1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Staffordshire
STAFFORDSHIRE, a midland county of England, bounded N.E. by Derbyshire, E. by that county and Leicestershire, S.E. by Warwickshire, S. by Worcestershire, S.W. by Shropshire and N.W. by Cheshire. The area is 1171.2 sq. m. The county includes the valley of the Trent from its source to the point at which it becomes navigable, Burton-upon-Trent. It rises in the extreme north of the county, and follows a southerly course, turning eastward and finally north-eastward through the centre of the county. Its tributaries on the left bank follow a course roughly parallel with it; the chief are the Blythe and the Dove, which receives the Churnet from the west, and forms the county boundary with Derbyshire. The country between Trent, Churnet and Dove is undulating and beautiful; the hills rise to some 1800 ft. on the Derbyshire border in Axe Edge near Buxton, and continue by Mow Cop or Congleton Edge along the Cheshire border to the coal-bearing hills above the Potteries district. Dovedale, the name applied to a portion of the upper valley of the Dove (q.v.), attracts many visitors on account of its beauty, and is in favour with anglers for its trout-fishing. South of the Trent, about the middle of the county, an elevated area is known as Cannock Chase, formerly a royal preserve, now a wealthy coalfield, and the high ground, generally exceeding 500 ft., continues south to surround the great manufacturing district of south Staffordshire (the Black Country), and to merge into the Clent and Lickey Hills of Worcestershire. A small area in the north-west drains to the Weaver, and so to the Mersey, and from the west and south-west the Severn receives some small feeders and itself touches the county in the extreme south-west. The only considerable sheet of water is Aqualate Mere, in the grounds of the mansion of that name near Newport in Shropshire.
Geology.—The Pennine folding gently plicates the northern of two Carboniferous tracts interrupting the Midland Triassic plateau in Staffordshire, but affects the unconformable Trias less. It isolates the Pottery and smaller coalfields mainly in synclines, but elevates the western margin of the former anticlinally. A prolongation arches the South Staffordshire Coal Measures, with minor saddles disclosing Silurian inliers, intermediate formations being absent there. Faults depressing the Trias bound the southern coalfield on both sides, the northern Carboniferous westward. At Walsall Upper Llandovery Sandstone with Stricklandinia lens and Barr (Woolhope) Limestone (Illaenus barriensis) underlie Wenlock Shales, succeeded, as at Wren's Nest and Dudley, by Wenlock Limestone in two beds, honeycombed with old lime-workings and famous for trilobites. At Sedgley there follow Lower Ludlow Shales, Sedgley (Aymestry) Limestone (Pentamerus knighti) and some Upper Ludlow Shale. Carboniferous Limestone, with gently-sloping hills and deep valleys, enters the northern region on the east. It contains brachiopods and corals of the Dibunophyllum zone, with lead and copper, once worked at Ecton. Marine Pendleside (Yoredale) Shales, with thin limestones and higher sandstones, ascend around a central syncline and the northern margins of the coalfields into the Millstone Grit, whose four grits in massive escarpments, only the “First” and “Third” persisting westward, alternate with shales. The Pottery Coalfield, the centre of potteryf manufacture, though local clays now furnish only coarse ware and the “saggars” in which pottery is baked, includes 8000 ft. of Coal Measures, chiefly shales, clays and sandstones, diminishing southward. The Lower and Middle Measures (5000 ft.) contain the principal coals, about forty, with comparatively barren strata (1000 ft.) preceding the Winpenny, Bullhurst, Cockshead, Bambury, Ten-foot, and higher coals associated with “clayband” ironstones. The neighbouring Cheadle Coalfield comprises the lower 2000 ft., with the Crabtree, Woodhead and Dilhorne coals; two other little coalfields comprise only the lowest strata. The South Staffordshire coalfield has 500—1000 ft. of equivalent measures, with the Bottom, Fireclay, New Mine, Heathen, the composite Tenyard and other coals, besides ironstones to which the Black Country originally owed its hardware industry. Plants (Lepidodendron, Neuropteris heterophylla), fresh-water shells (Carbonicola acuta, C. robusta) and fishes are characteristic fossils; but the roof of the North Staffordshire Crabtree Coal (Lower Measures) and several higher bands yield marine goniatites, &c. Shales, pottery-clays and “black-band” ironstones with thin Spirorbis-limestones, Entomostraca and Anthracomya phillipsi (Blackband Series), succeed in the Pottery Coalfield. Then follow red brick-clays with ashy grits (Etruria Marls); white sandstones with Pecopteris arborescens (Newcastle-under-Lyme Series); red sandstones and clays with Spirorbis-limestones (Keele Series); paralleled in South Staffordshire respectively by Red Coal Measure Clays, Halesowen Sandstone, and beds like the Keele Series. Around this the Triassic sequence ascends outwards through Bunter (Pebble-Beds between Mottled Sandstones), Keuper Sandstone and Waterstones into Keuper Marl, which, containing gypsum and brine-springs, covers the central plateau, the sandstones emerging marginally and axially. The Pebble-Beds rise in Cannock Chase, and fringe the northern coalfields. Rhaetic outliers on Needwood Forest contain Axinus cloacinus. The Rowley and other doleritic sills and dikes invade the southern, one dike the Pottery Coalfield and the Trias.
