The Rapid Growth of Longton 1730 - 1870

An investigation into the internal and external factors that were responsible for the rapid development of the town




Longton, or Lane End as it was formerly called, was the last of the group of towns collectively known as 'The Potteries' to develop. In less than one hundred and forty years it had expanded from village status into a successful centre of industry and commerce. But what were the reasons for its development, especially when situated so close to five already-established towns? This essay attempts to outline the history of Longton during that period and examines the factors, both internal and external, that caused its rapid growth.


The concentrated area of the Potteries in North Staffordshire had been producing ceramics from at least the fourteenth century, and Plot observed the quality of ware from the ‘mother town’ of Burslem in 1680. Josiah Wedgwood's list of potters working about 1710 - 1715, although compiled sixty years later, records forty-three potters in Burslem, seven in Hanley, and only two in Stoke. None were listed for Longton, Fenton or Tunstall, although the latter had begun producing pottery by 1750. Many of these ‘potbanks’ were small concerns, and it was not until the late 1740s that the first large-scale planned factory was in existence when Thomas Whieldon extended his works at Fenton.


Because of the size of Stoke parish it had been divided into four quarters. Lane End and Longton were grouped with Botteslow and the various Fentons for the benefit of parochial administration. The parliamentary borough of the Potteries was established in 1832, and divided into six wards based upon the six towns. Lane End and Longton also included a small part of Fenton. Even though the six towns had been united as a parliamentary borough, the governance of each was still independent. By the end of the 1830s Longton was governed by a group of self-appointed improvement commissioners with powers of policing, lighting and generally improving the streets. Proud of the recent growth, a petition in favour of a charter of incorporation was undertaken, and borough status was granted in 1865.


By the end of the 1830s the name ‘Lane End' had begun to be replaced with 'Longton'. Ward suggests that this was because the majority of Lane End actually fell within the township of Longton, which was three times the size of the township of Lane End, as well as being the name of the manor in which both townships sat. Both names appear to have been used concurrently for a period. It was not until 1848 that it was officially altered for postal and governmental purposes since the name had frequently been used to denote the town in official documents.




In the middle of the seventeenth century Lane End and Longton were two small neighbouring hamlets, situated in the south-east corner of the large Stoke parish. Lane End occupied the site of present-day Longton, which was then a mile to the south. Its development formed a continuation of the ribbon of five existing pottery towns that ran south-east from Tunstall in the north, and occupied a sheltered position overlooked by wooded hillsides on the north and the higher ground on the south and east. The land to the south consisted of a few scattered tenements with large intervening spaces of waste and common. Evidence from the 1666 Hearth Tax reveals that these two communities were considerably smaller than the other settlements within the Potteries, probably with a maximum population of two hundred (inclusive of those at Normacot Grange to the east). The majority of dwellings each contained only one-hearth, with a substantial portion of the population too poor to pay, indicating the lack of economy within the area.


By 1738 Longton and Lane End had a combined population of approximately five hundred. In less than fifty years that figure had rapidly expanded to reach 2,500 by the 1780s. This new growth was centred around the junction of the main thoroughfare with the road to Stone. During the next forty years it doubled reaching 5,000 in 1811, a figure that had doubled again by 1831 and continued rising until by 1871 the population was 19,700. By then the population of Longton had overtaken that of Stoke, Fenton and Tunstall. The physical growth radiated from the town centre mainly east and south until Longton had become entwined with its neighbour of Normacot.


Of those resident in central Longton in 1851 only 48% were born there, with a further 12% born within five miles of Longton. Rural Staffordshire supplied a further 13%, with 4% from the neighbouring counties of Cheshire, Derbyshire and Shropshire. The general rise in the birthrate, augmented with the 52% that migrated into the town seeking employment resulted in the steady doubling of population. An occupational analysis based upon the 1851 census for central Longton reveals that one-third were employed in the pottery industry, while a further third were recorded as shopkeepers or skilled artisans. Only 6% were employed in mining.




Communications are of vital importance to the economic success of any community. Longton sits on the ancient Derby to Newcastle Road, of Roman origin, which was turnpiked in 1759. This was an important factor not only for the delivery of raw materials and the export of finished goods of the pottery industry, but also for the growth of Longton as a market town. It was one of the main access points into the Potteries from the east. Its only other major artery of communication was the road to Stone, in use by the thirteenth century, and turnpiked in 1771. By the mid-1830s the town was included in three main coach routes connecting it with Liverpool, London, Birmingham, Manchester and Derby.


Local public transport connecting the pottery towns was in the form of horse-drawn trams, and  a service running from Burslem to Longton was operating by 1842. This service was taken over and improved by The Staffordshire Potteries Street Railway Company, whose chairman remarked in 1862 that 'they might have well have been living a hundred miles apart' so little had they known of their friends in Longton, who in turn, knew very little of their friends in the northern part of the Potteries.


