Kidsgrove

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Date:1086 - 2015 (c.)

Description:Kidsgrove is situated north-west of The Potteries on the border with Cheshire. It is a former coal mining village, which grew into a small industrial town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is famous as the location of the Harecastle tunnels on the Trent and Mersey Canal.

The name Kidsgrove is thought to derive from a British dialect word ‘crew’ meaning a pen, sty or stall. So the meaning is thought to be ‘the place of the stall of the calves’. Until about 200 years ago Kidsgrove was known as Kid Crew but in the late 18th century, the element ‘crew’ was replaced by ‘grove’.

Kidsgrove’s development is owed to the impact of the Industrial Revolution in terms of both transport and industry. First the building of the Trent and Mersey Canal, begun in 1776, offered the means to transport both natural and manufactured products in and out of the Potteries. James Brindley, the great canal engineer, was the master mind. It was Brindley who designed and built the smaller of the two Harecastle tunnels through Harecastle Hill at Kidsgrove. This task took eleven years to complete and presented enormous difficulties. However the work to create the tunnel also led to the discovery of coal in the area and resulted in the fairly swift and simultaneous development of coal mining in the area. The increasing volume of freight traffic on the Trent and Mersey Canal led to the construction of a second tunnel at Harecastle to help to relieve the congestion. This was engineered by Thomas Telford between 1824 and 1827.

The purchase of the Clough Hall estate by Thomas Kinnersly in 1818 was a second and very significant milestone in Kidsgrove’s development. Kinnersly was a wealthy Newcastle banker. However his purchase of the estate led him in other directions. He extended the existing collieries in Kidsgrove and began to open up new pits. The development of ironworking was to be a natural extension of Kinnersly’s business interests, resulting eventually in the commencement of production of iron at Birchenwood in 1838.

Both Kinnersly’s collieries and his ironworks were managed for him by Robert Heath. It was Robert Heath’s son, another Robert, who eventually purchased the Clough Hall coal and iron businesses in 1887, some years after the death of Thomas Kinnersly’s widow. Heath closed the ironworks in 1894, transferring production to his own ironworks at Biddulph Valley. However he built coke ovens at Birchenwood and the colliery became a major supplier of coke for his ironworks at Biddulph. In the early 20th century Birchenwood grew into a huge industrial undertaking.

The 20th century saw the gradual decline of coal production in Kidsgrove. The Birchenwood Gas and Coke Company continued to produce coke and chemicals but production ceased in 1973.

The parish church of St Thomas was built in 1837 and is said to have been designed by Mrs Kinnersly, the wife of Thomas Kinnersly. It is of Staffordshire blue brick. Kinnersly also encouraged education establishing a large day school built in 1839. The Revd Frederick Wade, installed as the vicar of Kidsgrove by Kinnersly, did much to improve the level of education among working children through his Sunday schools. The number of elementary schools increased in the later 19th and 20th centuries.

In 1899 Clough Hall was acquired by a consortium of businessmen with the aim of developing it as a public pleasure garden and attraction. It was opened in 1890 but by 1905 had closed. The hall was demolished in 1927 and a housing estate has been built in the ground.

By the 1960s Kidsgrove was described as a ‘very largely modern town of comparatively recent development’. This was an allusion to the fact that by then much of the old unsatisfactory housing for industrial workers had been demolished and replaced.

Kidsgrove has another claim to fame, its own apparition known at the Kidsgrove Boggart, a headless apparition of a woman murdered on the canal tunnels.

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