Glacial drift partly conceals the rocks. Irish Sea ice, entering on the west, left boulder-clay with stratified sands, and mingled with local material, Lake District and Scotch erratics, and shells swept from the sea-bed. It threw down a gravelly moraine before the marginal hills of the Pottery Coalfield, and concentrated countless boulders between Rugeley and Enville. Barred northward by this ice, the Arenig glacier carried Welsh erratics across South Staffordshire to Birmingham. North Sea ice with Cretaceous and Jurassic debris reached east Staffordshire.
Agriculture.—Nearly four-fifths of the total area of the county is under cultivation, and of this more than two-thirds is in permanent pasture, cattle being largely kept, and especially cows for the supply of milk to the towns. Like most of the midland counties, Staffordshire is well wooded. The acreage under corn crops is steadily diminishing, and wheat, which formerly was the principal corn crop, is now superseded in this respect by oats, which occupies over one-half of the corn acreage, little more being under wheat than under barley. Turnips are grown on about half the acreage under green crops.
Manufactures.—The manufactures of Staffordshire are varied and important. Out of the three great coalfields in the north, south and centre (Cannock Chase), the two first have wholly distinct dependent industries. The southern industrial district is commonly known as the Black Country (q.v.); it is the principal seat in England of iron and steel manufacture in all its branches. It covers an area, between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, resembling one great town, and includes such famous centres as Walsall, Wednesbury, Dudley (in Staffordshire) and West Bromwich. The northern industrial district is called the Potteries (q.v.). Cheadle, east of the Potteries, is the centre of a smaller coalfield. Burton-upon-Trent is famous for its breweries. Chemical works are found in the Black Country, brick and tile works in the Black Country and at Tunstall, glassworks at Tutbury; there are also a considerable textile industry, as at Newcastle-under-Lyme, paper-mills in that town and at Tamworth, and manufactures of boots and shoes at Stafford and Stone.
Communications.—The main line of the London & North-Western railway runs from south-east to north-west by Tamworth, Lichfield (Trent Valley), Rugeley and Stafford. This company and the Great Western serve the towns of the Black Country by many branches from Birmingham, and jointly work the Stafford—Shrewsbury line. The London & North-Western has branches from Trent Valley to Burton-upon-Trent, and from Rugeley through the Cannock Chase coalfields. The North Staffordshire railway runs from Stafford and from Burton-upon-Trent northward through the Potteries, with a line from Uttoxeter through Leek to Macclesfield. The Manifold Valley light railway serves part of the Dovedale district. The west-and-north line of the Midland railway (Bristol-Derby) crosses the south-eastern part of the county from Birmingham by Tamworth and Burton, with a branch to Wolverhampton. The Great Northern, with a branch from its main line at Grantham, serves Uttoxeter, Burton and Stafford. A considerable amount of coal-transport takes place along canals, the Black Country especially being served by numerous branches. The principal canals are—the Grand Trunk, which follows the Trent over the greater part of
its course within the county, the Coventry, Birmingham and Fazeley, Daw End and Essington canals, connecting the Grand Trunk with Warwickshire, the Black Country and Cannock Chase; the Liverpool and Birmingham junction; the Staffordshire and Worcestershire, running from the Severn at Stourport by Wolverhampton and Penkridge to the Grand Junction near Stafford, and the Caldon canal running eastward from the Potteries into the Churnet Valley.
