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.
Interwoven Initials W M B
Terracotta date stone on gable on Victoria Road
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.
The Baker Pottery has gone now, but the kilns remain.
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.
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.
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.
Back to the drawing now and more about this next time.
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.
Yes, I’ve turned into a tile anorak…
Terracotta tiles on Upper St. Islington
terracotta tiles on Upper St Islington
However, the above sketches are the tiles which I drew from Hassell St School:
I’d love to know where these tiles were made. One source could be Blashfield’s
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.
Terracotta tile, King St, Newcastle under Lyme
Terracotta tile, King St, Newcastle under Lyme
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.
The following month I noticed more tiles on The Swimmer, the pub around the corner from where our son lives off the Holloway Road.
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.