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The Beginning of Blythe Bridge & Forsbrook
Blythe Bridge owes its existence to the Romans. Following the Roman invasion of 43AD on the south coast, the military commanders found it necessary to push north through virgin territory and to build roads to facilitate the rapid transit of men and materials in order to overcome the opposing tribes. It is a virtual certainty that the Roman legions - possibly the XIVth Gemina - who marched along the line of the road which we now call the A50. This thoroughfare was built from Derby to Chesterton and thence to Chester (Deva), where they established a legionary camp
Bisecting this road at a point where Blythe Bridge railway station now stands was another secondary road which is considered to be a continuation of the Buxton (Aqua Arnemetiae) to Leek road. This trackway follows the approximate line of the footpath to Stallington road, passes Gorsty Birch farm, on through Fulford, Spot Acre, thence to Hilderstone and Sandon and continues to join Watling Street at Penkridge (Pennocrucium).
This area at this time - about 48-50AD - would be very sparsely inhabited, if at all. Most of the surroundings would have consisted of marshland and woods. The nearest ruling tribe of the area were the cornovii, but they were mostly concentrated in Cheshire and Shropshire, where their HQ would possibly be the Wrekin.
There now is a beginning of an important location - a cross-roads near to a river.
The evidence for any substantial occupation by the Romans hereabouts is extremely limited, yet there is likelihood that a marching campsite may still be discovered. Two finds in the locality are some significance. In 1960 a hoard of 3rd century Roman coins were discovered in a garden in Lightwood road, Longton, approximately one mile from the A50. Experts were of the opinion that they were buried about 277-8AD. Another find nearer home was discovered in the vicinity of Springcroft school, Grindley lane, late in the 19th century. It was a pendant consisting of a gold casting from a coin of the Emperor Valentinian (375-92AD). This is now in the British Museum, but an exact copy can be seen in the Museum at Hanley.
It was Emperor Valentinian who would see the beginning of the end of Britannia when he had to send more soldiers to supplement his armies of occupation to counteract trouble from the invading Picts and Scots-the latter originally from Ireland. When invasion threatened the mighty Roman Empire on the continent, succeeding the Roman emperors withdrew the occupying armies and left the inhabitants to fend for themselves. By 410AD left Britannia, was left to her own devices.
The Romans, in their long occupation had brought to this country a degree of civilisation and skill that was not equalled in many respects until late Victorian times. Following their departure the country was left to the invading Saxons, who brought sword and fire, death and destruction.
Staffordshire as we know it today became merely a tiny part of the Kingdom of Mercia, ruled by ' King' Offa, who controlled all the land from the Mersey to the Humber, the entire Midlands from the Welsh border to the east Anglian coast, and all of south-east England. His monument is the immense border frontier known as Offa's Dyke.
The period up to circa 600AD is known as the Dark Ages - a period of conflict in every corner of the land. Little is known about this time due to the lack of written documents. In the later period up to the 10th century more evidence of tribal wars, Viking incursions, and a massive influx of settlers from Denmark, mostly in East Anglia, are a matter of record. It can be said that from a greater part of this period there was no settlement in either Blythe Bridge or Forsbrook.
Approaching the 10th century - and no firm date can be fixed - it was likely that a handful of tribes-people found their way to a stream in a wooded valley and decided to settle down to an agricultural life. Forsbrook was born. The village derives its name from the Old English Fotes-broc - a brook or ditch. Blythe Bridge takes its name from the river of the same name - meaning pleasant and gentle. The addition of "Bridge" would not be appended until possibly early in the 17th century when an increase in the number of travellers necessitated a footbridge over the water. Horses and carts would have forded the crossing.
The first documentary evidence of a settlement in Forsbrook comes from that invaluable source of 11th century England - The Doomsday Book. There are two volumes, compiled by the Commissioners of William I, which required details of what the King possessed in his newly conquered Kingdom. This enormous task was begun in 1085 and amongst the many local villages - including Cheadle, Dilhorne, Checkley, Fulford and Hilderstone - the settlement of Forsbrook is listed as 'having land for one plough, it is waste, and it is held by swain'. Some local villages were described as 'waste'. Around 1069 the inhabitants of Staffordshire had rebelled against their Norman overlords, so William sent his army to punish the rebels by laying waste their crops and burning their simple dwellings.
. A contemporary report says that 'men, young and old, women and children wandered as far south as the Abbey of Evesham in quest of a morsel of bread'. The devastation must have been so drastic as to prevent any return to normal village life if the commissioners in 1085/6 still found 'waste' land. However, the human spirit eventually conquers adversity and a later document includes Forsbrook and Stallington at the edge of a 'forest' created by Henry II at the beginning of his reign in 1154. Whatever significance Stallington had is not clear but it had some connection with a priory at Stone and may have been merely an acquisition of land at Stallington Grange. The 'forest' extended from Newcastle-u-Lyme down the Trent Valley to Tixall. The village of Fulford was in the middle of the 'forest' - a term not possessed of its modern meaning, but an area reserved for game and hunting with special laws. It was disafforested in 1204.
The division of a county for administration purposes was functioning in the 11th century. A pointer to the population may be seen when each county was divided into areas known as 'Hundreds'. So called because a "Hundred" was supposedly sufficient land to support and maintain one hundred families. Each county's 'hundreds' would be of differing size. As a contrast, Staffordshire had 5 whilst Berkshire had 22. The use of these 'hundreds' continued until well into the 19th century. Staffordshire consisted of Seisdon, Pirehill, Offlow, Cuddlestone and Totmanslow - the latter included Blythe Bridge and Forsbrook.
