In this episode, we explore the unique city of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England. While most English cities have a radial layout, Stoke is linear and consists of six towns: Stoke, Hanley, Tunstall, Longton, Fenton, and Burslem. We delve into the history of these towns and how they grew into larger urban areas during the industrialization period.
Stoke-on-Trent owes its growth to the pottery industry, which became its main source of economic prosperity. Josiah Wedgwood played a significant role in the industry’s development, introducing mass production and dominating the British pottery market. The federation of the six towns into a single county borough in 1910 formed the unified city of Stoke-on-Trent. We also touch upon the unique political nature of the city and its polycentric layout. The episode discusses the absence of major battles in Stoke’s history, except for the 1842 Pottery Riots, which were important in the context of organized protest and trades unionism in Britain. Furthermore, we explore the impact of the pottery industry on Stoke’s workforce and character, its dominance in the region, and the city’s current tourism attractions such as the Wedgwood visitor centre and the Gladstone Pottery Museum.
Additionally, we highlight the contributions of Stoke to science and industry, including Reginald Joseph Mitchell, the designer of the Spitfire aircraft, and Oliver Lodge, who invented the spark plug and played a key role in the early development of radio. Finally, we delve into the city’s musical connections, particularly its famous musical progeny like Robbie Williams and his ties to Burslem.