Sentinel Street: Stories of life on an ordinary street in the Potteries during the 1920s

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One of the abiding pleasures of our family was to put a plate of breakfast left-overs on the grass outside our chalet and to watch the scraps being devoured by flocks of ravenous herring gulls.


Sports days included sprints, wheelbarrow races and egg and spoon races. The "egg" teetering on your spoon was a pebble from the beach.

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An emcee used a megaphone to instruct the various competitors, one of whom was my mother, who was then a useful sprinter. Every Friday, there was a party in the large, wooden clubhouse at which sports day winners would go up to the stage to received their prizes. I recall winning a plastic Diana F flash camera. These were launched in the early s and often given away as gifts at fairs, but considering that not everyone had a camera in those days, it was quite a reward. Nightly entertainment took place in the camp clubhouse, where campers played musical chairs to the strains of the Gay Gordons and March of the Mods.

Soft drinks, such as Fanta pop, could be bought from the serving hatch, but booze wasn't sold.


Sentinel Street: Stories of life on an ordinary street in the Potteries during the 's eBook: Fred Leigh, Adele Leigh: Kindle Store. Sentinel Street: Stories of life on an ordinary street in the Potteries during the 's St John The Evangelist Oulton Staffordshire & The Potters within.

People often went off-site for a drink, perhaps to the Winkups camp nearby. Most of the entertainment on the camp was homespun, and there would be a weekly fancy dress contest. Your Mum would go and buy some crepe paper from the camp gift shop and concoct a costume for you, or make you a hat out of odds and ends. On one occasion, my sisters and I caught a large number of crabs from the beach nearby, and placed them in buckets of water inside a kitchen cabinet, overnight. The next morning, the family woke up to a surprise, because the crabs had scrambled out of their buckets and were crawling all over the kitchen floor.

These holidays were very basic, and by the time we could afford to stay at Pontin's camps in the s, we thought we'd made it in life!

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It evidently ceased operations c. They were eager to purchase a travel guide, a Renaissance Baedeker in their native language. Art was an expression of civic pride. The facility was certainly an appropriate stage for multifarious events that raised money for the park or for charitable causes. Between and there is a general absence of literary representation of the metropolis.

A screening of the film The Card starring Alec Guinness, Glynis Johns and Valerie Hobson was offered, and although most us had seen the movie before, here was a chance to enjoy it in company as well as to recall one of my favourite holiday resorts: Llandudno in North Wales. The North Shore Beach is only 83 miles away and has long been an attraction for Stokies, so it's no surprise that it was featured in Bennett's novel, The Card. If you've read the novel, Llandudno is where Denry Machin - the titular hero - sells Denry's Chocolate Remedy, a supposed cure for sea-sickness.

A concert on the pier is cancelled due to a severe storm that drives a Norwegian fishing boat towards the shore. Denry manages to board the storm-tossed vessel, masquerading as a press reporter for the Staffordshire Sentinel. The ship is wrecked, but Denry manages to turn the incident to his advantage - and the cover of the Staffordshire Sentinel for August 4th, runs with the story, "Bursley Man in Gallant Sea Rescue - by a Special Correspondent.

Ex-crewmen act as guides and recount the shipwreck story to the public. Llandudno as a holiday resort is faithfully depicted in The Card. There are trips out to Snowdon and the Isle of Man, and there is a glimpse of Professor Codman's Punch and Judy kiosk, which begun operating in Llandudno in This newspaper appears as the Signal in Bennett's novels, but is given its proper name in the film adaptation.

Llandudno has other connections with Stoke-on-Trent, for William Woodall - pottery manufacturer and MP for Burslem - was buried there in It has also been a popular destination for Burslem History Club day-trips, especially when the Victorian weekend is in full swing - our accompanying picture shows Chairman Alan Massey and wife Linda joining in the fun. For two or three years, I took part in an annual charity event involving a relay race from Wolstanton to Llandudno.

The runners in our squad would run a few miles, refresh themselves in our support vehicle and then go out again. As one of the more experienced runners, I would usually clock up about eighteen miles en route, though there was one year when most of us looked weary towards the end, as our bus neared the Little Orme. We runners were asked which of us was up for one last push - up the testing incline below the Little Orme, down the slope and finishing at the town end of the promenade.

Though suffering badly from a knee ligament problem, I couldn't resist the challenge of leading our footsore volunteers over the hill.


You have to understand that madness is in the DNA of the long-distance runner. Once we were on to the magnificent promenade, it took my mind off my injury. One year, I even gave Gemma Whilding a piggy-back as we crossed the finishing line. It never feels as if you are far away from home in Llandudno, because there's the Staffordshire Oatcake Range in Mostyn Street - a must for Stokie holiday-makers craving their oatcake "fix.

You could buy almost anything in the High Street, where services were diverse, ranging from Cyril Bird's gentlemen's tailor and outfitter to a branch of Askey's, "the largest fish, game and poultry dealer in North Staffordshire.