The continued existence of Forsbrook can be traced through the early records of disputes over rented land and property - as between Osbert de Fottesbroc and Ralph de Dilverne (Dilhorne), in 1199. In the following century Roger de Kaverswell and Avice, his wife, are complaining about the rent of a 'fourth part of the Manor of Dulverne' (Dilhorne) as well as a 'fourth part of a mill in Fotesbrok'. More disputes were recorded in 1299 and 1310.
The existence of a mill in Forsbrook in the 13th century would surely indicate a growing prosperity. Exactly where this mill was located would be an interesting exercise for budding archaeologists!
Henry III ruled England from 1216 until his death in 1272. Late in his reign the King awarded Forsbrook a Royal Charter. The reference for this is contained in the Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names - fourth edition, by Professor Ekwall, and indicates that the Charter is to be found in the Index to the Charters and Rolls in the British Museum - No. 25457. Unfortunately, this number is a mis-print!
Although a search of possible permutations of the number has been made no trace of the Forsbrook Charter can be found.
What a pity that we cannot add another chapter to the history of Forsbrook until this valuable document is discovered.
In 1327 Edward III raised money by means of a Subsidy Roll to pay for the expense of a war in Scotland. Every man's goods were taxed and by means of these records we see that 'Fotesbrok' supplied a total of 24 shillings in varying amounts, from 10 men, whilst 'Dulverne' (Dilhorne) contributed 16 shillings from 7 men. Amongst the names listed for Forsbrook was Reginaldo Molendinario - Reginald the Miller. Perhaps he was the owner or tenant of the aforementioned mill.
Later, in 1332/3 and for similar reasons, the King introduced another Subsidy Roll when Dilhorne and Forsbrook were listed as joint providers with a total of 16 names.
The link between Dilhorne and Forsbrook was due to the fact that a church had been established in Dilhorne in the late 13th century and Forsbrook was embraced in the ecclesiastical parish of Dilhorne. It remained so until 1849 when a chapel of ease - St. Peter's Church, Forsbrook - was built by public subscription, and Forsbrook achieved an ecclesiastical parish of its own. The administration of villages was centred on the church from earliest times. A meeting of parishioners in the vestry decided most matters concerning the well-being of people and property.
The focus of attention from the 11th to the 17th centuries will be centred on Dilhorne and Forsbrook. Blythe Bridge remained merely a river crossing by a cross-roads until well into the 1600's, when a few scattered farms, cottages and a tavern or two sprang up alongside the A50, notably at Stonehouses, the Swan Inn (Ford's Farm), Grindley cottage and the White Cock.
Two ancient sites that may have influenced matters in the district were Blithewood Moat, possibly a fortified manor house of early Norman origin located about 3 miles SE of Forsbrook in open country. Nothing except the remains of the moat survives. In 1846 some chain armour along with a pair of pointed metal shoes were found. The other site, which is nearby, is Painsley and both are connected to the Draycott family - devout Catholics.
About a mile nearer to Forsbrook and on the same compass line Painsley Hall is featured in many old maps and documents. It is possible that this hall replaced the earlier Blithewood Moat manor house. Painsley was rendered unserviceable during the Commonwealth (1664). All that now remains of the original Tudor mansion are a stone chimney and a panelled room within the ruined farm buildings.
Caverswall Castle is an adjoining parish as are Blithewood and Painsley would have had a certain influence locally. Caverswall was once the home of Sir William de Caverswall, Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1260 and 1269. Matthew Craddock acquired the castle in 1615 and it was occupied by the Royalists in the Civil War in 1645.
By the middle of the 14th century we can reasonably be certain that Dilhorne and Forsbrook were steadily progressing with their efforts to create a settled community and increasing the yields from their farms. Nationally, conflict in France required the services of a trained army and recruitment for the forthcoming battles at Crecy (1346) and Pointiers (1356) would naturally be sought in every town and village in the land. If the requirements of the King were denying labour in the fields, it would be nothing compared with the onset of the Black Death which first appeared in 1348, and by the end of the following year the plague had swept across the entire country. Further outbreaks occurred in 1361/2 and in 1369 and again in 1379. No details are available for each county since the scourge was so devastating it wiped out - at a conservative estimate - at least one-third of the entire population. The calculation of population can only be a guess at this time and estimates vary between 2 to 4 million. Recovery from this disaster must have been slow and the reduced working population suddenly found that their services were in great demand, which led to a rise of wages for the survivors.
In extreme cases many villages were completely abandoned. The effects of the plague would be particularly hard on the poor who were trying to eke out a living from the land. Not until 1474 do we learn anything from Forsbrook by a document, which orders the Sheriff to intervene in a dispute between a landlord and a tenant regarding 10 acres of land and meadow. In 1477 a case of breaking and entering and about the same time 'a poor widow accused one Robert Starkey of Fossebroke and six others of murdering her husband John Faillour at Cheadle'!
Thomas Cromwell, the Vicar General - Henry VIII's wily official - ordered the keeping of parish church registers in 1538. Not all incumbents obeyed the order and some early registers were kept on separate sheets of paper, which have been lost. The register for All Saints, Dilhorne dates from 1561 and a transcript may be inspected at the William Salt Library, Stafford. The baptisms, marriages and burials are normally simple entries and do not differentiate between localities except from an individual who normally resided outside the parish. An extract for the 1564 record is below.

