Tuesday, 25 November 2014


Staffordshire is a land locked county right at the heart of England and famous for its potteries.

In 1787, John Sneyd of Belmont Hall at IPSTONES near Stoke on Trent, began to build a church in the village.  He soon had a serious disgreement with the vicar as a result of which Sneyd abandoned the village project and built his own church at the gates to Belmont Hall, in 1794.   Their disagreement was subsequently resolved and Sneyd’s private church soon became a dwelling
as it is to this day.
ALTON is perhaps best known these days for its Theme Park, but the village has a very interesting building in Dimble Lane. It is a 19th century 'roundhouse' or lock-up which was built in 1819 to detain drunks and the like for  short periods. This Grade 11 listed building has a domed roof with cupola and ball finial, a stout studded door and no windows.



The Old Talbot Inn was built in the late 16th century in the centre of UTTOXETER and this Grade 2 listed building derived its name from the Talbot Earls of Shrewsbury.  In 1644 it was willed to the local poor by its owner John Dynes.   The Vicar and Trustees of the Charity were to use the rent thus raised to pay for apprenticeships for the children of the poor.  Some two hundred years later the Charities Committee sold the pub to a local brewer for £1400 and so the old inn passed back into private ownership.


A plaque on a memorial stone alongside a huge crater near to the village of HANBURY tells a dramatic story:
‘ Just after 1100 hours on 27th November 1944, the largest explosion caused by conventional weapons in both world wars, took place at this spot, when some 3500 tons of high explosives accidentally blew up.  A crater some 300ft deep and approximately a quarter of a mile in diameter, was blown into the North Staffordshire countryside.   A total of 70 people lost their lives and 18 bodies never being recovered.  The 21 MU RAF  Fauld disaster is commemorated by this memorial, which was dedicated on 25th November 1990, some 46 years after the event.
The stone which is of fine white granite, was a gift organised by the Commandante of the Italian Air Force Supply Depot at Novara, a sister depot of 16 MU RAF Stafford, from the firm Cirla & Son, Graniti-Milano.’

The explosives were apparently being stored in old mine working prevalent
in this area.



 STAFFORD is the county town. There is an interesting old lock-up
 near to Queensway.

An information board outside the building reads :
" The lock-up, which dates from the late 18th century, is built in dressed sandstone with a pyramidal roof of thick stone slabs. On the interior it possesses a brick vaulted roof. The structure dates from the time when the Forebridge area belonged to a separate parish from the remainder of the town ( it was part of Castle Church until the 19th century ) and therefore required its own facilities, including a place in which to detain wrongdoers. Nearby, were a set of stocks and a pinfold for impounding stray animals, whilst on the opposite side of White Lion Street was a workhouse.
The lock-up was once attached to the north-west end of the White Lion Inn, a building that was removed during the construction of Queensway in the 1970's. It has been suggested that both the White Lion and the lock-up were constructed out of re-used stone from the medieval Hospital of St John the Baptist which previously stood in the area. It seems likely that the Hospital was founded by a member of the Stafford family in the 12th century. However, the first direct reference to it occurs in a document dated 1208."

A similar lock-up can be seen at GNOSSAL to the west of Stafford.
It also dates to the 18th century and was originally situated in Station Road. It was moved to its present position in Sellman Street, near to the A518 Stafford Road in 1971.

 History of the Lock Up  At the meeting of the Select Vestry on June 10th 1820 it was ordered that a proper building shall be erected for the proper confinement of criminals etc.  By the time it was finished and paid for the Captain Swing Riots in the South of England were over, people were less afraid and the navvies were behaving themselves so it was not used often.  Probably last used over 100 years ago when a local shepherd was put in for the night and let out the next morning.  It is said the custodian the sole key holder rode out from Stafford (7 miles away) to bring victuals or release the prisoner.  The windowless prison did not allow any relatives to provide sustenance. 

In the 1950's/60's it was used as a henhouse and fell into disrepair.  In 1964 Staffordshire County Council wanted to move the Lock Up to the County Museum at Shugborough as it stood in the way of road widening.  Gnosall W.I was strongly opposed to its removal from the village.  They decided to raise money to purchase a piece of land of which to re-site the Lock Up - their project to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the first W.I in this country in 1915.  It proved impossible to purchase a piece of land and members were beginning to lose hope when, in 1969, Mr Downs of Parkside Sellman Street offered to give the W.I the piece of land where the Lock up now stands.  Staffordshire County Council gave a grant for the removal of the Lock up and the money raised by the W.I covered legal expenses and fencing around the building. 

Disaster struck before the Lock Up could be removed when a lorry ran into it and almost demolished it.  Removal was now more difficult.  The work was carried out by a Lichfield firm specialising in restoring old buildings.  Each stone had to be numbered.  In December 1971 restoration began, the W.I put in a plastic bag a 1/2p, 2p and 10p piece, the Home and Country Magazine, a daily paper and the following note "This Lock Up was built in the 18th Century and was moved to its present site in 1971.  These coins were placed by the Women's Institute to commemorate its Golden Jubilee at the relaying of the first stone"  Signed Brearley, Edge and Winter. 

