Whitehill Online is pleased to bring you a new feature to the website. Whitehill yesteryear is looking back at the history of Whitehill and Kidgrove and how the area has changed over the years. This section is kindly being composed by local resident and former Kidsgrove Town, Borough and County Councilor Mary Maxfield.
If you have stories that you wish to share about the history of the local area, please do get in touch. We are only too keen to share all the stories we can about the history of Whitehill and Kidsgrove.
In 1611, John Speed, the mapmaker, published his maps of Great Britain. He was the originator of the term Great Britain, and, incidentally, is a distant ancestor. His map of Staffordshire(1) shows Mow Cop, and Newchapel, but there is no reference to Whitehill, which either comes under the area of Newchapel, in which area it still is for marriage registration purposes, or under Wolstanton.
But we do hear of a John Caulton of Whitehill in Wolstanton Parish Registers. John Ward’s, “The Borough of Stoke-on-Trent” refers to a John Oaulton (presumably a misprint) of Wheitehill who became a Constable for Tunstall Court in 1631, an office held for a year(2) . This meant that he was an officer of the Lord of the Manor, which was a role administering civil and criminal justice. John had a son, Thomas, baptized in 1639(3). He was a Churchwarden from 1643(4), and overseer of the poor in 1670-71(5), and we hear of the burial of Robert, son of John Caulton, on July 21st 1671(6). He would have been an important local figure, is described as John Caulton senior, and had a son called John, whose daughter or possibly granddaughter, Margaret, was baptized in 1687(7). All this might suggest that Whitehill was a locally known area, which had few inhabitants. It would seem to be an agricultural place, though there was a road from Great Chell to Newchapel in 1664(8).
The Parish Registers record the burial of Thomas Oaks of Whitehill on January 20th, 1713(9)would tend to suggest that Whitehill was a small but recognizable area within a wider community. The gradual development of roads, though they were even worse than they are today, would probably have encouraged an increase in population, but it would be fair to say that Whitehill was an agricultural community. Norman Roche writes of Whitehill in 1809, “Whitehill, until the sinking of Kinnersley’s pits, had remained almost undisturbed in its wildness. It was a rough high country with several deep valleys abounding in ferns, heather and long coarse vegetation stretching within a short distance of Mow. A few lone houses lay between Kidsgrove and Mow, a track leading over the hill to connect one village with another, if indeed the huts that existed could be called villages”(10).
The Internet Article, Mines and Canals of Kidsgrove tells that in 1809, Thomas Kinnersley bought the whole of the Whitehill estate, which was between Kidsgrove and Mow Cop. He sank two mines, which he called number one and number two. He decided to call the huts in Mow Cop and Whitehill ‘villages’ and seems to have built more cottages for the expanding workforce(11).
It seems appropriate to write this article because Whitehill Methodist Community Church is celebrating its centenary this year.
In the 1800's there were no chapels/churches at Whitehill but stories tell that there were 2 houses where worship took place. However, there was a tin tabernacle at some time which was transported from Alsager. Someone is researching the history and the outcome will be reported later.
The first chapel to be built was Whitehill Weslyan which was situated on the right hand side of Whitehill Road going towards Newchapel close to Mount Road roundabout. This was built around 1860 and closed in 1971. It was also known as Bottom Chapel. There was a Sunday School in the morning and afternoon and a service in the evening. In June the annual Charity Sunday event took place where Sunday School children walked around Whitehill and Rookery in their new outfits and the choir would also walk and sing hymns. In the afternoon and evening services were held and a stage was erected upon which the children in the best clothes stood and sang and the choir also performed. A collection was held to pay for the upkeep of the chapel.
Every year the children were given a treat, either a trip to New Brighton or games and goodies in a field belonging to a local farmer, Mr Cotterill. Occasionally children's socials were held where games were played and spinning the plate was a favourite one where a youngster would get to kiss someone of the opposite sex if they were lucky enough to catch the plate before it came to rest. Pantomimes were held which were thoroughly enjoyed by the community. There was a lot of talent at Whitehill to make this happen, from dressmakers, singers, musicians and comics. Another important event was the conversation from gas lighting to electric in the late 1940's which was celebrated in style.