Ano Sexto Rn. (Sixth year of the reign of Elizabeth) BAPTISMS

Jan 10 Jeffrey s of Roger Turner

Jan 28 Eliz.d of Thos Osborn

Mar 13 Thos.s of Richard Gyll

Mar19 Eliz.d of James Warner

Mar 28 Agnes d of John Amerie

Apl 7 Tho.s of John Whitehurst - (Born, baptized, buried)

Aug 6 Rose d of Jeffrey Warrillowe

May 2 Margaret d of Thos Hammersley

Jan 29 Eliz. Osborn
Feb 10 James Whitehurst
Apl 7 Thos. Whitehurst
July 28 John Wood
Api 30 Ales Turner
Sep 18 Jeffrey Warrilowe
  Richard Cooke (Vicar)
  Thos Haynes (Warden)
  William Walters (Warden)

There were' only six marriages recorded for the years 1561 to 1565


The Staffordshire Quarter Sessions Rolls for periods in the 16th century are a reliable source of information providing a thread of continuity - albeit of misdemeanour and litigation- for a small community such as Forsbrook. In 1584, for instance, and in succeeding years, 'Forsebroke' appears at intervals for various individuals 'to answer touching divers trespass, contempt and offences'. In September 1596 - "George Amerie saith on Saturday XXith August last at night (he then beinge in london) had a mare stollen at Frostbrocke aforesaid'. Land disputes continue to erupt from time to time until well into the 17th century - in 1610 Anthony Kinnersley was claiming, amongst other properties, two thirds of a cottage, a shop, a water mill and a garden at 'Blithe Bridge and Forsbroke'. Easte~, 1641, William Wood of Forsbrook complained that he has been ordered to take in a pauper apprentice although his estate is small and he has a large family of his own whom he is trying to place as apprentices. He also has to maintain his 80-year old mother and pay a legacy of 20 shillings a year left by his father to the parish of Duhorn. He has no work for a servant and in any case feels that his father's bequest should exempt him from taking an apprentice.
A petition was presented by Richard Gill of 'Frostbrook' at Michaelmas, 1651 stating that he has served as a soldier, was called out to repel the recent Scottish invasion and was wounded fighting in Lancashire. Now unable to earn a living a requests a pension.
(Note- Richard was probably wounded at the battle of Preston in August 1648, during the Second Civil War. The Scots were defeated and the remnants of their Army were scattered and hunted down. Their commander, the Duke of Hamilton was eventually captured at Uttoxeter. Richard Gill was still living in Forsbrook in 1666 when his name appears on the Hearth Tax Return)
Easter 1652 : Anne Bullock of Forsbrook is accused of attacking Mary, wife of John Clows in Dilhorn church during a service because of a dispute over pews.
Easter 1659: John Lea of Forsbrook submits a petition, statina that he has lived in Forsbrook all his life and has a wife and 3 children born in the parish. He has no house and gets his living by daily labour. He wants permission to build a house on the 'waste' (common land).
Dilhorne and Forsbrook seemed to have escaped any ravages of the Civil Wars in mid 17th century. The nearest action was at Hopton Heath, about a mile north-west of Weston on Trent, on March 19th, 1643.
The Anglian Church took a census of 'Families' in 1563 and a published figure of 46 is quoted for Dilhorne Parish. More detailed figures for the inhabitants and households is contained in the Hearth Tax Returns. This tax was introduced in 1662 and required all householders to render 2 shillings per year for every hearth or stove in the house. Only the very poor were exempt.
The 1665 figure gives a total of 104 households for Dilhorne Parish. Of these, 81 were chargeable and the remaining 23 were 'not chargeable under the Act'. Subsequent figures show the inhabitants who were chargeable in Dilhorne and Forsbrook by name. The summary below shows that Dilhorne and Forsbrook are fairly evenly balanced as far as 'chargeable households are concerned, although Dilhorne appears to possess more substantial dwellings than its neighbouring village.
Dilhorne ..................................38
Forsbrook .............................39
The total of 77 households shows a deficit from the previous total of 104, yet there is no separate figure available for the Dilhorne Parish house-holders who were exempt. The earlier figure of 23 who were too poor to pay the Hearth Tax is quite high when the later total of 47 exemptions covered four other communities. The figures in brackets are the number of households who were chargeable in the area..
Caverswall (29) ,Meare Hamlett.(6) ,Weston Coyney(29) ,Hulme Hamlett(15) It seems that Forsbrook was attracting more than its share of poor people. Blythe Bridge at about this time was beginning to emerge with the building of the Swan Inn '(Ford's farm), circa 1666, in Swan Passage. At its inception this thoroughfare would have been the route to negotiate the ford across the River Blythe. Farmhouses at Stonehouses would have made their appearance together with Grindley Cottage, Grindley lane, (next to springcroft School). Another notable building in Forsbrook was erected in 1672 - Forsbrook Hall, Draycott Old road.
Yet another census in 1676 gives some clue as to the growing population when the church instituted a survey of religious adherence for each parish in the diocese. Dilhorne Parish returned the following figures:
CONFORMISTS ............351
PAPISTS ............................2
As we approach the end of the 17th century we can estimate that some 400 souls are in residence and not until 1801 do we get accurate figures from each village when the National Census commences.
