Speaking tubes in North Staffordshire

An interesting sidelight on my portrayal of pneumatic speaking tubes in Burslem, in my novel The Spyders of Burslem. It seems such tubes were in use on the area, and over long distances, if only in the late 1600s. Around the year 1690 the Elers [redware potters] briefly settled in Bradwell Woods, near Burslem, to take advantage of the fine red clay there, and had…

“…a speaking-tube made of earthenware pipes, which they laid across the mile separating Dimsdale Hall and Bradwell Wood, and through which they conversed.” — “The Romance Of Old China: The Elers’ And Their Wares”, by Mrs. Willoughby Hodgson, circa 1910.

The earliest mention of this tube I can find via online methods is from The Athenaeum journal (1892). An account of a discovery of part of the tube was given in the book Staffordshire Pots and Potters (1906), which also gave an illustration of the tube sections found…

“The story was for many years received with amused tolerance as an old wife’s tale, more or less mythical, until accident revealed the actual existence of the pipes. […] William Wall, who afterwards became a builder, and was employed, during the year 1900, by a company of brewers to make certain alterations in a tavern called the “Bradwell House,” standing on the site of the Elerses’ pottery. […] during the excavations, in removing a wall, a number of pipes were found, together with a kind of cup, having no handle or bottom, evidently used for an ear or mouthpiece. […] They are at present exhibited in the Hanley Museum.”


One comment on “Speaking tubes in North Staffordshire

  1. […] Old Pottery Kiln, Bradwell Wood”, by Unknown Artist. If this was an on-the-spot painting of the short-lived Elers’ pottery then it would be from circa […]

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