The second to be built was Balls Bank Methodist Church (now known as Whitehill Methodist Community Church). It was always referred to as Top Chapel. When Bottom Chapel was closed the congregation moved to Top Chapel. In the late 1940's there were ducket toilets which consisted of a large and a small wooden hole and some children always worried that they might fall into the container underneath. Through extensive fund raising a community hall was added. This year the church celebrates its centenary. Over the past year the kitchen and toilets have been refurbished and the Footsteps Project completed which gives more space for activities. Many people have worked hard to make this possible and it will be opened on 17 March followed by a service of dedication on 18 March at 3 pm. This Church is now the hub of the community where many activities take place.
Many children who attended both the Churches found their true loves and eventually married and still live at Whitehill.
Mary Maxfield gave a talk to Clough Hall Residents Association on the History of Clough Hall. We have kindly been allowed to publish this material. Kidsgrove historian Philip Leese also compiled some of the information on the history of Clough Hall.
History of Clough Hall
The site of the Clough, or Clough Hall, has been occupied for certainly 400 years, and very probably for another century before that. The first dated reference to someone living at Clough is in 1583 when Thomas Unwyn was in residence, and he was reportedly the fifth in descent from John Unwyn of Clough, which would take the founding of the house back into the 1400s.
Since 1440 there have been at least three substantial buildings at or near the Clough Hall site. In turn, the site has been a farm, a gentleman's residence, and one of the largest public amusement parks in the country.
Thomas Unwyn's son, John, inherited the house; he then pulled down the original building and rebuilt the house before the 1640s. This new house was probably a Stuart farmhouse. On his death the estate passed to Simon Unwyn, a cousin from Wiltshire, and then to Simon's eldest son, Benjamin. On Simon's death an inventory was made of the house and its contents, which reveals that the Hall was a two-storey building with a Great Hall and a gallery, about thirteen rooms in all. Attached outbuildings included a kilnhouse, stable, barn, wainhouse and gatehouse. Benjamin died circa 1693 leaving no male heirs but two daughters; the eldest daughter, who was not married, continued to live at the Hall for part of the year, but after 1733 the evidence about the occupancy of the Hall is very sketchy.
In 1786 John Gilbert, who was closely involved with the early mining development in the Kidsgrove area, bought the entire Clough Hall estate, and when he died in 1795 he left Clough Hall to his son, John. Around 1800 John knocked down the old Hall which had been built by John Unwyn about 150 years before, and built the new Clough Hall - this was a Georgian mansion built of locally-quarried stone overlooking an ornamental lake and the expanse of the Cheshire Plain, a very desirable gentleman's residence.
A booklet has come to light which endeavours to present a concise history of the growth of Methodism in connection with Balls Bank Church (Whitehill Methodist Community Church) from the founding of the first Primitive Methodist Society in 1862 to 1962. It is based on the fullest information available, derived to a large extent from existing records. There is no copyright associated with the booklet and the following are extracts from it:
"In 1862 the first Primitive Methodist Society was founded, Whitehill Road and Whitehill Terrace were unknown, and the known road was narrow and fenced with high hedges. A gypsy caravan was sited near to the site of the present church, but on the opposite side of the road, now occupied by bungalows, at that time Brewhouse Bank was known as Brewers Bank.
The date on which the first society was founded is uncertain. From records we find the first church was opened on 2 January, 1870. It is interesting to note that the collection on this occasion was £6.2s. Before this, however, the Society met regularly in a nearby cottage, and we can only assume that the meeting house became so crowded it was necessary to fine a more commodious building.
From a memorial tablet in brass, now in our church, one Edward Leese is remembered for his devoted service. He was a founder-member. He died in 1917, and had been a member for 55 years. This takes us back to 1862. Of what happened before this we have no record.
Again from records, we find that a house was purchased in 1869 from a Mr William Mellor, of Dales Green, for £30, fitted out and furnished as a church, and a licence obtained to use the building as a place of worship.
During the next 25 years, the Society had out-grown the small church, and the need for a larger church was apparent. Moneys had been invested in the Chapel Aid Association for this purpose and in February 1895 a second-hand Mission church was purchased from our Anglican friends in Alsager for the sum of £150. This church was lovingly called by the locals the "Tin Tabernacle". The Mission Church was erected on the site of the present church.