Another source of more personal information may be obtained from Wills and Inventories. Until 1858, proving Wills was the concern of the Church. Every executor was required to submit the will, properly signed and witnessed, together with 'a true and perfect inventory of all the goods, chattels, wares, merchandises, as well as movable as not movable'. An example of one such inventory is given here with a transcript of part of the house contents and possessions of a Forsbrook resident. The original spelling has been retained.
A true & perfect Inventory of all the Goods Chattells & Cattle of Thos Amery late of fosbrooke within the Parish of Dilborne in the County of Staffs Carryer deceased taken and prised by us whose names are subscribed the 9th of September 1639
Imprirnis in the howse one joyned table with a frame...............................xxvjs.........viijd
Item three stooles and two chayres.........................................................iiijs.............vjd
Item in the same Roome 9 Couch guoshions 185 & 7 best quoshions......xxjs............vjd
Item in the, same Roome 18 pewter dishes 4 saucers with 2 saltes...........xls
Item one pewter charriberpott an aquavitae bottle with a little cup............ijs
Item 2 dozen of pewter speones.............................................................xviijs
Item 2 brass pottes 15s and two little kettles 2s......................................xxijs
Item 2 chaffing dishes with 3 brass candlestickes....................................lljs..............vjd
Item one skellett and a skymmer...............................................................................xd
Item one iron grate with 2 creepers........................................................lxs
Item one payre of pott rackes.................................................................................viijd
Item one payre of Scales or weightes....................................................................xviijd
Item one seeled couch under the window.................................................................vjd
In the Parlor above the howse
Item one joyned table with a frame...................................................... xiijs............ iiijd
Item 3 buffet stooles with a forme ..........................................................vs
Item one brass hanging Candlestick...................................................................... viiijd
Item one sorry forme............................................................................................. vjd
Item one seeted bedstead ................................................................xxxiijs........... iiijd
Item one featherbed with 2 feather bolsters & a pillow .........................x1s
Item 3 blankettes and one coverled .......................................................xs
Item one 4 footed stocke to sett water one ............................................................vjd
In the Chamber over the Parlor
Item one plankboard standing on 2 tressells....................................... xvijd........... 18d
Item one deske .....................................................................................ijs
Item 2 wheeles to spin with................................................................................ xviijd
Item one dason, one loome & one sorry tubb .......................................................viijd
Item one cheesecatch with 16 trenchers ................................................................xijd
Item 6 carthen steanes ..........................................................................................vjd
Item 9 flaxen slippings with a peece of one.......................................... vijs
Item dressed and two hempe ..............................................................xijs
The administration for ecclesiastical and civil matters for Forsbrook was organised from Dilhorne's vestry committee and other officers appointed, until Forsbrook achieved civil status in 1894. There was, however a system of appointments for individuals to serve as 'Headborough'. This, apparently, was a kind of latter day Neighbourhood Watch scheme and appended below is a list for the 'Liberty of Forsbrook'.
. a list of persons occupying es..... (? estates) in the (document torn) Liberty of Forsbrook for which, by ancient custom, they are in their Turns, as here registered annually obliged to serve the office of Headborough.
1. Walter Blurton, for Moor Green in office 1742.
2. Widow Amery for Stonehouse
3. Mr Bolton for his own
4. James Tomkinson, for his own
5. John Mills, For Whitehurst House.
6. John Mills, for John Phillips's
7. John Warrilow for Pale House
8. John Tongue for Mr Bowyer's
9. Richard Phillips for his own
10. John Stubbs for Cresswellford
11. John Mills for Mr Britains
The term 'Liberty' was applied to an extra-parochial area, i.e., land normally outside the parochial system, and was used a lot for units less than a parish in status.
William Gallimore was an Overseer of the Parish of Dilhorne and he submits his accounts for 1733 and part of 1734. An extract is shown here;
The minutes of William Gallimore, One of the Overseers of the Parish of Dilhorne for year 1733 & part of 1734 for Henery Hanard In forsbrook (document torn)
Pd Heath 55 weeks pay @ 2/- per week ...................5..10..00
Pd Widow Ash 55 weeks pay @ 1/- per week...........2..15..00
Pd George Wright 55 weeks pay @ 6d per week.......1....7....6
Pd John Gimbett 55 weeks pay @~ 1/- per week.......2..15..00
William goes on to list more recipients of Parish Relief amounting to 10.2.6. At key points in his list he has made dots by the figures where he has laboriously added the amounts in each column.
Another inventory for 1719 was made for John Gill, yeoman. His possessions amounted to just a few pence short of 20 and included 'a tosting iron, 3 pewter candlesticks, 12 trenchers, one fodder bed, one chaff bed, 9 blankets, one cheese press, 3 cows, 1 sterk, 1 calf, 9 bundles of hemp, 1 high crown hat, 2 maslin kettles, 2 smoothing irons, 3 bee hives. The appraisers were John Warrilow and Richard Hammersley.
An examination of a number of these inventories shows how the house was not only a residence but a work place, where families would be for the most part self sufficient.
The name of Amory(or Amrie,Amree,Amerie) appears quite frequently in documents of Forsbrook's past. So it was in 1728 when William Amory, who must have had a social conscience, founded a free school in Blythe Marsh. The school was endowed with over 7 acres of land called Pool Street Meadows. The rent from this land supported the school and the salary of the appointed teacher was augmented by donations from the Buller family, of Dilhorne Hall. The School was built on the site now occupied by the library and police station, and the 3R's were taught to the poor children of Forsbrook, Blythe Marsh/Bridge and Stonehouse. Later, a house, outbuildings, playground and a bath(!) appeared.
