Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Demolition and Destruction

Over the last few days I've been enjoying dipping in and out of one of my new books, namely 'The Lost City of Stoke-on-Trent' by Matthew Rice.  I'm finding what he has to say about the city fascinating and his drawings are so enchanting that I'll pretend not to notice that he's called the Enson Works in Longton 'Ensign' Works.

In September 2007 I photographed the abandoned buildings of the Enson works which stand close to the church of St James the Less in between Normacott Road and Uttoxeter Road.    The area covered by the 19th century grade II listed factory buildings, pub and cottages is owned by the City Council and was part of a heritage site which had then just recently been refurbished to create an interesting visitor area that enhanced the Gladstone Museum and Rosslyn works just further down the Uttoxeter Road.

With its cobbled street and old worker's cottages it had a really historic feel; just add the thick smokey air and the soot dirtied front windows and you'd have been there.  The row of cottages on Short Street were used in the 1970s when ATV filmed the drama series Clayhanger, from the novels by Arnold Bennett and staring Peter McEnery as Edwin Clayhanger and Janet Suzman as Hilda Lessways.

We visited again on Sunday and were surprised to see the old factory buildings being demolished.

 The seating area at the bottom of Short Street has gone, although the trees are still there at the moment.

 There is a screen protecting the actual bottle ovens so it looks as if they might be staying.  Although the other factory and office buildings were fast disappearing.

I've found out from various sources since I took the photos  that new buildings are planned incorporating the bottle ovens to set up a centre of excellence for the teaching of building skills to young people in the area.  This all sounds good especially as so many old buildings have been demolished over the last few years!  I only hope the investment is found to refurbish those left  or replace those already destroyed because at the moment, some parts of the city have become a wasteland.


  1. Staithes in your sidebar - is that the Staithes just a few miles up the road? We live in North Yorkshire! Came here via Vintage teatime! I taught in Nottingham for 10 years so can remember some of the places you mention. Nice to know you. Denise

  2. That looks like a fascinating book.
    It's been a while since I visited Stoke (although I'm just down the A50 near the airport). I love the Gladstone Museum and think it's a shame if they are demolishing old buildings rather than incorporating them into a new scheme.

    Too many have gone already. (I once did a research project in Birmingham and the Black Country on just such a subject.) At least they're keeping the bottle ovens.

  3. Demolishing these old buildings can sometimes be very short sighted. Consider Victorian architecture, once scorned but now appreciated for its character and history. I suppose it depends on the condition of the buildings in question, but if they demolish everything in sight, our history will slowly disappear. I'm glad they are keeping the bottle kilns!

  4. It is sad to see old buildings getting demolished but planners always seem to use the excuse that it is cheaper to knock them down than rennovate them. At least part of the site is being saved and the new build may even contribute something positive to the area? x

  5. Hi if you google The American Normacot it tells you a bit about it all. The roof had collapsed so was assessed as dangerous....40 years derelict, hmmmm, no wonder that happened. My daughter used to love walking around there, we used to call it our history walk. A little bit more lost but if some good comes out of it, well hopefully it will be worth it.

  6. I hope they build it back sympathetically so that it doesnt lose its charm. I love the old brown door and the cobbled street. xxxxx

  7. I love Matthew Rice's drawings. He's married to Emma Bridgewater, isn't he? Hope they do a sympathetic restoration.

  8. Hope everything goes well with the new enterprise at the factory. I do hate to see old buildings demolished.x

  9. Well at least they're keeping the old bottle ovens. I hope the new scheme goes through, so often coucils knock things down and then discover they haven't enough money to complete the scheme and then as you say places become derelict. The row of cottages and the cobbled street are lovely. I love cobbled streets, nearly all the streets in my home town of Macclesfield were like that when I was a child.

  10. It pricks your heart to see such charming buildings going down. Guess no one had any creative ideas to do something with them. Or money. Nice post. xo Jenny in Holland

  11. hi Denise - we've met before:) Yes it is Staithes on the NY coast - also love Saltburn:)

    morningaj - ah, we often drive your way on our way into Lincolnshire end of A50, Kegworth, Zouche to Melton etc. I love the Gladstone too:)

    helene, I think from what I've read further that one of the buildings was in danger of collapse.

    Amanda, thanks for the link - I didn't know what the pub was called - I can see why they've had to demolish some of the buildings.

  12. Let's hope the Council stick to their plan Rosie, our industrial heritage is disappearing fast and it would be a shame to lose those wonderful bottle ovens.

    As ever, a rich and informative post on your beloved neck of the woods.


  13. I love Matthew Rice illustrations and have a couple of his books on architechture.
    the chimneys are a beautiful shape and well worth keeping.

  14. I'm playing catch up late, but I'm glad you're enjoying the book. Despite being in Nottingham, I am tempted to buy it, having borrowed it from the local library. What I particularly like is that, alongside the wonderful line drawings, he tells a story. I prefer history as story telling to simply collections of dry facts and footnotes. And how you link it in to your work — wonderful as always.