Bear jug

A wonderfully archaic Staffordshire -style bear-jug, complete with cover. Recently sold at auction and dated to the mid 18th century in either Staffordshire or Derbyshire. 16 inches high.


Trubshaw Cross

An interesting new article from historian Fred Hughes, on Trubshaw Cross, between Dalehall and Longport [Longbridge] in Stoke-on-Trent…

“Trubshaw Cross is one of Stoke on Trent’s major gateways. It’s where Percy Adams gave us a glimpse of an ancient world where the packhorse was once king of the road.”

Now the area’s modern bits are mostly demolished. In 1624 the Cross was described as the terminus of the Moorlands and Peak packhorse routes headed across the Fowlea for the London Road…

“a great passage out of the north parts unto diverse market towns”.

Trubshaw Cross is a place which is featured in the first chapter of my novel The Spyders of Burslem. Fred interestingly notes an antiquarian dating of the cross base…

“[Percy] Adams identified the stone base as being of Saxon origin” […] “the historian John Ward Ward notes in 1843 that only the stone base remained”.

Fred seems to imply there’s a threat that the cross’s traffic island might be removed. In which case, if it is Anglo-Saxon (as seems likely from the ancient age of the site and the old documentation), then it might be interesting to first do a proper deep archaeological dig on the site of the whole island. Perhaps nearby Steelite might sponsor that?

Sir Oliver Lodge exhibition

Just spotted news of a must-see Staffs Uni Science Centre exhibition. The “Spirit of Radio Exhibition” is on the life and work of the Stoke inventor Sir Oliver Lodge (1851-1940). Lodge was the pioneering inventor on whom I loosely based Miss Merryweather Craft, in my novel The Spyders of Burslem. The exhibition runs from 19th March – 22th April 2013.

Interestingly, there is a further parallel between Lodge and my novel’s Miss Craft, although I’m not sure how much the exhibition will feature of that side of Lodge…

“For many years, Lodge had been investigating psychic phenomena…”

It’s interesting that the traditional historical mingling of science and superstition could persist right into the 20th century. There’s a fascinating book-length history of such unexpected co-minglings, Techgnosis.

Robert Bateman (1842–1922)

It’s good to hear that the local historian Nigel Daly is to publish a book on the life and work of the North Staffordshire artist Robert Bateman, one the the “last romantics” in the school of Burne-Jones, and also one of the Bateman family sired by botanist and garden designer James Bateman (Biddulph Grange). Nigel wants to locate images of Robert Bateman’s large major oil painting “Saul and the Witch of Endor”, given into the trust of the Potteries Museum — but since mislaid. It was last heard of in Longton Town Hall in the early 1950s. If you know anything of it, please contact Nigel at:

robert bateman Three Women Plucking Mandrakes
Above: Robert Bateman, “Three Women Plucking Mandrakes”. The mandrake root was reputed to produce a deadly scream when plucked from the earth, and the root has accumulated many strange superstitions over the centuries. Picture: Wellcome Trust collection.