The distinction between the local communities was very marked since they were indeed quite separate from each other. Blythe Bridge was a tiny group of cottages centred on Swan Passage, Blythe Marsh consisted of a number of cottages straggling along Uttoxeter road from the junction of Stallington road towards Draycott, and Stonehouse comprised a couple of farm buildings. Forsbrook was a clutch of cottages huddled around The Square, Chapel street and an obvious location-Well street. These were supported by more substantial houses on the fringe of The Square. Pool Street Meadows is a portion of land immediately adjoining the River Blythe and Caverswall road.
The income from this endowment is still applied annually for the benefit of local schools.
During the 18th century the administration of local roads and their upkeep was the concern of the local inhabitants- more especially prominent citizens who were appointed as Trustees. They were empowered to build and maintain the thoroughfares of the locality. In 1762 an Act authorised the turn-piking of the rbad from Blythe Marsh to Thorpe, via Forsbrook, Cheadle, Oakamoor, Cotton, and on to Blore and Thorpe. The financing of this road was made by the Trustees and other investors in lieu of returns from tolls to be levied. In 1770 an allowance of 100 was made towards the repair of the road 'within the Liberty of Forsbrook' on the understanding that a levy on the inhabitants of a sixpenny rate plus a Statute Duty to work for three days to repair the highway. Tolls must have been collected at various points along the route, yet it was not until 1829 that a toll house was built at the junction of Cheadle road and Dilhorne road. This historic building was demolished c1959, much to the annoyance and chagrin of the local inhabitants. An alteration in the line of the road was made approaching the rise at the Boundary. The original road may be seen on the right hand side a few hundred yards below the Red Lion, and it rejoins the present road by the twin trees on the right when descending to Brookhouses.
The turnpike road served Dilhorne for the carriage of coal and the return of limestone. A number of coal mines had been established in the Dilhorne area by this time. The road through Blythe Bridge had been turnpiked some 3 years earlier in 1759. It is entirely possible that the stone bridge was built at the same time bypassing Swan Passage which went into desuetude. Sometime later, six cottages were built near to the Swan Inn, together with a blacksmith's shop. Subject to constant flooding they were eventually demolished Circa 1927 although at least one remained until the late 1950's.
Freedom of worship for Protestant Dissenters was allowed under the Toleration Act of 1689, but all congregations of Non-Conformists were required to register their meeting place with the clerk of the county. In this respect the house of Thomas Heath, Forsbrook, was duly registered at Michaelmas Sessions 1771.
In the opening year of the 19th century the first National Census was held on March 10th 1801. Published figures for Forsbrook give a total of 563. of these, presumably there are a number of Blythe Marsh/Bridge inhabitants though it appears that no separate figures are available. A decade later the census reveals a figure of 1811 including Dilhorne. The continual adherence of Forsbrook to Dilhorne is very evident in many records, but as the 19th century progresses Forsbrook gradually becomes a recognised township in its own right.
In previous items there has been one or two references to a water mill in the parish. At about the turn of the century, c1799, the present mill in Stallington road appeared. However, I am told by the present owner that it replaced an earlier mill which once stood immediately behind the millhouse, which,itself, is an amalgamation of two cottages. The earlier mill apparently was used to grind flint for the growing pottery industry.
The mill in the Forsbrook area would have been at Cresswellford. Mr Stubbs as Headborough was keeping his eye on it in 1742. Although nothing now remains, the site lies exactly one mile as the crow flies from Forsbrook square along Chapel street, through Moor Green and a field footpath points the way directly to the junction of Tickhill lane and Dilhorne road. The location adjoins the present Foxfield railway line near to the crossing.
Perhaps the now unused road between Blackbirch Hollow bend and Dilhorne road would have served for carts going to and fro the two villages.
The population of Forsbrook continued to rise up to the middle of the 19th century and a detailed study of the 1851 Census (see "All who Abode") provides more information. The official figures for the Blythe Marsh, Blythe Bridge, Stonehouses and Bogs (Stallington) areas population was 346, whilst Forsbrook, Cash Heath, New Barn and Fieldhouse amounted to 370, giving a grand total of 716. There were 10 uninhabited houses in the district and 17 persons were absent.
Throughout the 19th century there is a wealth of records and documents to give a clear picture of what was happening in the locality. Poor Relief accounts, Land Tax assessments, Indentures, Workhouse Records, Parish Registers and so on can readily be inspected to provide much material for the researcher. Commercial Directories were printed from the early years of the 19th century and give a detailed description of villages, towns, cities and their inhabitants, private and commercial.
Indenture (a certificate of apprenticeship farmed young persons out to work. The certificate is an impressive document with a coat of arms from the reigning monarch, an imprint of a twopenny stamp and lots of officials signing away a young boy's life. Although the certificate is too lengthy to reproduce the essence of the intention and deed is here below;
... in the Year of our Lord 1800 Witnesseth, That James Dunn and Richard Whitehurst, Church Wardens of the Parish of Dilhorne, in the County of Stafford AND Thomas Heath and Matthew Waller, Overseers of the Poor of the said Parish..... have put and placed.. THOMAS SIMMS, son of RICHARD and ELLEN SIMMS, aged EIGHT years, or thereabouts, a poor child.. apprentice to Samuel Martin Farmer, of the Liberty of Forsebrook.. .to dwell and serve.. until the said apprentice shall accomplish his full age of Twenty one Years.