Hanley's Rough Fleet Gang who were notorious before Peaky Blinders terrorised Birmingham

I interviewed Sidney Gibbs' daughter, Mary Frost, in , and she remembered his easy-going nature: "Old ladies used to bring brooches in for him to mend, and he didn't normally charge them. He was very well known for going for little walks in Wolstanton. He'd leave notes on his door - 'back in five minutes' - and he'd normally go to Holdridge's cake shop to buy cakes, or to his friend, Mr Gater, the shoe shopkeeper.

Doris Hurst owned the salon for 39 years, retiring in She recalled that her colleague, Jane, had a very special job - every Friday she would jump in her mini car and fetch fish and chips from the chippy in May Bank. Another major High Street name for decades was Wallbank's the butcher. Many Wolstantonians recollect the family's shop, and when I interviewed Margaret Martin in , she told me: "Wallbank's had an abattoir attached. The butcher would go to Newcastle market every Monday and buy sheep or one or two cows.

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He'd bring them back and place them in a field at the rear of the shop, until he was ready to slaughter them. You could often see the sheep, beyond the gate, as you walked past the top of Grosvenor Place.

A Haunting of Shadows

Sheep in the middle of Wolstanton seems a strange idea, now. I'm fortunate to have in my archive a shopping receipt for October 21st, that shows the prices of a few staple items of shopping bought from Holland's store at , High Street. The store, which offered grocery, bread, confectionery and wines and spirits, was then selling four pounds of sugar for two shillings and ninepence, a pound of mixed biscuits for two shillings and fourpence, half a pound of smoked bacon for two shillings and a pound of onions for sixpence.

My question is, though, could you get cash back?

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There may very well be a correlation between what audiences demand of writers and what they require of speakers; but on the basis that no two audiences are the same, how do you pitch a talk - especially to a new audience - and how much must a speaker be prepared to adapt his content, tone and delivery in order to please those people who are paying him the privilege of listening to him? By the by, what is the difference between a talk and a lecture? I used to feel that I knew the answer to this one, but the reason I ask is that I've witnessed some thought-provoking, well-constructed, and yes, entertaining "talks" as well as some badly-prepared, stiff and windy "lectures" from speakers with no apparent empathy with their audience.

I've been a member of Burslem History Club for the past sixteen years, and have been Speaker Secretary for the last two. The whole, joyous experience has reinforced what I hope is my broad-minded and supportive stance towards speakers. After all, public speaking requires courage, concentration and command of one's material. If you asked me what audiences really want from a speaker, I would reply that after all these years of standing before audiences I still don't have all the answers. Older speakers have offered me their thoughts.

One of my favourite lady speakers, an academic who has lectured in America, holds that public speaking is "theatre. However, perhaps the problem is with serious historians rather than the wider public they purport to inform. In fact, it pays not to be too proprietary about one's product. Publishers of local history exercise much editorial control over their writers - sometimes exposing the latter to unjust criticism by so doing - whilst history speakers usually soon learn whether their material, the fruit of all their obsessions and neuroses, is actually what the audience wants.

My general rule of thumb with audiences is never to patronise. One recalls Tony Blair's address to the Womens' Institute's national conference in when he was slow-hand clapped for his condescending manner. I've learnt much from speaking to WI groups - but even more from speaking to history societies across North Staffordshire. You speak to one of these august groups, thinking that you need to be at the top of your game, rattling off painstakingly-researched stats and facts, glorious nuggets of information - and then you find that some in the audience are nodding off.

It may be hard for some of us to accept, but presenting history in print or through talks is about forming a relationship with one's audience. It's about them, not us. You may well have blindingly-good research skills, impeccable sources and a scientist's precision in dissecting your assembled material - but if you lack the skills to convey your knowledge to a wider audience, and if you cannot give it meaning - then what's the point? However, in trawling through the archives recently, I was interested to chance upon a report of Whit Monday celebrations in The Sentinel of It claimed: "There was more people in Longton Park than in Hanley Park, partly because the Longton Park is looked upon by people in other towns as being 'in the country.

Occasionally, special attractions turned up in Longton Park, such as the captured German guns that appeared in February, However, for those with an eye for the spectacular, the park didn't disappoint. Upon the unveiling of the Sutherland-Aynsley clock tower in , the renowned equilibrist, Blondin - always a great draw with Potteries audiences - went through some death-defying tricks on the tight-rope. The antics of "the old man" - as he was described in the press - were marvellous for "one nearly three score years of age. On the Whit Monday of the Longton Park fete of , Captain Spencer attempted to take to the skies in a gas-fuelled airship, complete with two propellors.

Crowds gathered in anticipation of the ascent of the cylinder-shaped contraption, but notwithstanding the great buzzing of propellors, it failed to get off the ground. The disappointment of the crowds was one thing; but Spencer then had to deflate his balloon, and "the odour of the escaping gas penetrated every corner of the Park. A "local expert" who was watching that day observed that there was insufficient gas in the balloon for it to take off, and that had it got off the ground, it would have drifted pathetically along the ground to the park's clock tower before conking out. However, Spencer was also booked to appear on the Tuesday of the fete, and on that occasion he at least managed lift-off.

In ascending, the underside of his cabin grazed the protective cordon separating him from his audience, and the onlookers ducked as one in consequence. The airborne craft then twisted around several times like a spinning top as Spencer tried to keep its nose to the wind.