Staffordshire is the middle of Middle England - roughly halfway between Birmingham and Manchester. Generally speaking, it's the kind of place you travel through rather than go out of your way to visit, but Staffordshire's more redeeming features include some pleasant rather than spectacular countryside, house prices that represent excellent value for money, and arguably the best beer in Great Britain.
The Bare Facts
Staffordshire is bordered by Shropshire to the west, Cheshire to the north-west, Derbyshire to the north-east and Worcestershire and the West Midlands to the south. One of England's greatest rivers, the River Trent, rises on Biddulph Moor and after passing through Stoke-on-Trent runs south-east to the confluence with the River Sow at Great Haywood (just south-east of Stafford) which is where it first attains any significant size, before heading east to Burton-on-Trent and out to sea via the East Midlands, Lincolnshire, and the River Humber.
Also here mention central location on all transport networks: first the canals - Trent & Mersey (and Middlewich Arm), Caldon, Staffordshire & Worcestershire - then the railway (the West Coast main line passes through Staffordshire on its way from London and Birmingham to Liverpool, Manchester, North Wales, the North West and Scotland. Motorways - M6 and M6 toll, M42, and the A50 linking Stoke with Derby and the M1.
Some Other Bits You Might Like To Know
The symbol of the county is the Staffordshire Knot, which looks like a pretzel made with a rope. This comes from a pre-conquest Mercian monument in a church yard in the town of Stone.
Any nuggets on anything else appreciated! This will get re-organised as news comes in.
- (this bit nicked from Skankyrich's Devon entry - need to get stats for Staffs!) In 2000, it was estimated that Staffordshire had a population of ?, in an area of ? hectares. Almost ? of these people lived in the combined urban area of Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme. The remaining ?% of the population shared just over ? hectares - that's ? hectares each.
- Though productivity in Staffordshire is growing (is it?), the Office of National Statistics estimated in April 2005 that Gross Domestic Product per head is £? in Devon. The UK average is £? Employment levels are low at ?% of the working age population, in 2001 a survey showed that earnings are ? compared to than in the rest of the UK. While Average Joe UK earns around £? a week, his cousin in Staffordshire makes do with £?.
- The place furthest from the sea in the entire British Isles is in Staffordshire - specifically, the hamlet of Chebsey, five miles north-west of Stafford.
- This may no longer be true, but in the early 90s it was reported that the small town of Biddulph, a few miles north-east of Stoke-on-Trent, had the highest incidence of mental illness in Great Britain.
- Staffordshire's most famous export - even including Wedgwood pottery, Bass Beer or Royal Doulton or Armitage Shanks toiletware - is almost certainly the JCB digger, manufactured in Rocester near Uttoxeter, and sold all over the world. The initials JCB come from company founder JC Bamford, and the Bamford family still retain control of what is one of the largest privately-owned corporations in the United Kingdom.
- Accents change markedly in Staffordshire depending on where you are. In the south of the county, the flat vowels of the West Midlands 'Brummie' accent dominate, whereas those born in the north favour a more nasal accent with hard northern vowel sounds closer to that traditionally spoken in the North-West. Stafford, in the middle of all this, is something of a linguistic crossroads, and has been described by one researcher as 'the most accentless middle-class town in England'.
The county of Staffordshire has no deep historical roots as it was founded in 1889. The county was mainly forest and moorland until then, and from the earliest times a provider of iron, coal and clay. The area was chiefly known as Mercia, and the county was formed from the old Mercian regions of Totmonslow, Pirehill, Cuttlestone, Senisdon and Offlow. The county symbol, the Staffordshire knot, comes from a pre-conquest Mercian monument in a church yard in the town of Stone.
The town is situated on the same eastern, north-south main route (now the A34) as Worcester, the road from London to the coastal ports clustered around Liverpool. It is situated on a major crossing of the river Sow. There is evidence of a history as far back as the Iron Age, and Romans may have settled the town. However, the first recorded history begins when the town was fortified against Danes by King Alfred's daughter Aethelflaed. The charter dated 913 was for a market to serve a huge rural area full of farming and forestry. When the Normans arrived, the market charter was not revoked, but Stafford Castle was built, as were many fortified houses and forts, evidence that the area was hard to subdue.
The Town of Tamworth also had a market established in 913 AD, but as Stafford is the county town and appears to have had the charter issued just prior to Tamworth, Stafford had the priority.
