This blog is devoted to images and recollections of Leek and the surrounding Staffordshire Moorlands from years gone by. I hope you find it interesting. If you have anything to add, please use the comment window or you can email me on

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Rural guide turns the clock back sixty years

A peaceful scene in the centre of Longnor, which a cyclist taking a breather outside the Horse Shoe Inn on the right.  Another Longnor hostelry, the Crewe & Harpur Arms – then in its seventh decade in the care of the Gould family – took a page in the guide to advertise the delights of a good cellar, early morning tea and electric lights.

A fascinating glimpse of rural life in the Moorlands as it was nearly sixty years ago is revealed in the pages of a humble booklet, Leek Rural District, a guide to area as officially authorised by the old Leek RDC back in 1952.

With brief descriptions of the district’s villages and its chief attractions, as well as many photographs of countryside scenes, this slim one-shilling volume harks back to the days when the moorlands were served by the railways, hotels boasted of rooms with electric lighting and Rudyard still had its own open air swimming pool.

Setting the scene in “one of the loveliest zones of the county,” the booklet sings the praises of both Leek – “famous silk town” – and the many quaint villages built from native-hewn stone. A land of crystal waterways and solitary stretches of moorland  where grouse a lapwing flourished.

Describing Leek town itself, the booklet reminds us of a textile heritage which for years had been the town’s biggest employer – but which within two decades would begin a near-terminal decline.

“Leek, of course, is the silk town par excellence, but there are other light industries such as the making of braids, bindings and all the important textile smallwares and dyeing.

“Leek is clean and salubrious, residential even, despite its factories, with lovely country within sight. It has good Georgian houses and pretty cottages. If Leek had not made its name familiar by developing its industries, then it would have earned for itself a place in the sun as a health resort and holiday centre.”

The guide continues to explain that British Railways served Leek and its rural district by the Manchester-Uttoxeter and Leek to Stoke on Trent Lines. The district was also served by several bus companies including the North Western Bus Co, the Potteries Motor Traction Co, Milton Bus Co, Brown’s Bus Co as well as other private firms.

On a general note we learn that the Leek Rural District – which in those days included Norton and Baddeley Green before they were transferred into Stoke on Trent in the Sixties – had an area of 72,623 acres, an estimated population of 16,834 with council rates at 13s 6d in the £. Both electricity and gas were available and the Staffordshire Potteries Water Board supplied water in some parishes with “wells and two small schemes” for the remainder.

Although the area remains as attractive as ever, Leek Rural District ceased to exist in the local government reorganisation of the early Seventies, joining with Leek Urban, Cheadle Rural and Biddulph Urban councils to form the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.

Baddeley Green Motor Co, pictured in 1952, was replaced by a petrol filling station in the early Seventies. In the Fifties, Baddeley Green, then part of Norton in the Moors parish, was at the western edge of the Leek Rural District.


Endon’s two hostelries, The Plough and The Black Horse were both featured in the 1952 guide. At The Plough, kept by HV and F Hill in those days, we can see the mural of village life which, over the years, has undergone several repaintings. At the Black Horse, busiest at the village’s annual well dressing weekend, lunches were available – provided you gave sufficient warning!

Freshwater open air swimming pool, on the Macclesfield Road at Pool End, was still a big attraction in the 1950’s, with the added attractions of music and refreshments, according to its advertisement.

Ilam Cross in the middle of one of the Moorland’s most-visited villages here provides a suitable resting spot for a group of cyclists.

Looking out over Leek from fields beside Ladderedge. These were the days when there was still farmland where today we find Westwood Golf Club, the Wallbridge housing estate and the Barnfields Industrial Estate in the bottom of the valley.

Tom Cooper of Elkstones was typical of the small local bus companies which served the district in the Fifties – thankfully some of those family firms remain.

Upperhulme village with Hen Cloud in the background.

The Green, Wetton, in the early Fifties. The Olde Royal Oak is to the left with St Margaret’s Church in the background.Since posting this I have been contacted by local resident Les Gray who has kindly provided some extra information: "The large dark item sitting on the village green, is a horse drawn snow plough. Just left there for use in winter as and when, when horses stopped being used the same implement was tractor drawn.
It's made in a 'v' shape out of thick wood. Standing behind it is I think  a horse drawn hey making machine of some sort."

Rock Hall – one of rights of the Roaches for more than a century.

Brown Edge businessman Herbert Bourne – who became a prominent member of the rural council – featured his removal and taxi firm in the guide, as did the well-known Leek firm of Norman Ferns.