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Stone (St. Michael)

STONE (St. Michael), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the N. division of the hundred of Pirehill and of the county of Stafford, 7 miles (N. by W.) from Stafford, and 141 (N. W. by N.) from London; containing 8349 inhabitants, of whom 7437 are in the town. The name is traditionally reported to be derived from a monumental heap of stones placed, according to the custom of the Saxons, over the bodies of the princes Wulford and Rufinus, who had been slain here by their father Wulf here, King of Mercia, on account of their conversion to Christianity. The king himself becoming subsequently a convert, founded a college of secular canons in 670, dedicating it to his children, in expiation of his crime; and to this institution the town is supposed to owe its origin. The canons having been expelled during the war with the Danes, the college fell into the possession of some nuns, who established themselves here. No mention is made of it in Domesday book, but it appears to have been granted by Henry I. to Robert de Stafford, who displaced the nuns, and made it a cell to the monastery of Kenilworth, which it continued to be until 1260, when it became independent, with the exception of paying a small sum annually to that monastery, and an acknowledgment of its patronage. Its revenue was valued, at the Dissolution, at about £119. The remains adjoin the churchyard, and consist of one perfect arch and rather extensive cloisters.

The town is situated on the road from London to Liverpool, and on the eastern bank of the river Trent, over which is a bridge to Walton. It is paved, and well supplied with water; and consists of one long street, with several others branching off. Races are occasionally held in the neighbourhood, and assemblies sometimes in the town. The prevailing branch of manufacture is that of shoes; there are two considerable breweries, and on a stream which falls into the Trent are four corn-mills. The Trent and Mersey canal passes through the town, running parallel for several miles with the river; and the principal office of the company of proprietors of this prosperous and important navigation is fixed here. The market, which is on Tuesday, was, about 70 years since, a great mart for corn; but it has very much declined, owing, probably, to the rapidly-increasing population and additional markets in the neighbouring Potteries. The fairs are on the Tuesday after Midlent, on Shrove-Tuesday, Whit-Tuesday, and August 5th. Petty-sessions are held by the county magistrates every fortnight; and two constables are annually chosen at the court leet of the lord of the manor. The powers of the county debt-court of Stone, established in 1847, extend over nearly the whole of the registration-district of Stone.

The parish comprises the townships of Aston with Burston and Stoke, Darlaston, Hilderstone, Stone, and part of Beech; the chapelry of Fulford; and the liberties of Kibblestone, Normicott, Stallington, Tittensor, and Walton. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Crown; net income, £214. The church is a modern structure in the later English style, with a square tower; the altar-piece is a fine painting by Sir William Beechey of St. Michael binding Satan, and the church contains a marble monument surmounted by a bust to the memory of Earl St. Vincent, the celebrated naval commander, who was born at Meaford, in the parish, and was buried in the churchyard. The old church fell down about the middle of the last century, owing, it is said, to the undermining of one of the pillars in digging a vault: no interment is allowed to take place within the walls of the present edifice. An additional church has been erected within the last few years, which is in the gift of the Rev. Charles Simeon's Trustees; it is dedicated to Christ. At Aston, Fulford, and Hilderstone are other incumbencies. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans of the Old and New Connexions. The free school was founded, and endowed with a small income, by the Rev. Thomas Alleyn, in 1558. A bequest of £100 per annum, to ten widows, charged on the Stone Park estate, is paid by Earl Granville, though void by the Mortmain act; and there are some other small charitable endowments. The poor-law union of Stone comprises ten parishes or places, and contains a population of 18,837: the workhouse is a large and handsome brick building near the town. In a field now allotted to the poor, at a short distance from the town, the army under the Duke of Cumberland was encamped in 1745, expecting the Pretender to pass this way, but he avoided them by taking the route by Leek.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.