Any more ideas, anyone?
Main Towns And Cities
Hopefully a couple of paragraphs on each town/area, from which links to relevant entries as and when they're written. This will also highlight entries that could be written in the future - for example, there is currently no entry on any main Staffordshire town except Newcastle-Under-Lyme... Anyone who wants to help in the wider project that will follow this are welcome!
Although substantially smaller than Stoke-on-Trent, Stafford is the County town and administrative centre for Staffordshire - which has always been the case, although Stoke-on-Trent became a Unitary Local Authority in ???? and in administrative terms is no longer part of Staffordshire.
The City of Stoke-on-Trent, rather than being a conventional city with a centre, inner suburbs and outer suburbs, is an amalgamation of Six Towns - Burslem, Fenton, Longton, Hanley, Stoke and Tunstall. Each retains its own town centre and identity to a certain extent, although the main shopping district is definitely in Hanley town centre.
Although part of the same urban conurbation as the Six Towns - it joins on to the west side of Stoke-on-Trent - Newcastle-under-Lyme is an individual town in its own right, and has the biggest town centre in North Staffordshire outside Hanley.
'Queen of the Moorlands'. Administrative centre of the Britannia Building Society.
The Trent Valley
Rugeley, Armitage (home of Armitage Shanks, of course), Lichfield and Tamworth.
Most famous for giving the world the mercurial talents of Stanley Victor Collymore, footballing maverick and Britain's most famous exponent of 'dogging'. He grew up here, although he was actually born a few miles up the A34 in Stone.
Beer-brewing capital of Great Britain - and, for a while, the world!The smell of hops hangs heavy over the town to this day...
Slightly famous for its racecourse, and more so because it was referred to in countless sketches on 'A Bit of Fry and Laurie'.
The Staffordshire Moorlands
Often used as a backdrop by famous photographer Patrick Anson (Lord Lichfield) who found it a convenient alternative to the Scottish Highlands. Stan Collymore was caught 'dogging' in one of the many car parks for the country park.
Art and Literature
Two famous footballing Stans were born in Staffordshire - Sir Stanley Matthews and more infamously Stanley Victor Collymore. Main teams - Stoke City, Port Vale and Crewe Alexandra. In non-league, Stafford Rangers, Burton Albion, Hednesford Town (?).
Stoke-on-Trent in particular has strong connections with snooker and darts. ?-time snooker world champion Ray Reardon, although hailing from North Wales, lived in the city for many years and still owns a bar in Hanley called The Reardon. Likewise, while not hailing from the area originally, the first superstar of darts, 'Crafty Cockney' Eric Bristow based himself in Stoke in the early 90s, and helped local lad Phil Taylor along the first few steps of the road that led 'The Power' to world darts domination over the last decade and a half. The popular 2000 BDO World Champion Ted 'The Count' Hankey also comes from North Staffordshire, although he made the reverse trip to Ray Reardon and is now based in North Wales.
Two heavy metal legends were born in the Six Towns - Lemmy, singer and bassist with Motorhead (who before that was the only man to be thrown out of space-rock legends Hawkwind for taking too many drugs, and Saul Hudson, better known as Slash, guitarist with Guns n' Roses. Both of them had the sense to leave at an early age. Early 90s rave acts Altern8 and Bizarre Inc. were from Stafford. And you may have heard of sometime Port Vale fan Robbie Williams, who hasn't done badly for himself since leaving boy band Take That in the early 1990s...
Anyone else? The Venus Beads?.
The North Staffordshire Symphony Orchestra are resident at the Victoria Hall, Hanley.
Famous Sons and Daughters
Josiah Wedgwood. Sir Reginald Mitchell, designer of the Spitfire. Izaak Walton. Arnold Bennett, author of 'The Card' and 'Anna of the Five Towns'.
Local theatres, but most notably the New Victoria Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, which is a purpose-built Theatre-in-the-round.
For The Visitor To Know
This section is for any snippets of information you think anyone might want or need to know. Any gems culled from local knowledge very welcome, but fairly brief (two paragraphs at most) - remember big descriptions are worthy of seperate entries! Think esoterica... - hopefully link to Alton Towers here?
Pubs and Restaurants
Local press, TIC's, websites (non-commercial) etc. etc.
Getting There and Around
Transport links, etc.