A mineral line was constructed for transporting goods to and from the Trent and Mersey Canal in 1832. This ran to both Anchor Road on the north side of the town and to Greendock in the south, and was still in use during the 1870s. This was the only access both Longton and Fenton had to canal transportation. A main rail link for both passengers and freight was provided in 1848 with the opening of the Stoke to Uttoxeter line. Besides the station at Longton was a large goods yard at Foley. Not only did this facilitate the transportation of china and earthenware, but also fresh market produce.




A clue to the growth of Longton is hinted at in the motto on the borough seal which states 'Let industry be made'. The main occupation in Lane End and Longton during the middle of the eighteenth century was still agriculture. What little growth had taken place in Lane End before the end of the seventeenth century was under the influence of coal and ironstone mining, and ironworking. In 1760 the population consisted largely of ‘colliers, stone-getters, labourers and other poor people’. The earliest reference to pottery was pipe-maker William Lowe in 1702, followed by a number of small concerns, the most notable of which was the porcelain produced at Longton Hall in 1751 although the operation lasted less than a decade.


The first substantial business was that established by John Turner in 1762. This continued for sixty-eight years, and produced a wide range of wares, whose quality was said to have been comparable with that of Wedgwood. By 1780 there were eight manufacturers listed, rising to twelve a decade later, which had more than doubled to twenty-six by the close of the century. The expansion in potbanks from the end of the nineteenth century was no doubt assisted by coal-powered machinery that was introduced into the industry by Turner in 1775.


The number of manufacturers remained the same during the first decade of the nineteenth century. This stagnation was a direct consequence of Napoleon's blockade of British goods in 1806. The effect on the export market was the closure of many factories and widespread unemployment generally. Longton appears to have suffered more with being placed on the east side of the Potteries, being well-placed for the European trade via Hull. Turner, who had relied heavily on exporting ware to Holland and France, was put into liquidation. A temporary decline in the American Market followed, although this did not appear to have had as much consequence on Longton potters, many of who supplied carts and wagons from eastern and northern England. After this temporary setback the number of pottery manufacturers increased to thirty-nine by 1820, and despite fluctuations, rose steadily until by 1865 there were sixty-one.


One of these fluctuations in the pottery industry would have been caused by the decrease in coal production from striking miners during the early 1840s (which also applied to the other towns). Likewise, a strike by potters in 1836 would have had a similar effect upon coal production. Further effects of strikes by either of the major industries would have had an effect upon commerce, such as a loss of trade in the beer houses. Production could be affected by other circumstances. In January 1854 some potbanks had to close due to a shortage of coal caused by heavy snow.


A key factor for the success of the town’s pottery industry was the availability of raw materials found locally which besides clay included coal. Mining therefore also expanded, supplying the potbanks with the fuel to fire their products, and by the middle of the nineteenth century there were more than a dozen collieries around the town. The advantage of clay and coal in close proximity was demonstrated when Turner's business was offered to let in May 1806. An article in the ‘Staffordshire Advertiser’ stated that 'the ready delivery of coals, by a railway, within 40 yards of the pit's a consumption of 40 tons of coal per week, would render a direct saving of £150 per annum'. Some manufacturers saw the benefits of being partners in local collieries, such as John Aynsley who was one of fourteen partners in Fenton Park Colliery.


Until the first decade of the nineteenth century the pottery of Longton (with exception of Longton Hall) was exclusively earthenware. With the availability of Cornish clay and stone from the 1820s onwards, together with the introduction of calcinated bone, there was a dramatic increase in the number of firms producing either bone china or a combination of both. The success and increase in trade meant that some manufacturers were no longer small-scale businesses. The largest in the middle of the nineteenth century was Allerton, who in 1851 was employing 348 workers, compared to the second largest Locketts employing 205.


Other industries besides the dominating two also existed in Longton. Some were as a direct consequence of the potbanks while others evolved independently. Raw materials also needed to be processed. There were at least four mills in the district - Goms Mill, Longton Mill, Cinderhill Mill, as well as a steam-driven mill at the bottom of Anchor Road. All but the latter had originally been corn mills that had adapted and changed to grinding flint and bone for the pottery industry during the second half of the eighteenth century.


Ironstone as well as coal was raised at Longton Hall Colliery. Lane End Ironworks was established in 1826 having three furnaces in operation by the 1860s. There were brickworks at Prior’s Fields by the beginning of the nineteenth century, and by 1818 two brickworks were in production, rising to six brick- and tile-works by the middle of the century.




