Saturday, 19 January 2013

Victoria Rd Fenton 1973- an essay on deindustrialisation




From 1972-3 I worked at Johnson and Slater part of the Royal Doulton group. It was a small pottery that made sanitary ware- shower trays mainly- and was situated just off Victoria Road between Fenton and Berryhill. It was a family run pottery run by the Maynard’s father and son. The older had served in the Army had achieved the rank of Major and was one of the first British Army officers into Vienna. Both Maynards were named John the younger was called Master John to distingush him from his father. Master John walked around the factory usually dressed in a trilby hat and a bow tie with a fresh red carnation. I worked as a Production Control Clerk in a small office with an admirable chap called Terry O’Donnell. In 1972 S Pearson acquired Doulton & Co Ltd & Son Ltd, which had previously made substantial investments in the tableware section of the pottery industry, organised as Allied English Potteries Ltd. Although it had become part of the Pearson Group the pottery had the feel and the language of a hundred years before. It is inconceivable that anyone would call a manager “Master”

Every morning my father would drop me off at Joiners Square and I would walk the mile or so up Victoria Road. To aid my memory I looked at a business directory and maps from the 60s and 70s to help me recall the industrial landscape of the time. Engineers and metal workers dominated the area. A large factory Copestick and Farrell was on the left as I walked towards Fenton. My brother and a friend worked there and I knew that in the early 70s business was good. Products went either to the Coal Industry or for the construction industry. The trade directory of 1972 lists 4 pages of various types of engineer ranging from Civil, Electrical and Mechanical. Two small companies were based in Duke St Fenton- Baddleley Walkers and WH Barker. There was a blacksmith and crate makers as well in the Greater Fenton area.


 Then there was Hewitt`s brickwork’s and refractors in Victoria Rd .The other side of the road was mainly dominated by Byatt`s Garage group.  It stretched from the car parts unit down to Gunn-JCB and went back as far as the River Trent. Part of Byatt`s was Welford Truck Bodies who made trailers. Regina Glass Manufacturers was also based in Victoria Road. There were potbanks on the road to Fenton. Signs of the industrial landscape were very visible on the earlier map and near the Eastwood Football ground was a large marl hole I presume for use by a near by brickmaker. It was filled in by the 1980s. It was an area concerned with making things, which it had done so for some time. Victoria Road had been laid down in the 1840s a railway line and station had followed although the station had closed by 1972.

By 1973 the City Council was getting concerned that the industrial base of the area was still traditional. A meeting was held in September between the City Council and a West Midlands Regional team. The outcome was a positive one it was concluded that the land reclamation projects would make the area again a very popular one to attract new companies. It was a period of mergers with Wedgwood informing the media of the take over of Crown Pottery as well as Mason’s Ironstone being taken over.

That autumn the news of the major Tesco development in Hanley on the site of the former Newhall Pottery was announced. The Council published plans for a major development along a Hanley-Stoke axis, which would lead, to 16,000 jobs being created. The Leader of the Council Jim Westwood believed it to be the opportunity for Stoke to be a great city.

The Council were also successful in getting a government initiative – Quality of Life- the first of many to come to the Potteries.

And on the last day of October 1973 ,as if to state that the old world was certainly coming to an end, the death of William Cartlidge at the advanced age of 87 was declared. Cartlidge from Wolstanton was the last bottle kiln maker who plied his trade from before the First World War to the 1950s.

Going down Victoria Road now and it is a place transformed. It’s a place where you buy and store things that are made in China. There are Cash and Carries, Food storage facilities and a budget supermarket. And close to Johnson and Slater long demolished is the City Council Call Centre. It is an area, which handily serves as a microcosm for what has happened to the local economy in the last 40 years