This unusual monument stands on a small island in the Grounds of Shugborough House near Stafford the home of the Anson family who became Earl’s of Lichfield.  Admiral George Anson  circumnavigated the  world in the 18th century and it is thought that this monument was to commemorate
the cat that accompanied him.


A very fine building stands rather forlornly in a field alongside the road at nearby TIXALL.  It is the splendidly oversized 16th century gatehouse of a former grand house long demolished.  The building has been restored by the Landmark Trust.



A little further on the other side of the road at TIXALL is a tiny octagonal building with an ogee roof, and known as Bottle Lodge.  The building mirrors the corner towers of the nearby gatehouse – possibly a lodge to the gatehouse.  It has been completely renovated and is now a minute house.

Over at BLITHBURY the village pub has a very curious name -
The Bull and Spectacles.
The pub dates back to c1650 and was originally known as ‘The Bull’. 
The story goes that one evening, a drunken customer climbed up onto the pub sign and put his spectacles on the bull. Another story tells that a prize bull nearly died after eating some poisonous berries and a local wag suggested that it should be fitted with spectacles. 
Whatever the reason, the name of the pub was changed.

The National Memorial Aboretum, a national site of remembrance at ALREWAS, was officially opened in 2001. It is situated on 150 acres of old gravel working adjacent to the confluence of the River Tame with the River Trent at the western end of the National Forest.
The Aboretum contains over 50,000 trees and there are some 300 individual memorials dedicated to the armed forces, civilian organisations and voluntary bodies who have died whilst serving their country.

At the heart of the Aboretum is the Armed Forces memorial, a tribute to over 16,000 service person who have lost their lives in conflict or as a result of terrorism since WW2.




The Beat is a poignant memorial to policemen who have lost their lives on duty in the service of their country.


The infamous Changi prison in Singapore was built in 1936 to house just 600 prisoners. During WW2 after the fall of Singapore the prison was used by the occupying Japanese army to hold some 3000 POW’s and civilian detainees whilst some 50,000 POW’s were held in various camps nearby. Thus the hell hole of Changi became synonymous with Japanese prison camps. About 850 POW’s died at Changi and a lychgate was built at the entrance to the burial ground by 18th Division REs. The original gate was subsequently dismantled and in 1952 it was re-erected and dedicated at the entrance to St Georges Garrison Church, Tanglin Barracks, Singapore. In 1971 it was again dismantled during the withdrawal of the British Garrison and the gate was once again re-erected at Bassingbourn Barracks, near Cambridge. In 2003 the gate was finally moved to the site of the Far East Prisoners Of War Grove at the National Memorial Aboretum.
A block of stone and a cell door from the demolished Changi Prison, together with a portion of the infamous Thailand Burma Railway,
are also preserved at the site. 

Between April and June 1942 Allied prisoners of war at Tandjong Priok POW Camp, Java, built a chapel which was consecrated as St George’s Chapel. Two stained glass windows set into the wall behind the altar were designed and painted by a British Officer Lt. Commander H.C Upton, RNVR. Part of the design included the Royal Coat of Arms and, known only to a few of the prisoners for fear of retribution, the artist replaced the face of the lion with that of Winston Churchill, smoking his trade mark cigar.
Those original windows are now on permanent display at the Anglican Church of All Saints, Jakarta.
In 2005 faithful copies of the windows were produced and placed in the Far East prisoners of war building at the National Memorial Arboretum.
Churchill’s face can be clearly seen.

A poignant 15th century effigy in the church of St Peter at ELFORD recalls an unusual death. It is of the young son of the Lord of the Manor, John Stanley, who is holding a tennis ball in his hand – not of the modern variety but a wooden one which was used in ‘real’ tennis.
His other hand points towards his temple and we are told that the ball struck him on the head and killed him.


LICHFIELD is a small city in the south of the county, famous for its Cathedral.
 With three spires which are known as 'The Ladies of the Vale', it is one of only two such in the country, the other being Truro Cathedral.

The west front contains some 200 statues.

BREWOOD is a small market town to the west of the county and on the corner of the Market Place stands the curiously named Speedwell Castle.  It is actually a very fine Gothic town house of the mid 18th century.  It is said that the house was built from the winnings of a racehorse called Speedwell which belonged to the Duke of Bolton.  The double tower frontage and the ogival windows and door do give the building a castle like appearance and it is said that the interior boasts a Chippendale staircase in the Chinese manner.

MOW COP is a hill which straddles the Staffordshire/Cheshire border
to the west of Biddulph.
 The hill rises to nearly 1100 feet above sea level and it is crowned by Mow Cop Castle, which is not really a castle!  This Gothic folly in the shape of a ruined castle was erected in 1750 to gratify the whim of local landowner, Randle Wilbraham.    This curious building is now in the care of the National Trust, and spectacular views can be had from the site.


1 comment:

One Click Art said...

Hi Roy,. I came across your Blog whilst searching for places to visit in the Midlands.

I began reading and was hooked! I to enjoy photography and found this to be very interesting.