With the success of these industries there was a need for commerce. By 1789 the market square had been laid out, and by the end of the century a network of mainly small streets radiated from this focal point. The presence of a thriving market town is confirmed by the large number and wide range of retailers. The predominant industries were reflected in the number of associated trades found within the town. Rope-makers, clog-makers and coal carriers all reflected mining, while pottery was represented by flint grinders, crate and basket-makers, and the manufacturer of thimble pillars used for the placing of ware in glost ovens.


In 1782 Lane End had three public Houses which had only increased to nine by the beginning of the nineteenth century. After the introduction of the 1830 Beer Act the number of drinking establishments expanded rapidly until by the 1870s there were thirty-four public houses and a further 117 beer houses. Although banks were in existence they were not in use for the daily function of supplying small change, the problem being solved by the beer house. Manufacturers quickly saw the advantage of owning pubs not only for their workers but also for providing refreshment for those delivering raw materials and collecting finished goods. Two breweries were established during the first half of the nineteenth century, leading to malting becoming a considerable industry in the town.


The economy of Longton suffered a severe setback with the failure of Harvey's Bank. Established in 1827, this local bank had catered for a considerable portion of the financial transactions of the town. When the bank collapsed in 1866 it had drastic consequences on the local economy. Fourteen local bankruptcies occurred, Bullock's being the largest pottery manufacturer to be put into liquidation. Several other businesses and building societies lost from the collapse, as well as those who had deposited personal savings.


Land and Housing


One major advantage that Longton had over the other towns was availability of land. Lane End was in the Manor of Longton, and the sale of the Manor in 1780 offered opportunities for the purchase of land where in other towns this commodity was scarce. Not only was there enough space for an infusion of potbanks, but also the subsidiary trades, as well as the housing of those employed in both.


In the nineteenth century Lane End was noted for the great irregularity in the position of its buildings of every size and sort, from the respectable residence of the manufacturer to the mud and sagger hovel of the pauper. Robert Slaney surveyed Longton in 1845 as part of a government enquiry, and no doubt gave a more accurate description of the 'many small buildings with open and bad privies’ that lead to the general filthiness that his report suggests.


The dominant landowners were the Leveson-Gower family as the majority of Longton belonged to the Trentham Hall estate. They were directly involved in mining and saw the advantage of an increase in pottery manufacturing. The family leased land to manufacturers in order to build their own potbanks, and were responsible for a substantial amount of housing, as well as donating land for the building of both Anglican churches and their attached schools. Many pottery manufacturers and colliery proprietors also owned groups of houses, as well as the more modest type of landlord who might own one small terrace, often living there himself.


From the 1820s small estates were constructed at Greendock and Edensor, and by the early 1860s Dresden had been completed, with land that had been purchased by The Longton Freehold Land Society. As well as the housing of employees, those of the more affluent were also situated in Longton before the trend began of moving out to newly created commuter suburbs such as Blythe Bridge.




Longton’s story of a late developing rapidly expanding community is not unique. Burton on Trent also experienced a rapid expansion during the second half of the eighteenth century largely for similar reasons. The dominating industry of brewing used water particularly suited for that purpose from boreholes underneath the town, the Trent for washing and processing, and coal from the Derbyshire coalfields for fuel. The Trent and Mersey canal facilitated an export trade with the Baltic, which, like Longton, suffered enough to cause temporary economic depression during Napoleon’s blockade.


Longton’s story is not just one of creation but also of adaptation and change. Mills adapted from their original agrarian pursuits to supply the demand of the pottery industry. The success of pottery contributed directly to the growth of mining, and both industries came to rely upon each other for their continued expansion. As a result of the industrial expansion Longton developed into a market town. Its position on the main thoroughfare on the eastern edge of the Potteries was well placed for supplying not only the growing population of the town, but also those communities that lay towards the east.


Although the town largely developed during the nineteenth century there appears to have been a distinct lack of planning. Houses were built piecemeal along with potbanks and with little consideration for their occupiers. Many of the Longton potbanks were smaller than those of the other pottery towns, due to specialisation by master potters who had migrated from other pottery towns to head their own business because of the availability of land. Some of these small businesses were unable to survive financial setbacks, and although the history of Longton is one of overall expansion, some enterprises were short-lived. Depressions in trade, a halt in the export market, or the collapse of a bank could affect the fortunes of many. Other fluctuations could be caused by natural phenomena such as severe weather.


The key factors that were directly responsible for the industrial and economic success of Longton were raw materials, communications, land, and labour. No doubt these also applied to the other towns within the Potteries whose development was both earlier and slower. But Longton differed in that it still offered raw materials and land to a thriving industry on the edge of an already established conurbation. It was a location that supplied all the necessary requirements for the development and expansion of a successful local industry.