Coordinates: 53°02′33″N 2°11′16″W / 53.042621°N 2.187889°W / 53.042621; -2.187889

Burslem is located in Staffordshire

 Burslem shown within Staffordshire
Population 14,303 
OS grid reference SJ875495
Unitary authority Stoke-on-Trent
Ceremonial county Staffordshire
Region West Midlands
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Stoke-On-Trent
Postcode district ST5
Dialling code 01782
Police Staffordshire
Fire Staffordshire
Ambulance West Midlands
EU Parliament West Midlands
UK Parliament Stoke-on-Trent North
List of places: UK • England • Staffordshire

The town of Burslem, known as the Mother Town, is one of the six towns that amalgamated to form the current city of Stoke-on-Trent, in the ceremonial county of Staffordshire, in the Midlands of England.



Burslem is sited on the eastern ridge of the Fowlea Valley, the Fowlea being one of the main early tributaries of the River Trent. Burslem embraces the areas of Middleport, Dalehall, Longport, Westport, Trubshaw Cross, and Brownhills. The Trent & Mersey Canal cuts through, to the west and south of the town centre. A little further west, the West Coast Main Line railway and the A500 road run in parallel, forming a distinct boundary between Burslem and the abutting middle-class town of Newcastle-under-Lyme. To the south is Grange Park and Festival Park, reclaimed by the Stoke-on-Trent Garden Festival.


The Domesday Book shows Burslem as a small farming hamlet; strategically sited above a vital ford (crossing) at Longport, part of the major pack horse track out of the Peak District and Staffordshire Moorlands to the Liverpool/London road. As far back as the late 12th century a thriving pottery industry existed, based on the fine & abundant local clays. After the Black Death, Burslem emerges in the records as a medieval town - the 1536 stone church is still standing and in use. Until the mid-1760s Burslem was relatively cut off from the rest of England; it had no navigable river nearby, and there were no good & reliable roads. By 1777 the Trent and Mersey Canal was nearing completion, and the roads had markedly improved. The town boomed on the back of fine pottery production & canals, and became known as 'The Mother Town' of the six towns that make up the city. In 1910 the town was federated into the county borough of Stoke-on-Trent, and the borough was granted city status in 1925.

The famous novels of Arnold Bennett evoke the feel of Victorian Burslem, with its many potteries, mines, and working canal barges. The Burslem of the 1930s to the 1980s is evoked by the paintings and plays of Arthur Berry.

Burslem contains Britain's last real working industrial district (i.e.: where people live within walking distance of the factories of a single heavy industry - in this case, the potteries); and thus much of the nineteenth-century industrial heritage, buildings & character have survived intact.

Disused Bottle ovens of Acme Marls on Bourne's Bank, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, with St. John's Church, Woodbank Street, in the background whose sandstone tower dates from 1536, May 2008

A recent report suggested the concentration of pottery-based heritage makes the area the richest stretch of canal for industrial heritage in England.

Trade journals

"BURSLEM, an ancient town, with a market held for a long period by custom, and subsequently sanctioned by an act of parliament, is about three miles from Newcastle and two from Hanley, entitled to the precedence of other towns in this district, as claiming to be the mother, as it is the metropolis, of the Staffordshire Potteries." 1828 journal

"In the Doomsday Survey - for even in that early date Burslem was a place of some importance - the town appears, as "Burwardeslyn;" and frequent mention is made of it in ancient documents during the Middle Ages." 1893 journal

In 2007 Burslem saw a social enterprise newspaper, Local Edition, become one of the first newspapers to cover the area regularly. The newspaper covered Burslem, as well as surrounding areas including Tunstall, Middleport and Cobridge, giving a voice to the people in the community. The newspaper ceased publication in 2008 and its archive is online at localedition.org.uk.

Population and housing

At the 1991 census count, the population of Burslem was 21,400. A study by consultants Atkins, working from the United Kingdom Census 2001 data, showed that the Burslem population is steady and has not declined despite a manufacturing decline during the 1980s and '90s.

Traditional Victorian architecture & Edwardian period terraced houses dominate the town. New housing developments are underway on the Sadlers Factory site and around Woodbank Street.

Heavy industrial employment (mines, steel & pots) has left a legacy of ill-health among many older people, but there is the Haywood Hospital (High Lane, Burslem) and the new £300-million University Hospital of North Staffordshire is just three miles away by road.

Burslem is a multicultural area of Stoke-on-Trent with a significant Asian population.


Industrial scale pottery production has drastically declined since the 1970s; but specialist makers (Steelite) and smaller producers of high-value ceramics (Burleigh, Wade, Moorcroft) are thriving. Burslem is emerging as a centre for small, freelance creative businesses working in sectors such as fine art, animation and crafts as well as pottery.

Shopping options in the town centre have markedly declined, hit by the impact of nearby out-of-town retail parks that offer free parking. However, the evening economy is still active with a wide range of bars and restaurants mainly serving English and Indian food. The Leopard Inn, on Market Place, has become internationally well-known following its appearance on Most Haunted in 2007.