Signed by B Sneyd JP, H Bateman (?) JP Witnessed by Ralph Bridgett, John Harvey
Also signed by James Dunn and Richard Whitehurst - Church Wardens
Thomas Heath - Overseer, Matthew Waller - Overseer, Samuel Martin
The relief of the poor had been established from early times. Originally it had been the obligation of the church and monasteries, it became the responsibility of the Parish in Tudor times. Local Overseers were then appointed to supervise the administration of funds by local rates.
It seems uncommonly generous of the Overseers of the Poor to contribute towards the cost of a house at the Boundary for Thos Thorley. It is possible that his original dwelling may have been obstructing the path of the turnpike road at Delphouse, when deviations and widening were put in hand.
As the century enters its third decade White's Directory gives a small entry describing Forsbrook and calls it a 'large village' with 'several neat houses occupied by farmers, publicans and tradesmen, but many of its inhabitants are fish-hawkers, who supply the Potteries and other neigh-bouring towns and villages'.
'Blithe Marsh' warrants an entry too, and is described as having inhabitants as 'chiefly earthenware hawkers', a 'free' school and a Methodist chapel. The original Methodist chapel was erected on the Green lane site in 1821. It was replaced by the present building in 1882 at a cost of 800.
In the 1840's both Forsbrook and Blythe Bridge were well served by a number of public houses. Forsbrook with the Bull's Head, Butchers' Arms, Miners Arms and Roebuck whilst Blythe Bridge possessed the Black Cock, Travellers' Inn and Duke William. The Black Cock seemed to be a favourite for in 1842 a Lodge of the Ancient Order of Foresters was established. The Lodge later moved to the newly built Duke of Wellington in 1851, which replaced the Duke William. The patrons of all these establishments would be native to their own locality and it is doubtful if there was any intercourse between the two communities of Forsbrook and Blythe Marsh. Each seemed to be self sufficient in the matter of tradesmen and shops, with an almost exact duplication of various skills, professions and trades.
In 1845 there occurred an event which would have considerable ramifications for Blythe Bridge, which until then, was merely a hamlet. This event may have transformed Forsbrook if the original intention had succeeded. Proposals were made for a railway line to run parallel with Uttoxeter road from the Meir, crossing Caverswall toad near to the millstream bridge, continuing through what is now the school playing fields, crossing Cheadle road by the then church site, maintaining a parallel with the A50, crossing Tater lane then veering across the main road immediately before The Plough.
Forsbrook's future could have radically changed if another scheme had been put into operation. This was a later plan placing the line in an approximation of the existing line but included a branch line leaving the main track immediately after Stallington Crossing, curving around the end of Green Lane, slicing across the A50 near to the Black Cock, across the fields entering Forsbrook - and through the gap between the Roebuck and the Butchers' Arms. The line then followed parallel with Chapel Street and on to Cresswellford, skirting Blakeley Bank, crossed the road at Godley Brook, bypassed Old Engine farm and on to Brookhouses and the terminus at Cheadle.
In any event Blythe Bridge was the locality which was chosen for the station and although Cheadle's prominent citizens were somewhat peeved that their town was not served by the railway, it wasn't until 1901 that a complete line connected the town via a branch from Cresswell through Totmanslow.
In the following years after the opening of the line on August 7th 1848, Blythe Bridge became the fashionable locality for many influential and wealthy patrons who built their Victorian mansions within walking distance of the station. Many famous names in the potterv industry settled in the area and their houses still stand today.
Another development which added importance and dignity to the area was the erection of St. Peter's Church in 1849. Built to serve the areas of Forsbrook, Blythe Marsh and Blythe Bridge it was intended as a 'chapel of ease' and severed an ecclesiastical link with All Saints, Dilhorne. Primitive Methodist's, Forsbrook followed a few years later with the building of their tiny chapel in 1856. St Peter's church was built by public subscription and cost in the region of 2000.
A contemporary report with an appeal for funds states:
'The adjacent Villages of Forsbrook and Blythe-Marsh are situated near the extremity of the Parish of Dilhorne, in the vicinity of the Staffordshire Potteries and Collieries; and, from its connexion with them, the population is rapidly increasing. The occupation of the inhabitants is chiefly that of itinerant Sellers of Pottery, Fish-dealers, and Colliers. The population of the entire Parish is about 1800 Souls; but by far the greatest number of people, collected together in any one locality, there, are congregated in the above two Hamlets, to the number of 800 Souls, at a distance of two miles(on the average) from the Parish Church, and, generally speaking, are in a destitute condition, both morally and physically'.
On January 10th, 1849, the consecration of St. Peter's was performed by the Lord Bishop of the Diocese in the presence of 'numerous attendance of the principal families of the neighbourhood' and about thirty clergymen 'in their gowns'. The collection amounted to 87.1.6.
The press report goes on to say that 'the church has very long been wanted, but owing to the peculiar position of the parish, and the poverty of the inhabitants of the district, it is not without great personal sacrifice that this little place has at last been built and consecrated.'
In 1851, commensurate with the National Census, a count was taken of the congregations in every church and chapel. St. Peter's, Forsbrook, with seating for 300 reported an attendance at Sunday school of 35, with a general afternoon congregation of 95. The wesleyan chapel gave a figure of 22 attending Sunday school, and 28 for the general congregation, out of 140 seats.
A number of churches excused the poor attendance by the inclement weather that was occurring at the' time. of the Census.
