The iconic photography of William Blake

Staffordshire’s Senior Museums Officer, Chris Copp, showcases the work of an American photographer who settled in the Potteries …
 • Group portrait taken at Highcroft, Windmill Hill, Rough Close, about 1910.   This picture appears to one of a group of images taken at Highcroft in the summer of 1910. These pictures were possibly commissioned by the Barlow family, earthenware manufacturers who were living there at the time.
• Group portrait taken at Highcroft, Windmill Hill, Rough Close, about 1910.
This picture appears to one of a group of images taken at Highcroft in the summer of 1910. These pictures were possibly commissioned by the Barlow family, earthenware manufacturers who were living there at the time.

This  selection takes us outside Stone to villages and places to the north of the town. These images were all taken by Longton-based photographer, William Blake, and are part of the collections of the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.

• Swimming Pool, Trentham Gardens. 1940s  A view of Trentham Garden's outdoor swimming pool on a busy day.  The pool was built in the 1920s and was demolished in the 1980s. Trentham Gardens estate was home and pleasure gardens to the Dukes of Sutherland from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century. The family abandoned the property and the grounds were then opened to the public.
• Swimming Pool, Trentham Gardens. 1940s
A view of Trentham Garden’s outdoor swimming pool on a busy day. The pool was built in the 1920s and was demolished in the 1980s. Trentham Gardens estate was home and pleasure gardens to the Dukes of Sutherland from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century. The family abandoned the property and the grounds were then opened to the public.

William John Bailey Blake was born in the USA in 1874 but at an early age emigrated to England with his sister and widowed mother, who was originally from Newcastle-under-Lyme. By the early 1900s the family had settled in Longton, where William set up a stationer’s shop on Stafford Street (now the Strand).

 • Farm buildings, Hilderstone, about 1910
• Farm buildings, Hilderstone, about 1910

Blake was a skilled and talented photographer and published many of his views as postcards, selling them in his shop. He was also interested in local history and natural history, and was for many years a key member of the North Staffordshire Field Club, acting as librarian for the society’s photograph collection.

 • Barlaston Old Road about 1910
• Barlaston Old Road about 1910

Blake died in 1957, but his photographs remain as an invaluable record of working life and social conditions in the pottery and mining industries in the first half of the 20th century, as well as of landscape and buildings in and around the Potteries.

• Tittensor Chase Lodge, 1910s
• Tittensor Chase Lodge, 1910s

This is just a small section of over 1,400 of William Blake’s photographs which can be seen at www.staffspasttrack.org.uk (the Staffordshire Past Track website).

• Roebuck Inn, Hilderstone, about 1940.   The Roebuck Inn was built in the 1830s. The brick entrance shown here had recently replaced a wooden veranda and balcony. In 1935 John Breeze was the licensee.
• Roebuck Inn, Hilderstone, about 1940.
The Roebuck Inn was built in the 1830s. The brick entrance shown here had recently replaced a wooden veranda and balcony. In 1935 John Breeze was the licensee.

If you have any images to lend, or any extra information, please contact the Past Track team: Staffordshire Past Track, Staffordshire Archives & Heritage, Shugborough, Milford, Stafford ST17 0XB. Telephone 01889 881388. email: past.track@staffordshire.gov.uk