REMEMBERING THE SYTCH IN BURSLEM


By MERVYN EDWARDS, Local Historian and Burslem History Club Speaker Secretary

Westport Road in Burslem was formerly known as Liverpool Road.  This was part of the road north leading to Tunstall, and was turnpiked in 1763.

The map of the Town of Burslem about AD 1750 in The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent (1843) by John Ward was sketched by Enoch Wood..  To the west of Liverpool Road, heading downwards, were located Little Hill, Big Hill, The Hill and Taylor’s Hill.  Further down and on the east side of the road were The Hill and Hill Meadow.

Up until the early 19th century, Liverpool Road was one of the most important access routes to Burslem – the full length of Waterloo Road, stretching from Burslem to Hanley not being completed until 1817 and Moorland Road not until 1820.  Packhorse Lane was not superseded by the wider Newcastle Street until the 1820s, whilst Scotia Road remained a private road until the later 19th century.
Thomas Hargreaves’ map of 1832 shows that on the brow of the hill, a lane left Liverpool Road, ran parallel with it, and re-joined it a little lower down.  This is marked on the map as Sytch Hollow, but on later maps it is referred to as Back Sytch.

A description of this was given by H. J. Steele in his presidential address to the North Staffordshire Field Club in 1944:
“The pack horse road to Tunstall followed the present Liverpool Road for a short distance, but, after leaving Hill Top, and on the slope of the hill, it diverged to the left down the Back Sytch along which it ran for several hundred yards before emerging on and crossing the later turnpike at a sharp angle.  This section can still be traced, although in places it is now hidden by the tipping of refuse.  It followed the natural contour and, though quite near the present road, it is in some places, more than seventeen feet below it.  After crossing, it dipped into the hollow by the millhouse – said to occupy the site of an ancient corn mill – then over the brook course and up a sharp incline to Brownhills”.

The word “sitch” is chiefly recorded in descriptions of boundaries, and the Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary lists several references to the word dating from as early as 969 AD.  The older spelling of the placename, using an “i” rather than a “y” can be found in documents such as the parish registers.

Over the years, several important buildings or sites have dotted the road.  There is a surviving photograph in the Warrillow Collection of the Burslem corn mill, which stood on the right hand side of Liverpool Road, approaching Brownhills.

The tollgate house at Brownhills was built by 1823 and served the turnpike road of 1763 which connected Burslem with Tunstall.  The Wood family of Brownhills were members of the Lawton, Burslem and Newcastle - under-Lyme Turnpike Trust.

There were several incidents reported in the local press relating to conflict at the toll house between keepers and travellers.
Some travellers tried to avoid payment of the toll at Brownhills by using the other road into Burslem via Tunstall: Scotia Road.  In 1875, Mr. Tellwright, who was the lessee of the Lawton and Burslem turnpike road, applied for a summons against a man named Washington who, along with others, was regularly being permitted to use the “Nova Scotia Road”, privately owned by the Chatterley Company as a means of evading toll on Liverpool Road.

Following the abolition of the Trust in 1878, the road was disturnpiked and the toll house was demolished.  It was reported in the same year that the building materials and gates would be auctioned off.

Other buildings in Westport Road served the religious, educational and recreational needs of the community, whilst the old factory building of one of Burslem’s industrial titans still survives, though converted for alternative use.

Enoch Wood’s Fountain Place Works was constructed between 1791-2.  Wood’s factory included a windmill, originally used for raising water and preparing clay as well as grinding glaze and colours.  The windmill raised more water than Wood required, which allowed Wood to offer a water supply to the public.  The name of the Fountain Place Works was not used until around 1798, when Wood constructed a public fountain or reservoir, this being located adjacent his factory.

The business was known as Enoch Wood and Caldwell until 1818, when Wood purchased Caldwell’s property in the concern.  The firm was re-named Enoch Wood and Sons, and was a leading manufacturer of earthenware.  Ward describes the company, circa 1840, as having reckoned to have been of late years the largest exporters of Staffordshire earthenware to the United States.

A large percentage of Burslem people found work at the numerous factories in Liverpool Road – the firm of Wood’s employed 1,100 workers in 1833, but losses in the American trade and the lack of interest shown by Enoch Wood’s sons (following his death in 1840) led to the closure of the factory in 1845 and the loss of thousands of jobs.

What remains of the Fountain Place Works’ eastern front was converted into residential accommodation by the North Staffs Housing Association.






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