In the early 1850's it seems that the Grammar school, founded by Mr Amory was closed and another school was built, presumably the' building that was demolished in recent times which stood behind the church.
The site was acquired by Charles Harvey, a pottery manufacturer and banker who had latterly been living at Longton Hall, where he had a lease for 21 years. The lease was sub-let and Charles Harvey built Blythe House. The mansion was a large building in Tudor style with a tower. The walls were buttressed and large bay windows protruded. Inside the house the visitor entered a large entrance hall with a corridor leading to a morning room, dining room and drawing room. Two kitchens, a 1arder and a dairy supplied the dining room. A grand staircase to the upper floor led into another large corridor with seven bedrooms, a dressing room, saloon and linen room.
In the courtyard at the rear of the house were the stables, coach house, harness room, potting house, wash house and laundry. A cellar stocked with wines and spirits completed the inventory. The residence stood in about 16 acres of grounds and gardens and the approximate area in modern aspeet would consist of the land from the Smithfield to the crossroads, Cheadle road to Caverswall Old road and the footpath on the Caverswall side of the present school playing fields..
The boundary wall is still in existence today along Uttoxeter road and Cheadle road and so is the entrance by the wooden bridge over the mill-stream, together with a vestige of the original garden.
Charles Harvey died in 1860 and was buried in St James' Church, Longton. There is a stained east window to his memory in St. Peter's Church, Forsbrook.
After the death of Charles, his son, William Kenwright Harvey inherited his estate and in a few years he had ruined all that his father had built up. The bank failed and William, chased by his creditors, disappeared with the gold from the bank, leaving debts amounting to 40,000.
The house and all the contents were then sold by a 6-days public auction in September, 1866. The creditors eventually received 5/- in the .
In the second half of the 19th century building in Blythe Bridge proceeded apace, both private and commercial, whereas Forsbrook attracted hardly any development. Such was the attraction of living in the vicinity of the rail-way station.
Henry Walters, a local auctioneer, could see the possibilities when, in 1868, he bought 1925 square yards of land at the bottom of Caverswall road, upon which he promptly built the Smithfield Hotel, and an adjoining sale yard plus stables and offices. Re sold out to Joules Brewery in 1925 but the sale yard continued to flourish until about 1950. Alternate Sundays would see the arrival of horses, cattle and sheep together with dealers from far and wide. A high proportion of sales were concluded in the 'Vaults' at the Smithfield, and for the teetotallers, a small wooden hut served tea and snacks on the opposite side of the road. A branch of National Westminster bank was built at the bottom of Caverswall road to provide financial services. The initial development in late Victorian times was centred on the tongue of land formed by the Grindley lane and Uttoxeter road junction. There also was an attempt by an enterprising builder to develop an 'exclusive' collection of homes on a roadway cut in a semi-circle around the White Cock. To a certain extent he succeeded but Adamthwaite drive today is graced by more than Victorian villas. Other locations favoured by the speculative and custom builder included Caverswall road, Stallington road and Cheadle road. Together with the larger Victorian terrace, Blythe Bridge and the Marsh scored heavily in the building stakes.
Events were happening in Forsbrook, too. A scheme to create a ribbon development in Cheadle road, Chapel street and introduce two new roads cut into the western side of Cheadle road was announced in 1895.
A plan to auction 151 'eligible building plots suitable for villa residences and cottages' apparently became unstuck. The scheme also included a large Victorian House and farm which stood at the top of 'Hillshead - the road which descends into Forsbrook Square. It was't until some 60 years later that this locality would be developed. It now consists of Blythe Mount Park and the houses below together with an extension to Bridgwood road. One of the new roads cut is currently used as access to the Beeches school.
A building that did succeed was a fine Structure. Erected in the early years of the present century. Standing in the gap facing Forsbrook Square, which is apparent today-was the Grimwade Memorial Hall. The family of Grimwade, Potters, saddened by the loss of their young daughter, built a two-storey hall for the benefit of the local residents and to their daughter's memory. The hall was used for a variety of purposes including a cafe, but was demolished in the late 1920's in mysterious circumstances.
With considerable development in the entire area the population grew and the Census of 1901 produced a total of 1900 inhabitants. With more prosperity due to an influx of wealth the parishioners of St. Peter's church found sufficient funds to finance an addition in the form of a north aisle. The foundation stone was laid on June 27th, 1912 at 3.3Opm by the Rev. Edward Sampson MA, Rector of Armitage.
Two years later the onset of Word War I took its quota of men and not all returned. The memorial outside the church lists over 30 men and one woman who gave their lives in the service of the country. The memorial was unveiled by Col. J V Campbell, VC, CMG, DSO, ADC, at a dedication service on Armistice Sunday, November 6th, 1921, at 3pm.
One man who did return from the War as a hero was Sergeant Ernest Albert Egerton, who lived for most of his life in Blythe Marsh. He was awarded the Victoria Cross whilst serving with the 16th Sherwood Foresters. During an action at Passchendaele Ridge on September 20th, 1917, Sergeant Egerton (then Corporal), launched a single handed attack on enemy dugouts. Sergeant Egerton died on February 14th, 1966, aged 68, and was buried with full military honours at St. Peter's, Forsbrook.
The need for more school places was another effect of the increase population so with funds derived from Mr Amory's foundation, In 1878 Marsh school was built next to the chapel in Uttoxeter road. An extract from the School Log Book is reproduced below ;
January 17th, 1881.