In 1910 a building fund was started by a donation of £1 by the late Jethro Leese and in 1912 plans of the present church were submitted which were accepted with the reservation that the cost would not exceed £750. During the transitionary period from the Mission church to our present church, services were held in a marquee and in the front room of the late Mr and Mrs Gibson of Whitehill Farm. In 1913 £300 was borrowed from the Chapel Aid Association to effect payment to the architects and builders. The Society was still in debt in 1918, but in the will of the late Edward Leese, money had been left to completely clear the outstanding debt, and an additional £20 towards a new organ and the cost of structural alterations to the vestry.
During World Ward II period no structural alterations to the church could be undertaken. We have no records of the happenings between 1939 and 1953, but in 1953 an ambitious scheme was launched to provide better accommodation in the Sunday School and to include toilets and kitchen accommodation. A plot of land for this purpose was given to the Trustees by the late Edward Archer of Whitehill Farm.
"We have now reached 1962, the centenary of our Society and the Golden Jubilee of the present church."
“The story is full of gaps and uncertainties, but as far as I can work out the history of what we now call Clough Hall Park (but which was basically what was shown on maps as “Lower Hall Meadow”) is as follows:
Clough Hall itself was demolished in 1927. Around about then, Mr Poole bought land near the site of the Hall and began putting up the Clough Hall estate, Park Avenue, Clough Hall Road, Kinnersley Avenue etc. My grandmother bought one of the houses in Park Avenue in about 1936-37, when I think the house was new. The area of Lower Hall Meadow was used for Carnivals at the time, but I’m not sure who owned it. In 1927, for example, the First Kidsgrove May Queen was crowned there, and a letter I have to my aunt who was in Queen in 1929, implies that permission to use the ground for the carnival was given by the Cricket Club.
Sometime after this (it could no doubt be tracked down in the Kidsgrove Urban District Council Minutes, which are in the County Record Office) the council purchased it with the aim of creating a permanent public park. The first official sign of this is in the Kidsgrove Town Guide, published about 196 (it’s not dated, unfortunately(, which states ‘A new park of approximately 13 and a half acres, to be equipped with a pavilion, bandstand d, tennis courts and bowling greens, including a children’s corner, is in course of construction at Clough Hall.’ This at least dates the start of the Park. The Council was also then negotiating for the purchase of 90 acres of land nearby, including Clough Hall Lake and the Leg o’Mutton pool. The Miners’ Welfare Committee, in 1939 donated £100 for the entrance gates and the railings. (so if they are still the same ones, they’ve lasted quite well)!!
In 1943 Council Minutes noted that ‘the park had not yet been completely laid out.’ I think, though I’m not sure, that parts of it were used for growing vegetables during the war, and the Pavilion (with bandstand at the rear) must have been built, because it was used as a Clinic and Welfare Centre. The Park was still being used for charity carnivals – there was a Whit Monday Civil Defence Carnival in 1944, and the Park was the venue for the V.E. Day celebrations in 1945, with Band Concerts and an open air dance.
In 1951, four band concerts and community sing songs were held for the Festival of Britain, the bands based on the amphitheatre being the pavilion. There were also school sports days and a firework display. I can recall playing in the park in the 1950’s – swings, including a ‘china swing’, a big slide, a roundabout and I think seesaws. There was a paddling pool at one time and the flower beds were fully kept up. (some nice photos of these in the library.)
There is a complete photographic record of a carnival in the early 1950’s taken by Neville Fisher, amongst the library photos.”
We have been privileged to be able to locate some images take at the time of the local churches which could be found in Whitehill, Kidsgrove.
The image that you see below is of a reduced size. Click on the image to enlarge. If you want to see a full collection of images from Whitehill Yesteryear please visit the image gallery.
If you have additional images that you are able to share with us, please get in touch.
After conducting some research in the local area, Mary Maxfield has uncovered some interesting statistics have come to light which include the Whitehill and Kidsgrove area. It is interesting looking back at these statistics how the area has changed over time.
J J Nelson Clerk to the Council. Mr Nelson was a local solicitor. Meeting held at Nelson and Steele on Hooks Stores. Presumably Hooks Stores was a local shop in Market Street.
