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Sunday 9 May 2021

Dead Greeks, bodies, potteries and canals.

 As predicted the weather was wet this morning. It started at 0430 and continued through until about 12:30. We decided to stay put and just pottered all morning. It was very pleasant, especially as I lit the fire. We were warm and snug inside with the rain coming down. 

By one o'clock we had had lunch and decided that as the rain had stopped, and the forecast was for occasional light showers we would set off. I got every thing ready and then just bow hauled 'Holderness' to the water point to top up with water. Frustratingly the skips here do not have recycling which I found a little strange with it being a place where folk will be about most of the time to prevent people abusing it. Just as we were taking water a boat arrived at the lock heading down and we were to follow them all the way to Trentham.

As we rounded the bend between the Caldonand Trent and Mersey Canals the other boat was well on the way down the lock. I had time to take a picture of the gauging dock that is on the knuckle between the two canals. This is where new boats were checked to see what their displacement was empty so that they could then assess whet tolls could be charged by adding weights to see how the draft of the boat increased. At one time it was covered. The other buildings behind the dock was the toll office and also a warehouse.

photo: 1961 © Copyright Robin Webster and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Here is the top lock in 1961. As you can see it was also covered so that the toll staff could check the drafts of the vessels and work out their due tolls in the dry. The roof was lost later in the 1960's.

The new sign posts at the junction are not quite the match of the old black and white ones, but the addition of a dragonfly atop the pole would not have been countenanced in the 'good old days'. 

The Etruscan Bone and Flint mill was built by Jesse Shirley and Sons in 1857. Bone was milled to provide fertilizer to agricultural, but it was also added to china clay and stone from Cornwall to make bone china. Flint was doused with water to reduce the dust and then crushed to the size of sand particles between mill wheels. This crushed flint was then placed in a a vat that had steel balls with in it. The drum  was then rotated by waterwheel, or in this case a steam engine. It was a local man Thomas Astbury who is said to have first used flint in pottery in 1720. It was used to add strength and resist cracking.

Helen was wrapped up as useual against the rain and the cold. The rain had stopped and it is certainly much warmer than it has been of late. Maybe that is why she is smiling?

As we had to wait a short while at the bottom lock I saw the top of Twyford's Cliff Vale Pottery factory building that I referred to in my blog 'Had a Look Round Hanley', 30th April 2021.

After the bottom of the five Stoke Locks you come to a cemetery on the east side of the canal. It looks very well laid out and spacious. The cemetery was a municipal one provided by Hanley Council soon after it had become a Borough. It opened in 1860. At this time private companies were providing burial sites as church yards became over crowded. This spacious site was laid out as to serve the public as a type of park to walk through. It still looks a nice place to wander. The cemetery was split into dissenters, C of E and Catholic. 6.5 acres for the dissenters (eg Mehtodists) and Church of England, and 2 acres for Catholics! There were over 3750 plots laid out! Class even got you in death as there were four classes of plot. The most expensive and for the prominent folk were on the high ground close to the chapel. 2nd class were a little further down the slope and 3rd class were down at the bottom and close to the canal, where it was badly drained. For the first two classes there were three different sizes of plot, at different prices. A first class plot 9' x 4' with a vault for 3 bodies cost £14. In second class the same size was only £9 12s. In third class you could not choose the site and it was less. Of course a parish burial was paid for by the church and would not have had a headstone.

The Chapels and the lodges were designed and built by Henry Ward and sons. In the centre the spire towers above the central arch that was for carriage access for funerals. Either side are smaller arches for pedestrians. Either side of the arches are two identical chapels. To the left (north) was the one for the dissenters, and to the south for the Church of England. Not only were they segregated by faith, but also class. The chapels had Minton and Co. encaustic tiles on the floors.

On the tow path side, close to Bridge 113 was the junction with the Newcastle under Lyme canal. It was where the garss edge comes down to the water. This canal opened in 1800 and was 3.6 miles long, but was hampered in being profitable as Sir Nigel Gresley's Canal opened in 1776. It came from the north east to Newcastle and was built to bring coal from Cresley's mines. He had secured the rights to import coal to Newcastle or 21 years, so long as it remained under 25p per ton! The new canal was able to carry coal, so long as it was only for the pottery industry. It therefore carried much more limestone than coal. The most money made for the shareholders was when the company was sold to the North Staffordshire Railway Co. in 1863! The northern part was closed in 1921 and the full length in  1935 and was filled in.

In this 1922 OS map you can see the junction of the canal and that it just heads to the north of the old Town Hall (bottom left hand corner). The new Civic Centre must be in roughly the same place and can easily be seen from the canal.

The rain started to fall a little more steadily for about 30 mins, so there are no more photos. We made steady progress meeting only one boat coming the other way. When we got to Trentham Lock we caught up with the other boat and he was waiting for a boat to come up. After the lock we moored up just past the winding hole for the night and settled for the night

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