'The school at 9 o'clock this morning was very co1d, the fire had only been made half an hour, the ink Was in the wells. The upper standards when writing in their Copy Books had this writing frozen before it would dry and even the ink froze in their pens, and to clean a slate was impossible for if one were wet it was covered with ice before it could be dried. I have spoken severa1 times about the fire being made so short a time before the school opens, but the school keeper takes no notice. I am obliged to let the boys come in turns to warm their hands at the fire'
For 20 years following the Armistice of 1918 it seems that Blythe Bridge and Forsbrook settled into a quiet, introverted existence. Here were two quite insular villages going about their respective business in their own way. With a marvellous mix of social classes, the whole existed almost side by side, with the wealthy industrialists and their families on the one hand, arid the cottagers and ordinary working people on the other. It is very evident that population polarisation happened from the outset, when sites were chosen for the new villas and mansions. Of course, employment 'in service' was readily available and no doubt that is what a lot of local people did.
Although in the late 1920's and early 1930's many working families had a struggle to exist yet at the same time these and the subsequent times were days of the establishment of numerous groups and leisure activities. These were times of charabanc rides, of Sunday School outings, of whist drives, carnivals, amateur theatricals and the Rose Queen and Fete, held annually on the Vicarage lawn. Scouts, Guides, Church Lads Brigade, Girls'. Friendly Society, Mothers' Union, Forsbrook Nursing Association, Men's Society-and others, all occupied the spare time of the local inhabitants; and the driving force was the Church and Chapel. In addition, the two villages supported their own football teams ;-Forsbrook Wanderers and Blythe Bridge United. Not content with all this activity, the gentle game of bowls had been established since the 1890's with a green at the White Cock - and it's still there! Other greens were laid within the compound of Ford's farm and behind the Smithfield Hotel. The bowling green at Ford's was transferred across the road to what is now the NatWest Bank. On the adjoining paddock a tennis court was built together with a pavilion. The latter was the venue for many a function until well into the 1960's. A similar building served many purposes at Forsbrook. The Scout Hut was the rendezvous for meetings, teas and dances for the locals there. The site is now occupied by the Bridgwood road private housing estate.
The well ordered and peaceful village life of the 1930's was soon to be rudely interrupted by an event which transformed the entire country- that of the outbreak of the Second World War, in September 1939.
Village life proceeded in a normal way without any serious disruption and the villages did not suffer any damage from bombardment, apart from one or two stray bombs in the Grindley lane area, possibly aimed at the airfield. The civil aerodrome at Meir (now Meir Park Estate) was opened in May,1934. It was taken over by the RAF as an Elementary Training Unit in 1940. The local skies were filled with trainee pilots in their Miles Magisters and Tiger Moths getting their first taste of flying.
Nearby, an aircraft factory was built and the hangars and sheds dispersed alongside part of Grindley lane... During the war the factory supplied hundreds of Blenheim and Beaufighter 'planes which, when assembled, were towed across Grindley lane from the upper factory (now Mulox) to the air-field for a test flight.
The last Beaufighter was delivered in September 1945,and production ceased. after, the factory was acquired by Creda and Russell Hobbs.
After the war there was a huge demand for houses and Blythe .Bridge as well as Forsbrook absorbed a number of new estates. By the end of 1961 many hundreds of Semi-detached dwellings had made their appearance.
With the additional families moving into the area, history was now repeating itself, and the increase stimulated a need for more schools. In the rnid-1960's the land and grounds of the late lamented Blythe House were acquired by the Staffordshire County Council and the Police station, houses, library, High school and Beeches Junior school followed each other in quick succession. Springcroft school was built in Grindley lane in 1971 and the Marsh Primary added its own Junior school in Stallington lane.
More building took place in the 1970's and at the end of the decade more than 2000 households existed within the Forsbrook Parish with a population in excess of 5000.
A need for a bypass to Blythe Bridge was recognised by the County Council as far back as 1938. The Second World War put a stop to any progress and it was not until 1973 that work commenced. The 3 kilometre dual carriage-way was officially opened on Wednesday, October 1st, 1975 at 3pm. Up to that time the A50 through Blythe Bridge was constantly choked with traffic.
House building in recent times has continued and the latest figures show that the population now exceeds 8000 (Estimated)
Following a 10-year fund raising exercise a Village Hall was built in 1981, although only a part of the proposed complex is completed.
The fate of the railway station awaits a decision from the powers that be. Demolition seems imminent unless a scheme can be found to save the station building erected in 1848.
From the earliest days Forsbrook became a settlement; the perfect example of a nucleated village, whereas Blythe Bridge, due to its situation along the length of the road, became a linear village, absorbing 'The Marsh' and Stonehouses.
Since the building boom of the late 1950's and in more recent years, our two main Villages have long since lost that connotation.
Since the building boom of the late 1950's and in more recent years, our two main Villages have long since lost that connotation. They are now both as one-an amorphous suburban dormitory town with no clear division between the two. At the last estimate in 1989 it is stated that approximately 8000,or more, presently live in the area. This figure is estimated simply because in some officially published tables Blythe Bridge does not exist, and the tables list Forsbrook's population, or rather, the population who live in Forsbrook Parish. This takes no account of the part of Blythe Bridge which is in Fulford Parish, so these inhabitants are lumped with Meir Heath, Fulford etc. The boundary which divides runs from Stallington road Flyover bridge along the footpath to the railway station, traverses Swan Passage behind the Shops, crosses the A50 at the road junction, then meanders up to Catchems's Corner.