Burslem Town Hall
Burslemite, industrialist, philanthropist, art-lover, civic leader, designer... If there is anybody who, to this day, is qualified to be known as Mr Burslem, it would have to be Enoch Wood. Historian Fred Hughes argues his case.
Almost single-handedly, Enoch Wood raised the civic aspirations and dignity of the small industrial town of Burslem, one of the six towns which now make up Stoke on Trent, to make it a formidable administrative force within its county.
Indeed, had it not been for the Federation of the Potteries in 1910, there is little doubt that Burslem would have flourished independently as a county borough, and profited from the unique heritage and arts centre that Wood created - that is the town itself - and just think - Burslem as an entire working visitor and arts centre!
During the years of his administration, the population of Burslem rose from 5,000 inhabitants to 22,000 permanent residents. No small feat; and indicative of one man's determination and desire to put his town on the map!
Of course, outside the Potteries, he is probably best remembered as a great pottery modeller, an icon of ceramic design.
His work today can be seen in the fabulous collection held in the Potteries Museum and visually in the permanent massive display in London's Victoria & Albert galleries.
A great bulk of his work was purchased by the Dresden Museum in Germany but has sadly been lost in wartime Europe.
In addition to his internationally acknowledged skills and talents, the people of Burslem have cause to give much thanks to Wood as the man who was a generous benefactor, and a major provider of employment for generations; the long-term curator of the Anglican church of St. John, as well as being a friend, disciple and patron of John Wesley and many other giants of the Industrial Revolution.
He contributed greatly in financing the erection of Burslem's first town hall. It was he who turned on Burslem's fresh-water taps by building his famous spring-fountain in the town square, thus saving many townsfolk from certain death by cholera.
He was an owner of collieries and built houses for his employees. He was a prominent industrial inventor and he patented an air-pump to serve his mines in Bycars and Hamil, a life-saver that was given full use throughout the Midlands and Northern coalfields.
Art-lover and collector
He financed education for the children of his operatives and he initiated Burslem's first school of art.
He collected antique artifacts out of which the town formed its grand museum, later to be absorbed as the antiquarian core to the Stoke on Trent Museum.
He saw the need for civic leadership and created Burslem's first police force - Burslem Association for the Prosecution of Felons.
Because of his lifelong dedicated work to the town where he was born in 1759, Burslem grew to hold a formidable presence in the new industrial towns of the north.
During his lifetime Burslem was a stronger and more populous town than any of the other famous five. And yet it was the other towns who enviously copied the developments that Enoch Wood had laid down in design, civic administration, architecture and facilities.
He wasn't just Mr Burslem, he was a giant of Stoke on Trent - a great and respected Staffordshire personality. At his death in 1840 the town came to a halt in mourning for a full week.
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last updated: 10/12/2008 at 10:07