Population and Administration.—The area of the ancient county is 749,602 acres, with a population in 1891 of 1,083,424; and in 1901 of 1,234,506. The area of the administrative county is 744,984 acres. Staffordshire contains five hundreds, each having two divisions. The municipal boroughs are: in the southern industrial district, Smethwick (pop. 54,539), Walsall (86,430), Wednesbury (26,554), West Bromwich (65,175), Wolverhampton (94,187); in the northern industrial district, Newcastle-under-Lyme (19,914), and the several formerly separate boroughs amalgamated under the “Potteries Federation” Scheme (1908) under the name of Stoke-on-Trent (q.v.); elsewhere, Burton-upon-Trent (50,386), Lichfield (7902), Stafford (20,895), Tamworth (7271). Burton, Hanley, Smethwick, Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton are county boroughs; Lichfield is a city, and Stafford is the county town. The urban districts are—in the southern industrial district, Amblecote (3218), Bilston (24,034), Brierley Hill (12,042), Coseley (22,219), Darlaston (15,395), Handsworth (52,921), Heath Town or Wednesfield Heath (9441), Perry Bar (2348), Quarry Bank (6912), Rowley Regis (34,670), Sedgley (15,951), Short Heath (3531), Tettenhall (5337), Tipton (30,543), Wednesfield (4883), Willenhall (18,515); in the northern industrial district, Audley (13,683), Biddulph (6247), Fenton (22,742), Kidsgrove (4552), Smallthorne (6263), Tunstall (19,492), Wolstanton (24,975); elsewhere, Brownhills (15,252), Cannock (23,974), Leek (15,484), Rugeley (4447), Stone (5680), Uttoxeter (5133). Among other towns may be mentioned Abbots Bromley (1318), Brewood (2535), Cheadle (5186) and Eccleshall (3799). The county is in the Oxford circuit, and assizes are held at Stafford. It has one court of quarter sessions, and is divided into 23 petty sessional divisions. The boroughs of Hanley, Lichfield, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton have separate commissions of the peace and courts of quarter sessions, and those of Burslem, Burton, Longton, Stafford, Stoke-upon-Trent, Smethwick, Tamworth and Wednesbury have separate commissions of the peace only. The total number of civil parishes is 277. The county is almost wholly in the diocese of Lichfield, but has small parts in those of Worcester, Hereford, Southwell and Chester; it contains 348 ecclesiastical parishes or districts, wholly or in part. Staffordshire is divided into seven parliamentary divisions each returning one member—Burton, Handsworth, Kingswinford, Leek, Lichfield, North-West and West. The parliamentary borough of Wolverhampton returns a member for each of three divisions, and the boroughs of Hanley, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stafford, Stoke-upon- Trent, Walsall, Wednesbury and West Bromwich each return one member.
History.—The district which is now Staffordshire was invaded in the 6th century by a tribe of Angles who settled about Tamworth, afterwards famous as a residence of the Mercian kings, and later made their way beyond Cannock Chase, through the passages afforded by the Sow valley in the north and Watling Street in the south. The district was frequently overrun by the Danes, who in 910 were defeated at Tettenhall, and again at Wednesfield, and it was after Edward the Elder had finally expelled the Northmen from Mercia that the land of the south Mercians was formed into a shire around the fortified burgh which he had made in 914 at Stafford. The county is first mentioned by name in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1016 when it was harried by Canute.
The resistance which Staffordshire opposed to the Conqueror was punished by ruthless harrying and confiscation, and the Domesday Survey supplies evidence of the depopulated and impoverished condition of the county, which at this period contained but 64 mills, whereas Dorset, a smaller county, contained 272. No Englishman was allowed to retain estates of any importance after the Conquest, and the chief lay proprietors at the time of the survey were Earl Roger of Montgomery; Earl Hugh of Chester; Henry de Ferrers, who held Burton and Tutbury castles; Robert de Stafford; William Fitz-Ansculf, afterwards created first Baron Dudley; Richard Forester; Rainald Bailgiol; Ralph Fitz Hubert and Nigel de Stafford. The Ferrers and Staffords long continued to play a leading part in Staffordshire history, and Turstin, who held Drayton under William Fitz Ansculf, was the ancestor of the Bassets of Drayton. At the time of the survey Burton was the only monastery in Staffordshire, but foundations of canons existed at Stafford, Wolverhampton, Tettenhall, Lichfield, Penkridge and Tamworth, while others at Hanbury, Stone, Strensall and Trentham had been either destroyed or absorbed before the Conquest. The five hundreds of Staffordshire have existed since the Domesday Survey, and the boundaries have remained practically unchanged. Edingale, however, was then included under Derbyshire, and Tirley under Shropshire, while Cheswardine, Chipnall and part of Bobbington, now in Shropshire, were assessed under Staffordshire. The hundreds of Offlow and Totmonslow had their names from sepulchral monuments of Saxon commanders. The shire court for Staffordshire was held at Stafford, and the assizes at Wolverhampton, Stafford and Lichfield, until by act of parliament of 1558 the assizes and sessions were fixed at Stafford, where they are still held.
