Burslem (St. John the Baptist)

BURSLEM (St. John the Baptist), a market-town and parish, forming, with Wolstanton, a poor law union, in the hundred of North Pirehill, N. division of the county of Stafford, 2½ miles (N. E.) from Newcastle, 19 (N.) from Stafford, and 151 (N. E.) from London; containing, with the lordship of Hulton-Abbey, the hamlet of Sneyd, and the vill of Rushton-Grange or Cobridge, 16,091 inhabitants, of whom 12,631 are in the township of Burslem, which includes Longport. In Domesday book this place is named Barcardeslim, but in subsequent records Burewardeslyme, signifying, according to the best opinion, "a bower or dwelling near the Lyme," in allusion to the Lyme woodlands which formerly separated Staffordshire from Cheshire. It has long been celebrated as the seat of the earthenware manufacture. Dr. Plot, in his Natural History of Staffordshire, published in 1686, first noticed it as such; but it is supposed, with great probability, to have been entitled to this distinction from the Saxon era, if not from the time of the Roman dominion in Britain. The abundance of coal which the parish and neighbourhood yield, was, no doubt, a primary cause of the establishment of the business here, as it still continues to be the mainstay and support of it. The manufactures, however, did not acquire any celebrity, and were wrought altogether from the native clays, till after the commencement of the eighteenth century, when the finer clays of Dorsetshire and Devonshire were introduced. Josiah Wedgwood, who was born here in 1730, and commenced business about the year 1756, advanced the pottery wares to a higher degree of perfection and importance; and since his time the manufacture of porcelain has been established, which now occupies at least one-fourth of the industry and capital of the district. The Grand Trunk canal, which passes through the parish, and has a branch up to the town, has tended greatly to advance its prosperity: that work was commenced near Burslem in July, 1766, and completed in 1777.

The town is for the most part situated on a gentle eminence, and contains several large manufactories of imposing appearance, and some handsome villas and residences within its immediate vicinity. An act of parliament was obtained in 1835 for regulating the market, establishing a police, and lighting the streets. The town-hall, which stands in the centre of the spacious market-place, was erected by subscription in 1761, and is a handsome building, lately improved. The trustees of the market erected near it, in 1836, at an expense of about £5000, a large covered market for butchers and other traders, which, standing isolated in the middle of the town, and being faced with stone, and adorned with an elegant Doric portico, has a very ornamental appearance. Markets are held on Monday and Saturday, and four fairs annually. A stipendiary magistrate and a general system of police for the parliamentary borough of Stoke-upon-Trent, in which Burslem is comprised, were introduced in 1839.

The parish was formerly one of the chapelries within the large parish of Stoke, from which it was separated by an act passed in 1807, and made a distinct parish, comprising about 3000 acres, of which nearly one-half are tithe-free. The living is a rectory not in charge; patrons, the Representatives of the late William Adams, Esq. The tithes have been commuted for £400, and a payment is made to the incumbent of £68 from the rectory of Stoke; a handsome parsonage-house was built in 1827. The church is a small brick building erected in 1717, with an ancient tower of stone. An additional church in the later English style, dedicated to St. Paul, and capable of holding 2000 persons, was erected by the Parliamentary Commissioners, in 1831, at an expense of £10,000, towards which £2000 were contributed by the parishioners and others: it stands near Longport, and has a cemetery of three acres. The living is a district perpetual curacy; net income, £109, with a house; patron, the Rector of Burslem. A district church has been erected at Cobridge; and an ecclesiastical district has been formed of the hamlet of Sneyd and part of the township of Burslem, under the act 6th and 7th Victoria, cap. 37. There are places of worship belonging to Baptists, Independents, Kilhamites, and Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists. A free school was founded by John Bourne, Esq., in 1748, and endowed with a house and a small farm; a national school, near the parish church, was erected in 1817, at an expense of nearly £2000, and one contiguous to St. Paul's, in 1835, at a cost exceeding £500. The poor law union of Wolstanton and Burslem is under the care of 16 guardians, eight for Burslem and eight for Wolstanton, and contains a population of 32,669: the union workhouse is at Chall, about two miles from Burslem, and is a very capacious structure.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.