say where Foley is exactly, but I know Fenton runs almost into Longton town centre."

Frank Buckley has lived in Goldenhill Road for 50-odd years. "I think it's just a place name," he says. "It has no physical structure. We're right on the boundary with Longton and Fenton. I don't think anybody calls it Foley"

In Foley Street, at the junction of Packett Street, I meet the owner of Foley General Stores. "I've been here for a year," says Sri Lankan Thayakuma Nesan. "I thought Foley was just the name of a street. Is it Longton or Fenton?"

Residents Maureen Stevenson and Karen Mansell have lived here for seven years, but neither refers to it as Foley. But one man does.

Mick Seddon, who is 62, originates from the terraced streets.

"I was born at 58 Foley Street" says Mick. "Foley really is East Fenton. I would say it begins at Hollins Street and includes all the streets down to Goldenhill Road."
If Mick is right, then Foley's community is small indeed. "Foley was always a respected football club though," Mick continues. "It was launched on the fields off Goldenhill Road called The Open Holes, I think part of a farm, in 1947. The club has had great successes.

"We moved ground to Whitcombe Road in the Meir in 1982, and now I believe the old ground is being developed as a school. In the early days we used to change in rooms at the side of the Foley pub and the Ebenezer Chapel, in Carron Street."


Little has changed among these Victorian terraces, and on the other side of King Street you could easily be back in the 19th century


Historian Steve Birks tells me the area known as The Foley was centred on King Street, on the outskirts of Longton, and by 1830 it was noted for several important potteries and some posh houses. But how did it get its name, and why doesn't anyone call it Foley any more?

"It's possible that the name was derived from Lord Foley, a former owner of the Longton Hall estate," Steve conjectures.

"The historian John Ward reasons the name may have been an ironic gesture on the part of the architect who designed the district. In 1843, there were two big potteries belonging to Knight, Elkin and Bridgwood. They must have been extensive manufactories with large steam engines and a flint mill.

"Nearby, another important pottery and house were built by Josiah Spode for his second son Samuel. There was also Joseph Myatt's potbank and house, on the steps of which John Wesley preached to a big crowd."

I can see Foley marked on one of Steve's early maps of Stoke-on-Trent, with terraces on one side and potteries on the other behind the railway line and the Foley Sidings.

In fact, you can still make out the washed-out lettering on the side of an old King Street warehouse - London, Western, and Midland Railways. Here also is the superb architecture of James Kent's redundant Foley Pottery, the Boundary Works and Phoenix Works, fine examples of how our forefathers created their working and domestic environment.

Foley Place
-photo 2003-

"One excellent model of restoration is Foley Place, near the east end of King Street," says Steve. "This is an example of middle-class housing was quite rare in the Potteries w it was built in the 1830s. It indicates how special Foley was seen in the eyes of those who wanted luxury well as the convenience of towns close to their factories."

Foley Place consists of an L-shaped block of two-storey stucco house; with basements constructed in late Georgian style. Originally there 11 houses and an inn, the Foley Arms. The layout included a communal garden occupied these days by a petrol station.

The Foley Arms Hotel, King Street, Foley, Fenton

The pub has seen better days and is currently unoccupied. "Over the years the pub has been altered a lot," says Steve. "For instance the decorative tiles out! are probably from the late Victorian period, but they are really appealing as a feature of good hospitality." The hanging sign depicts what may be the Foley heraldic signature [see note] - a fretted St George Cross quartered by a ceramic urn, a cluster of be ovens, a pithead wheel and a sheaf of wheat. Who knows if this is authentic? The Foley family has left without trace.

The sign outside the Foley Arms Hotel are those
of Fenton Town

"Foley must have been important because there was so much named after it," concludes Steve.

"Foley House lay over the rail line, and existed as a farm even the early 1950s.

"And in 1851, a small community Dominican nuns opened a convent at a place called The Foley. On the expiry of its lease in 1854, the convent was moved to Stoke."

You just never know what's around the corner in Stoke-on-Trent do you?

on Foley


next week: Lane Delph

click the "contents" button to get back to the main index & map
next: Lane Delph
previous: Normacot


17 December 2007

NOTE: The Arms shown on the sign outside the Foley arms hotel are those of Fenton Town.