In the 13th century Staffordshire formed the archdeaconry of Stafford, including the deaneries of Stafford, Newcastle, Alton and Leek, Tamworth and Tutbury, Lapley and Creigull. In 1535 the deanery of Newcastle was combined with that of Stone, the deaneries remaining otherwise unaltered until 1866, when they were increased to twenty. The archdeaconry of Stoke-on-Trent was formed in 1878, and in 1896 the deaneries were brought to their present number; the archdeaconry of Stafford comprising Handsworth, Himley, Lichfield, Penkridge, Rugeley, Stafford, Tamworth, Trysull, Tutbury, Walsall, Wednesbury, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton; the archdeaconry of Stoke-on-Trent comprising Alstonfield, Cheadle, Eccleshall, Hanley, Leek, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke-on- Trent, Trentham and Uttoxeter.
In the wars of the reign of Henry III. most of the great families of Staffordshire, including the Bassets and the Ferrers, supported Simon de Montfort, and in 1263 Prince Edward ravaged all the lands of Earl Robert Ferrers in this county and destroyed Tutbury Castle. During the Wars of the Roses, Eccleshall was for a time the headquarters of Queen Margaret, and in 1459 the Lancastrians were defeated at Blore Heath. In the Civil War of the 17th century Staffordshire supported the parliamentary cause and was placed under Lord Brooke. Tamworth, Lichfield and Stafford, however, were garrisoned for Charles, and Lichfield Cathedral withstood a siege in 1643, in which year the Royalists were victorious at Hopton Heath, but lost their leader, the earl of Northampton. In 1745 the Young Pretender advanced as far as Leek in this county.
A large proportion of Staffordshire in Norman times was waste and uncultivated ground, but the moorlands of the north afforded excellent pasturage for sheep, and in the 14th century Wolverhampton was a staple town for wool. In the 13th century mines of coal and iron are mentioned at Walsall, and ironstone was procured at Sedgley and Eccleshall. In the 15th century both coal and iron were extensively worked. Thus in the 17th century the north of the county yielded coal, lead, copper, marble and millstones, while the rich meadows maintained great dairies; the woodlands of the south supplied timber, salt, black marble and alabaster; the clothing trade flourished about Tamworth, Burton, and Newcastle-under-Lyme; and hemp and flax were grown all over the county. The potteries are of remote origin, but were improved in the 17th century by two brothers, the Elers, from Amsterdam, who introduced the method of salt glazing, and in the 18th century they were rendered famous by the achievements of Josiah Wedgwood.
Staffordshire was represented by two members in the parliament of 1290, and in 1295 the borough of Stafford also returned two members. Lichfield was represented by two members in 1304, and Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1355. Tamworth returned two members in 1562. Under the Reform Act of 1832 the county returned four members in four divisions, and the boroughs of Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton were represented by two members each, and Walsall by one member. Under the act of 1868 the county returned six members in three divisions and Wednesbury returned one member.
Antiquities.—Early British remains exist in various parts of the county; and a large number of barrows have been opened in which human bones, urns, fibulae, stone hammers, armlets, pins, pottery and other articles have been found. In the neighbourhood of Wetton, near Dovedale, on the site called Borough Holes, no fewer than twenty-three barrows were opened, and British ornaments have been found in Needwood Forest, the district between the lower Dove and the angle of the Trent to the south. Several Roman camps also remain, as at Knave's Castle on Watling Street, near Brownhills. The most noteworthy churches in the county are found in the large towns, and are described under their respective headings. Such are the beautiful cathedral of Lichfield, and the churches of Eccleshall, Leek, Penkridge St Mary's at Stafford, Tamworth, Tutbury, and St Peter's at Wolverhampton. Checkley, 4 m. south of Cheadle, shows good Norman and Early English details, and there are carved stones of pre-Norman date in the churchyard. Armitage, south-east of Rugeley, has a church showing good Norman work. Brewood church, 4 m. south-west of Penkridge, is Early English. This village gives name to an ancient forest. Audley church, north-west of Newcastle- under-Lyme, is a good example of Early Decorated work. Remains of ecclesiastical foundations are generally slight, but those of the Cistercian abbey of Croxden, north-west of Uttoxeter, are fine Early English, and at Ranton, west of Stafford, the Perpendicular tower and other portions of an Augustinian foundation remain. Among medieval domestic remains may be mentioned the castles of Stafford, Tamworth and Tutbury, with that of Chartley, north-east of Stafford, which dates from the 13th century. Here is also a timbered hall, in the park of which a breed of wild cattle is maintained. Beaudesert, south of Rugeley, is a fine Elizabethan mansion in a beautiful undulating demesne. In the south-west, near Stourbridge, are Enville, a Tudor mansion with grounds laid out by the poet Shenstone, and Stourton Castle, embodying portions of the 15th century, where Reginald, Cardinal Pole, was born in 1500. Among numerous modern seats may be named Ingestre, Ilam Hall, Alton Towers, Shugborough, Patteshull, Keele Hall, and Trentham.