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Stafford, Staffordshire

Historical Description

Stafford, a market and county town, municipal and parliamentary borough, the head of a poor-law union, petty sessional division, and county court district, and a parish in Staffordshire. The town stands on the river Sowe, and on the L. & N.W.R., at the junction of the Trent Valley and Shropshire Union sections, and the Stafford and Uttoxeter branch of the G.N.R., 9 miles NW of Rugeley, 16 N of Wolverhampton, 29 NNW of Birmingham, and 136 by road and 13 3¾ by railway from London. It was known to the Saxons as Staefford or Stafeford; grew around a castle built in 913 by Ethelfleda, sister of Edward the Elder; had a mint in the times of Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror; was given by the latter to Richard de Todeni;. acquired in his time a new castle; was visited in 1575 by Queen Elizabeth; had as natives the monkish historian John of Stafford, the Bishop of Exeter John of Stafford, Wycliffe's. opponent T. Assheburn, the theologian F. Fitzherbert, and the famous angler Izaak Walton. It gives the title of Marquis to the family of Gower, and that of Baron to the family of Jerningham. It is a seat of assizes and quarter sessions, and publishes two weekly newspapers. Stafford stands on low ground among pleasant environs; comprises well-built streets; the contiguous suburbs of Forebridge and Stoneroad; retains a portion of an ancient encompassing town-wall, and has a head post office, a railway station, three banks, and a number of public buildings, schools, and institutions.

The Castle stood on a bold, well-wooded, conical eminenca SW of the town; underwent restoration in the time of Edward III.; was taken and dismantled in 1643; and gave place in 1810-15 to a massive castellated mansion, flanked. by octagonal towers, built by Sir George Jerningham, first Baron Stafford, but left unfinished and now fallen into ruin. The Shire Hall, facing the Guildhall, was built in 1798— and has courts for the assizes, quarter and petty sessions, and county courts; it includes an assembly-room, which is used on Saturdays as a corn-market. The Borough Hall is in Eastgate Street behind the Shire Hall, and is a fine building in the French Gothic style of the 14th century, erected in 1877. It contains the municipal offices and a large hall used for concerts, &c. The Free Library is situated in buildings erected in 1881 adjoining the Borough Hall, and containing also the Wragge Museum and the School of Science and Art. The William Salt Library, in Market Square, was presented to the town in 1872 by the widow of Mr Salt the antiquary; it contains a valuable collection of books and MSS. mainly relating to the town and county of Stafford. St Mary's Church is a very fine cruciform edifice of Transition Norman, Early English, and Decorated architecture, and was restored in 1845 by Sir G. Gilbert Scott at a cost of £30,000. It was originally collegiate for a dean and 13 canons. It consists of chancel of five bays with aisles, nave of five bays with clerestory and aisles, transepts, south porch, and a noble central tower, square below and octagonal above. It contains an altar-tomb of the 16th century to Sir Edward Aston of Tixall and his wife, a marble bust of Izaak Walton, and several memorial windows. St Chad's Church is small, and only a fragment remains of the original edifice, which dated from the time of Stephen. Alterations and additions were made at various dates, and the church was rebuilt in 1884. Christ Church, in Foregate, was built in 1839 and enlarged in 1863. St Thomas' Church, in Castle Town, was built in 1866. St Paul's Church, in Forebridge, was built in 1844. There are Roman Catholic, Baptist, Congregational, New Connexion and Primitive Methodist, Presbyterian, and Wesleyan, chapels, and meeting-houses for the Brethren and the Society of Friends. A Grey friary was founded in the time of Edward I., and an Augustinian friary in 1344, but they have completely disappeared. A Black priory was founded on a spot 2 miles to the E about 1180, and has left some vestiges. The Grammar School dates from the time of Edward VI., and was endowed with the property of two dissolved hospitals. It is now administered under a scheme of the Endowed School Commissioners. The Burgh Technical School is at Crabbery Hall. Her Majesty's prison in Gaol Road was built in 1793-94, and subsequently enlarged. The county infirmary, which was originally built in 1766, was remodelled and partly rebuilt in 1895. The county lunatic asylum stands on a plot of 30 acres with gardens and pleasure grounds, was enlarged in 1879 and 1884, and has accommodation for 900 patients. There is a large private lunatic asylum at Coton Hill. The cemetery is at Tillington, half a mile from the town, comprises 10 acres of ground, and has two mortuary chapels. Stafford has also a county club, Conservative, Reform, and working men's clubs, a theatre, three banks, public baths, an industrial home, and almshouses. The County Council Buildings (erected 1893-95 at a cost of over £30,000), the Oddfellows' Hall (opened in 1893), and the County Technical Instruction Buildings (erected in 1895) are handsome structures. The corporation water supply, inaugurated 1890, is pumped from a well at Milford. The town was lighted by electricity in 1895. The manufacture of boots and shoes is the staple trade, and the transit railway traffic produces much business. A weekly market is held on Saturday, and fairs on the Tuesday before Shrove Tuesday, 3 April, 14 May, Saturday before 29 June, last Monday in July, first Monday in Sept., 2 Oct., and 4 Dec. The town was chartered by King John, and is governed by a mayor, 8 aldermen, and 24 councillors. The municipal borough includes the united parish of St Mary and St Chad and a portion of Castle Church parish, Coton Fields, and Littleworth, and is divided into two wards, east and west. Acreage, 1084; population, 20,270. It has a commission of the peace. The parliamentary borough is co-extensive with the municipal borough. Two members were returned to the House of Commons from the time of Edward I. till the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, when its representation was reduced to one.

The parish of Stafford includes the townships of Whitgreave, Marston, Salt, Enson, Yarlett, Worston, Hopton, and Coton. Acreage, 8181; population, 16,353. Acreage of Stafford St Mary and St Chad alone, 596; population, 15,039. The ecclesiastical parishes are St Mary (population, 5451), St Chad (437), Christchurch (constituted 1844, population 10,055), St Paul's, Forebridge (constituted 1844, population 3729), and St Thomas, Castle Town (constituted 1866, population 1501). The living of St Mary is a rectory, of the others vicarages, all in the diocese of Lichfield; net value of St Mary, £240 with residence; of Christchurch, £120 with residence; of St Thomas, £182 with residence; gross value of St Chad, £300; of St Paul, £182 with residence. Patron of St Mary and St Chad, the Bishop; of Christchurch, the Rector of Stafford; of St Paul's, the Vicar of Castle Church. The ecclesiastical parishes of Castle Church, Salt, Whitgreave, and Marston are separately noticed.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Administration

The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyStaffordshire 
HundredPirehill 
Poor Law unionStafford 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.


Church Records

Findmypast, in association with the Staffordshire & Stoke on Trent Archive Service have the Baptisms, Banns, Marriages, and Burials online for Stafford


Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Stafford from the following:


Land and Property

A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Staffordshire is online.


Maps

Online maps of Stafford are available from a number of sites:


Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Staffordshire newspapers online:

DistrictStafford
CountyStaffordshire
RegionWest Midlands
CountryEngland
Postal districtST16
Post TownStafford