Smallthorne, along with Sneyd Green, are two of Stoke-on-Trent’s oldest villages, and as befits such a status, the inhabitants of places of such long-standing demonstrate certain characteristics, such as loyalty, longevity and permanence, qualities which are not always so valued in the disposable, here today, gone tomorrow wider world. And I have close affinity to both, spending the first twelve years of my life living in Smallthorne at the bottom of Nettlebank, and going to junior school in Sneyd Green. There are even distinctions made between those living in certain areas of the same locality, such as “Smotherners” and “Nettlebonkers”; friendly rivalries, but rivalries nonetheless, and ones which are replicated elsewhere throughout the city.
Stoke-on-Trent looking back was always a close-knit, parochial place and remains so to this day. It’s houses often display a certain demureness of style and like to flaunt the products on which North Staffordshire’s fame was built; in a nutshell, ceramics everywhere. The whole city is highly evocative, particularly of its proud and independent past, even if the area’s ceramic industry and supporting coal industry have long since faded into obsolescence. The Clean Air Act, the reclaiming of the coal slag heaps, the disappearance of Shelton Bar has all altered the environmental landscape of the city in such a way as to leave it almost unrecognisable from the city it was at the time, say, of the Second World War.
The people of the Potteries remember their neighbours and colleagues decades later, and I recall a couple of instances of the qualities mentioned higher up. Two doors down the avenue where I grew up in a house built shortly after the end of the First World War, there lived a family whose head, Fred Bailey, had moved in as a toddler in 1921, and who lived there boy and man ever since until he passed away about 10 years ago. Similarly, in Sneyd Street, Sneyd Green, a man called Roy Harrison who worked with my father in the British Ceramic Research Association in Penkhull all his life, lived in a rather incongruous-looking farmhouse in Sneyd Street from 1933 until his passing in 2011 and, born in the late 1920’s, he even spent the first few years of his life in a cottage lower down the same street. Both properties being indicative of the former rural nature of the area.
These people are typical of the timelessness of Stoke-on-Trent and its mainly unconsciously deeply-held eternal truths; the citizens of Stoke-on-Trent know that those who are rooted in their own soil and their own backyard endure.
[Featured Image Stoke Sentinel]