Up to date population and housing to be investigated.
You can download and print off a version of the timeline to display and keep by clicking here.
As people have been asking a large number of questions regarding the history of Whitehill Road, I felt that it would be useful to create a map which shows how the road has changed. I will try and update this, as we get more information about the local area.
This is not to scale and all locations are only estimates.
Before 1960 people used to do their shopping at the corner shop or the local small shop until the first supermarket opened in the Market Hall (Boxing Club), Market Street, Kidsgrove.
At one time Whitehill had five shops 3 of which were in the front room of the house. These were: a hairdresser (93 Whitehill Road), a grocers (115 Whitehill Road) and a general store/Post Office (216 Whitehill Road). The grocer at 115 also operated a corset measuring business. There was the Co-operative Society which by no means resembles the store as it is today. The Hairdressers next to the Co-op was a greengrocery/fishmongers. Lastly 216 Whitehill Road was a general store which also had a Post Office section.
The Co-operative Society resembled the shops you see at museums like Beamish. Cheese was cut on a marble slab and so was butter. Sugar was weighed in pounds and put in a blue paper bag. Most dry goods had to be weighed. There was little or no packaging in those days and certainly no bags were provided to carry shopping home. Youngsters were very rarely sent to the shop to buy eggs because they were put in a paper bag and would not always arrive home unbroken. You could buy one egg if you so wished. Mothers would buy their bread which was unsliced and place it on the bonnet of their child's pram and by the time they arrived home the child had chewed the corners off the loaf (no wrapping paper then).
Money was handed to the shop assistant who wrote out a slip in duplicate and placed one copy together with the money in a container, attached it to a wire, pulled a handle to send it on its way to an office at the back of the shop. The money was taken out and change put back in and sent back to the shop assistant. No credit cards in those days. Because all customers were members of the Co-operative Society they received a dividend (known as divi). Everyone looked forward to divi day.
When Sunday opening came into being stories tell that the Superintendent of Whitehill Weslyan Chapel (Bottom Chapel) said to the Sunday School children that he hoped that they would not spend their penny collection on sweets from No 216. How many penny gob stoppers were bought on their way home from Sunday School is anyone's guess.
Almost all every days needs were catered for by these 5 shops.
There were 3 farms in Whitehill where some produce could be purchased. Cotterill's farm (opposite 212 Whitehill Road), Archer's Farm (path leading from 128 Whitehill Road towards Tawney Close) and Hulme's Farm (opposite Maryhill School gates, Galleys Bank). A Mr and Mrs Mitchell lived in a cottage at Galleys Bank almost opposite William Road and they kept pigs and hens and youngsters would take their family's vegetable peelings to be made into pig swill which could be smelled in the street. In exchange for the peelings a sweet was given. If they did not require all their produce then they would sell it to the locals.
If you wanted something special like clothes or household goods people ventured out to Hanley or Tunstall possibly on Stanier's or Rowbotham's bus or even used the Loop Line.
The Kidsgrove Loop Line is what is now known in the Kidsgrove area as the "old railway line". Today in Kidsgrove you can walk along the line from Tesco in Kidsgrove all the way through to Tunstall. This line used to be a key transport link in The Potteries, which today is only evident is certain parts of the area. We have kindly been provided with some photographs of the Loop Line which were taken in the Kidsgrove, Birchenwood and Newchapel areas of the line.
The owner of the photos is unsure of the exact locations, some we can work out, however others I personally have no idea over the location. If you can help, please get in touch.
Kidsgrove Train Station. Not much has actually changed to this day.
A view taken showing the area of Parklands estate. Top left hand corner shows the section of Whitehill Road which leads from the top of Heathcote Street/Attwood Rise. The middle of the photograph left hand side shows the smallest of the 2 coal spoil heaps which youngsters used to play on because it was the easiest to climb. The larger of the two was situated at the far end of the Birchenwood playing fields and was a feat in itself to climb to the top. Childred used to slide down on pieces of tin or coal bags but they had to be careful not to end up in the pool below. The pool at the other side of the spoil heap looked like something out of Mars. It was deep, yellow in colour and gave off a very foul smell. All youngsters were warned of the dangers of this pool. Many happy hours were spent playing in this area.