Tag Archives: Victorian buildings

A Stately Stoke Terrace

Pen and ink drawing of Fenton, artwork by Ronnie Cruwys
Corner of Hitchman Street and Victoria Road, Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent

Hitchman Street holds some interesting connections for me. When I first saw this red brick terrace, I was on my way to to deliver a framed print of an Audlem street to Williams of Audlem. Not knowing anything about the terraces in Fenton, I looked them up when I got home.

I was surprised to find that the land that these houses were built on was purchased in 1765 by the architect William Baker of Audlem. William Baker (‘the first’ as there were a few more to follow) bought ‘the estate and manor of Fenton Culvert, together with pottery, for his second son William Baker II’ (extract from Stoke Council’s conservation area appraisal). However, it was some generations later when William Meath Baker, the great grandson of the first William, commissioned these terraces. It’s all explained in the conservation appraisal.

William Meath Baker had inherited the Baker Pottery nearby and built these houses (and many others) to provide accommodation on a philanthropic model for the workers associated with the Baker Pottery.

red brick terrace in Fenton Stoke on Trent drawn by artist Ronnie Cruwys
Hitchman Street, Fenton

The Baker Pottery has gone now, but the kilns remain.

Baker Pottery Kilns visible from Victoria Road
Pen and ink drwing of Victorian terracotta tile rosettes
Another example of the terracotta tiles on the gables.

Looking up these old threads, it never fails to unearth other connections. When I worked as a conservation architect in Stafford, I spent ten years as part of the team looking after the repair and upkeep of the grade 1 listed Chillington Hall, the south wing which was designed by Francis Smith of Warwick in 1724. Francis Smith was the celebrity architect of the Midlands in his day and it turns out that one of Smith’s pupils was the young William Baker of Audlem, learning from the master.

I’d like to think that an appreciation of good design has been passed down the generations. It certainly  shows up here in these terraces.

To see the drawings in full as well as a few more tile sketches, please visit www.drawingthestreet.co.uk

Thanks for reading,



And the Sixth town is Fenton

Fenton is one of the six towns of the Potteries, Stoke-on Trent. It’s the one that wasn’t included in the writing by Arnold Bennett. Many of you will know that Stoke is currently in the run up towards the bid for the City of Culture 2021 so I thought I could play a small part and share some of the architecture of the Sixth Town that may fall under the radar.

pencil sketch of architecture in fenton Stoke on trent
Sketching out brick and tiled gables on Victoria Road, Fenton

Driving along Victoria Road, Fenton last year, a row of dark red brick houses caught my eye and I pulled over to take a better look. It turns out that there’s quite a surprising tale of connections for me behind the history of these buildings but more on that next time.

So, fresh from the drawing board, some work in progress pictures of Victoria Road in the Hitchman Street Conservation area, Fenton.

This is a row of terraced houses built on a philanthropic model for pottery workers towards the end of the 19th century. There is a comprehensive write up about the history of the conservation area here.

Look closely at the gables and there are some wonderful terracotta tile patterns.

The thought that has gone into the design of the fronts is consistent, balanced and although intricate, it all adds up to a really attractive terrace.

pen and ink drawing of Fenton Stoke on Trent
                            Ink on paper underway on 36 and 38 Victoria Road.                                           

Back to the drawing now and more about this next time.

Thanks for reading,


Tile Anorak

I’ve been keeping my eyes out for terracotta tiles which jazz up the fronts of late Victorian buildings and have begun to sketch and record them – their patterns and dates if provided. I had a hunch that they might give me a means to map connections with times and places.

Yesterday I was sketching in Islington, first along the Hornsey Road and then along Upper Street when I looked up and saw the very same tiles that I had sketched on a primary school in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Terracotta tiles
246 Upper Street, Islington

Yes, I’ve turned into a tile anorak…

However, the above sketches are the tiles which I drew from Hassell St School:

Victorian terracotta tiles, Newcastle under Lyme
Hassell St School, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire

I’d love to know where these tiles were made. One source could be Blashfield’s

Another could be Gibbs and Canning of Tamworth.

Either way, the primary school in Newcastle-under-Lyme seems to have been ahead of the ornamental facade game by a few years – go ‘Castle!

Seen any tiles near you? Send me a pic with the location and any other info and I’ll add it to the log.

Thanks for reading and happy Friday wherever you are.



Terracotta Trail

Pen and ink stetch of terracotta tile newcastle Staffordshire Cruwys
Terracotta tile, King Street, Newcastle under Lyme

Last summer, I sketched a Victorian building in Newcastle-under-Lyme. This was a fine example with plenty of details , especially the terracotta tiles. Terracotta means ‘fired earth’ -and describes a form of  moulded clay masonry of a finer quality than standard bricks.

Sketching the building as a whole meant losing some of the finer details so I took a bit more time to draw these ornamental  terracotta tiles.

A month or so later, I was sketching in London and spotted these tiles on Cross St., Islington.

Cross St Islington.jpg

The following month I noticed more tiles on The Swimmer, the pub around the corner from where our son lives off the Holloway Road.

The Swimmer sketchbook.jpg

The Swimmer sketchbook2.jpg

It was then that I decided to keep a drawn record of all the architectural terracotta tiles that I come across whilst sketching and drawing the street as they form a quiet signature of a time and place. Looking into these tiles a little further, I read that ‘by the 1860s a number of eminent English architects had recognised terracotta’s value for mass-producing ornament and fine masonry by casting from an original, combining new technology with traditional craftsmanship’. Read more about this here

I thought I would make a start by sharing these sketched examples. The sketch below was a postcard original of the Swimmer tiles for a recent fund raiser for Shape Arts


Finally, I will sign off with this one sketched today – a collage of tiles from a local school – Hassell Primary, Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Hassell School tile 4.jpg

Thanks for reading,