Links to Places in Staffordshire associated with Jane Austen

Hamstall Ridware

THIS is a long and narrow tract of country, ending in a point at the northern and southern extremities; it has to the west the counties of Chester and Salop; to the east those of Derby and Warwick; and to the south Worcestershire, with a part of Salop interposed. Its area contains 1196 square miles. The civil division of the county comprehends five hundreds The rivers Dove and Trent form a natural boundary on the Derbyshire side: on the other sides it has no remarkable limits.

The northern part of Staffordshire called the Moorlands, is a wild hilly country, resembling the adjacent Derbyshire. Its elevation may be judged of by the number of streams which take their rise in it, some of which run into opposite seas.Of these, the principal is the Trent, which issuing from three several springs between Congleton and Leek, flows southwards through the midst of the county, continually augmented by rills from the same region; and at length having received the Tame from the south, acquires a new direction, and with a north-easterly course, penetrates into Derbyshire, just after its junction with the Dove.

The Dove, rising also in the Moorlands, runs between the counties of Stafford and Derby to the place where, after having received the Manyfold, the Cliurnet, and several other streams, it meets the Trent.South of the Trent the principal rivers are the Sow, running parallel and near to that river till it falls into it below Stafford; and the Penk, flowing by Penkridge to join the Sow. The Stour runs through the southern angle of the county to meet the Severn in Worcestershire.

The valley through which the Trent glides is for the most part very fertile and beautifiil, adorned with seats and plantations, and affording a variety of pleasing prospects. The middle and southern parts of the county are in general agreeably diversified with wood, pasture, and arable. The great forest of Cank or Cannock in the center, once covered with oaks, is now and has long been a wide naked tract. Needwood forest, an extensive tract about the middle of the eastern side of the county, still rears a great number of oaks, some of high antiquity and majestic bulk. At the southern extremity, the Clent Hills, Hagley and its neighbourhood, are well known for the more romantic beauties which they possess. In this tract the counties of Stafford, Worcester, and Salop, are strangely intermixed.

One of the earliest canals in this kingdom was that by which a line was drawn closely accompanying the Trent soon after its origin, and attending that river quite through the county of Stafford. It was called the Trent and Mersey canal, joining the latter river at the northern extremity of the county of Chester, and at the other extremity crossing into Staffordshire. Its date is about 1766; and its whole length through this county, from Cheshire to the commencement of Derbyshire, measures a number of miles.

Connected with this grand design, there is first a branch from Newcastle-under-Line on one side, and from Leek on the opposite side. Near its center, a canal shoots off to meet the Severn at Stourport, passing by Penkridge and other inconsiderable places. From about the middle of this line a very complicated cut falls in, uniting a number of coal-pits, together with the towns of Wolverhampton, Bilston, Walsall, Dudley, and Wednesbury, and the more distant Litchfield. The lower part has a junction with Birmingham. Another still later canal passes from Uttoxeter to Leek. Thus it will appear that scarcely any county in England has profited So much by canal navigation as Staffordshire.

Of the mineral products of this county, coal is met with very abundantly in the north-eastern Moorlands, and the tract between Newcastle and Cheadle; and in the southern part, from the neighbourhood of Wolverhampton and Walsall, to the extremity of the county. Wednesbury, in particular, supplies Birmingham with the greatest part of its fuel. Limestone is very plentiful, especially on the banks of the upper part of the Doves and its neighbourhood. Iron is found in abundance in all parts of the coal district; and works for obtaining the metal are extensively established on the banks of the canal from Wednesbury to Birmingham. A copper mine is now working in the vicinity of Leek; and one much more considerable has long been wrought at Ectonhill, the property of the duke of Devonshire; which hill also contains lead. Gypsum has been dug in large quantity on the banks of the Dove; and marble of various kinds is abundant in the moor-land district. Salt springs have been discovered in several parts, some of which yield salt of the best quality.

Staffordshire has long been noted, and is now particularly famous, for its potteries, the chief seat of which is near Newcastle, in a line of villages extending about ten miles. The neighbourhood affords abundance of the most bulky materials for this business, namely fire-clay and coals; but their finer clays are brought from Purbeck in Dorsetshire and other parts of that coast; and flints from the chalk pits near Gravesend, with some from Wales and Ireland. For the conveyance of these articles they have the benefit of water-carriage, either from Hull or Gainshorough, by means of the Trent which communicates with the southern extremity of the Staffordshire Grand Trunk Canal; or from Liverpool by means of the Mersey, and the duke of Bridgwater’s navigation, to the northern extremity of the same canal. The manufactured goods are sent away by the same conveyances. The perfection to which this manufacture has been brought, and the great elegance of the useful and ornamental articles of which it consists, have rendered it a very important object of commerce, both foreign and domestic.

Text: England Described etc (1818) by John Atkin M.D.

Map: A New and Correct English Atlas (1797) by John Cary.