Stone really does get under your skin …
by Pauline North
Though it’s twenty years since I moved to Stone, it was only when a friend recently lent me some books on its history* that I found myself viewing my favourite walk into town with new eyes.
From my home near the Lichfield Road, my route takes me past Meakin Close, down Oldfield Drive and across Hallahan Close. I now know that the Meakins were potters and that James and George Meakin’s Eastwood Works is now the Emma Bridgewater pottery in Hanley.
Thomas Oldfield served with Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and Jack Oldfield was a Stone town councillor. Sister Margaret Hallahan was the founder of St Dominic’s Priory.
I continue to the Trent and Mersey Canal, also formerly known as “the Grand Trunk Canal” or “the Grand Cut”. This part of Stone is still known as “Brassworks Farm” and is where George Vernon made wire from copper and brass from about 1794 to 1825. The three-storey house and some converted cottages still stand. Though the counting house, warehouses, a steam engine and water wheel have long gone, the stream that turned the wheel still flows through the 1990’s estates.
As George Pearson, born in Stone in 1902, relates in his memoir “Many Stone people learned to swim in the cut, (one of the) most popular places in recent years being at Brassworks”.
I walk along the towpath thankful that I no longer need a British Waterways permit, as was the case until 1981. I meet other walkers, cyclists, anglers, dog walkers and narrowboaters enjoying this waterway and pleasant town amenity yet, as late as 1971, there were warnings in local papers about rats near the canal and dredging spoil.
I reach Westbridge Park, having just learned that it was not given to the town as a park until 1951 and that parts of it had previously been used as a tip! (Does this fact still make it a suitable site for redevelopment in the eyes of some, I wonder?)
I’m opposite “The Moorings” and now discern more clearly the old warehouses at its heart. In Stone’s heyday as a canal town and centre of brewing and shoe-making, these warehouses were part of Stafford Street Wharf.
Successively managed by the Trent & Mersey Navigation Company, North Staffordshire Railway Company, Hugh Henshall and Company (carriers) and Stubbs Corn Merchants, the warehouses were bought in the 1960’s by a Mr Munro, engineer and boat designer. There was talk of turning them into another boat construction yard or hire company though it was not until 1990 that the extended and modernised buildings opened as a retirement complex.
I leave the canal at the Stafford Street bridge and head to the High Street and back to 2013.
*“Stone in Staffordshire-the History of a Market Town” by Norman A Cope B.A.; Wood, Mitchell & Co. Hanley;1972
“Canal Town Stone” by John M Bolton for Stone Canal Conservationists; Wolverhampton Printing Company; 1981
“Memories of Stone” by George Pearson; J.H. Brookes Hanley; 1981