At Spring 2002 unemployment was running at 4.1 percent or 1,526 people in the Stoke-on-Trent North constituency; almost the same rate as the West Midlands as a whole. In Burslem at 2001 unemployment was 3.2 percent and declining.

In 2005, £2-million of new business park units for the creative industries was announced for the town. New business parks are planned for 2006/7 just to the north (Chatterley Valley, £40m+) and the south (Etruria Valley, £100m+) of the town.


Around 5 million tourists visit Stoke-on-Trent each year, supporting around 4,400 direct jobs. Stoke shows its popularity through the number of repeat visits; around 80 percent of visitors have previously been here. Burslem has a variety of strong tourist attractions; Burleigh, Moorcroft, Ceramica, Festival Park, its many authentic English pubs, and the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Clayhanger Street, Burslem, by the side of the Wedgwood Institute showing the clock tower of Burslem Town Hall in the background, May 2008

It also has the legacy of novelist Arnold Bennett, who refers to the town and many of its streets with thinly-disguised names: e.g. Burslem/"Bursley", Swan(Square and Pub)/"Duck". It is the setting for one of his most famous works, the Clayhanger trilogy. Burslem's centre benefits from having an almost-intact medieval street-plan and countless fine old buildings, and a townscape which almost-totally escaped re-development during the 1960s and '70s.

After being under-used for years, the Burslem School of Art has been refurbished at a cost of £2.1m and offers several large free art galleries. The free Public Library is currently based in the School of Art, after the Venetian Gothic Wedgwood Institute closed for safety reasons early in 2009. Ceramica is a new award-winning ceramics family attraction, based in the imposing old Town Hall and funded by Millennium Lottery money. The Queen's Theatre has regular concerts and an annual pantomime.

There is a traditional Friday street market, and street carnivals in May and December.


The major football club Port Vale F.C. is based in Burslem at Vale Park. The team currently plays in the nPower League 2, England's fourth division.

Near to the town is Burslem Golf Club - a 9-hole course which once had singer Robbie Williams as a Junior Captain. It was opened on September 28, 1907 by vaudeville entertainer and golfer Sir Harry Lauder. On September 29, 2007 his great-nephew Gregory Lauder-Frost as guest-of-honour rededicated it for another century in a formal ceremony.[1]


Burslem is the site of the main campus of Stoke-on-Trent College, the largest Further Education college in England. The campus specialises in media-production and drama. Within a six mile radius from Burslem there are three universities; Staffordshire at Shelton, Keele University, and Manchester Metropolitan's large Art & Design campus at Alsager.

The environment

The town is elevated and is not prone to flooding.

Burslem has a Victorian park designed by Thomas Hayton Mawson, and a large amount of reclaimed green space, such as the Westport Lakes and the later legacy of the 1986 National Garden Festival, which imaginatively reclaimed part of the Shelton Bar steelworks site. The Peak District National Park begins just ten miles north-east of Burslem.


The nearby A500 gives access to the M6 motorway. Longport railway station offers direct connections south into Stoke, east to Derby and Nottingham, and north to Crewe & Manchester. The town is straddled by two major off-road cycle paths, part of the National Cycle Network. The Trent and Mersey canal is said to see over 10,000 narrowboats a year using it.

The nearest international airports are Manchester & Birmingham International; each is about 60 minutes away by train.

Burslem was served by a railway station which was opened by the North Staffordshire Railway on November 1, 1873.

Notable people

Possibly Burslem's most famous son is Robbie Williams, who is a major shareholder in Port Vale. His family are still resident in the area.

Other notable figures include the watercolour painter James Holland (1800–1870); the potter Josiah Wedgwood; the founder, bassist and lead singer of one of Britain's foremost rock bands - Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister of Motörhead - he was born and spent his early childhood in the town; and Darts legend and 15-time world champion, Phil Taylor who was born, raised and also worked in the town.

In the 17th century, Molly Leigh was resident of the town before being accused of being a witch and dying before her trial.

William Frederick Horry owned the George Hotel in the 1860s before murdering his wife Jane at his fathers house in Boston Lincolnshire....despite pleas for clemency he was hanged at Lincoln Castle April 1st 1872 and his body interred with other executed felons in the interior of the Castles Lucy Tower where it can still be seen.

In popular culture

George Fomby's first sound film, Boots! Boots!, got its world premiere in Burslem in 1934.

The film adaptation of Arnold Bennett's The Card was partly filmed on location in the town.

Robbie Williams published a song, Burslem Normals in "Rudebox" (album), released in 2006. A short film, "Goodbye to the Normals" was made.

A song "Waterloo Road" performed by Jason Crest was written (by Mike Deighan and Mike Wilsh) about the Waterloo Road in Burslem. The song became very popular and even reached #1 in France when the French singer, Joe Dassin, covered it under the title, "Les Champs Élysées".

The town is the setting for several novels, including: the historical mystery novel set in 1869, The Spyders of Burslem (2011); and the dark fantasy novel Necromantra (2005).

See also


  1. ^ The Sentinel (Staffordshire) (newspaper), Stoke-on-Trent, October 4, 2007, p. 47 (includes photo).

External links

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