STAFFORDSHIRE is about the central county of England—a
busy county, containing more people for its size than
any other, except Lancashire and those counties which
divide London between them. It is so busy a county
because it has two large coal-fields, one in the south,
twenty miles long by ten broad, and a smaller one in
the north. Upon each of these coal-fields a great
manufacture is carried on, which gives work to many
Staffordshire is a flat county on the whole, though
there are some hills of mountain limestone in the
south, near Dudley, against which a bed of coal, thirty
feet deep, abuts.
All the middle of Staffordshire is within the Trent
Valley, for the first fifty miles of Trent are in
Stafford. It rises in the north-east moorlands, flows
right across the county, and leaves it to enter
Derbyshire, after passing by the town of Burton. Burton
is a great brewing place—a rather dull town, with many
rows of brick houses just alike, where more than 4000
men are employed in the breweries.
Not until it reaches Burton does the Trent become wide
and deep enough to carry boats of any size; but it is a
useful river to Staffordshire in another way, as the
green meadows all along its banks show. Both the Trent
and the little rivers which join it, the Blythe, the
Tame, the Sow, and others, overflow their banks after
rainy weather; and when the rivers get
 back into their beds again, they leave river mud
behind, which is good for the grass.
Going up the Trent Valley, we come to Tamworth on the
Tame, an old town, where there are two large
paper-mills and other works. Farther on is Lichfield,
another ancient town, standing among low hills. Paper
and carpets are made here, but the city is chiefly
known for its beautiful cathedral, one of the sights of
which is a monument by the sculptor Chantrey,
representing two little girls lying asleep in such a
soft and natural way, that you forget they are made of
cold marble, and want to give them a good-night kiss.
Passing Cannock Chase, once a great forest, now an open
heath, we come to Stafford on the little river Sow,
near the Trent; it is a rather large brick town, where
quantities of boots and shoes are made. The beautiful
Trentham Park and Newcastle-under-Lyme also lie within
The north-east corner is filled with moorlands, a
continuation of the moors of the West Riding. These
moors are cold and wet, bleak and high; the highest
being over 1017 feet. The Trent, the great river of the
central plain of England, brings its waters from these
moors, where it rises in three springs.
The north-west of the county, where the coaL-field is,
is a level tract.
II. THE "BLACK COUNTRY"
THE great South Staffordshire coal-field, upon which
more than 400 collieries are worked, stretches from the
high ground of Cannock Chase, south of the town
 of Stafford, to the borders of Worcestershire. This
district is called the "Black Country," not because
coal is black and colliers are black; but a great
manufacture is carried on here, the smoke caused by
which blackens the buildings and the very air.
The stranger who passes through the Black Country by
the London and North-Western Railway, on a winter's
night, sees a curious and rather awful sight.
Dotted everywhere about are what appear to be many
small volcanoes, from fifty to seventy feet high, with
sheets of flame breaking out from the top of each.
Below are what look in the dark like black caverns
lighted by a lurid glare, within which black figures
are flitting about. The din of clanging hammers
reassures the stranger; by that he knows he must be in
the midst of some great metal-works.
All these flaming furnaces and forges are employed in
the working of our English precious metal—not gold, nor
silver, but the far more useful IRON, which lies in
seams among the very coal necessary to work it. It is
as if fuel and metal had been placed together, in God's
providence, that, working together, they might help to
make England a great nation.
For what should we do without iron? We travel upon iron
ways, drawn by iron horses; we pass over iron bridges;
sleep upon iron bedsteads; have iron steamboats and
iron war-ships; break up the ground* with iron ploughs,
drawn, too, by iron horses. We have iron grates, and
iron gates, and iron tools; iron churches and iron
schoolrooms; we even send iron houses over the sea to
Why is iron thus useful above all metals? Because,
though it is as a giant for hardness and strength, it
is obedient as a child to the will of man. It can be
 changed into a fluid; it will take any shape the
workman pleases. It can be made into strong bars, or
drawn into the finest wire. It can be spread out into
plates or sheets; it can be twisted or bent in every
direction; it can be made sharp or blunt, soft or hard.
This precious metal is found, combined with various
earthy substances, chiefly clay, in a stony,
dark-coloured ore, called ironstone. The ore occurs in
beds of varying thickness, from a few inches to several
feet; there are generally a great many beds or seams
one beneath another, separated by beds of other
mineral. Here, in the Black Country, these other
minerals are often coal and lime, the very things which
are wanted to melt the ore.
III. THE SOW AND THE PIGS
THE next question is—how to extract the metal from the
In the first place, the ore is roasted. Those great
roundish heaps, like the nests of some strange
creature, which are to be seen smoking away by
thousands in the iron country, are made of layers of
coal and ironstone, then coal, then ironstone, and,
over all, a thatch of fine coal or slack. A fire is
kindled at one end, and it works its way slowly to
every part of the mass, roasting the ore as it goes. We
know how the gas in a coal fire bubbles and blazes, and
at last passes off in smoke ; the ironstone is roasted
to get rid of all the waste matter which the heat of
the fire will cause to pass off as gas.
Now the ore is ready for the blast furnace, into
 which it is thrown to be smelted. These furnaces are
the ever-flaming volcanoes, more than one hundred and
sixty of them in all, of the Black Country. They are
huge and clumsy buildings, something like rounded
pyramids, built so as to possess great strength, and
great power of resisting heat.
They are always full of fiercely burning material which
is thrown in at the top as fast as it is drawn out at
the bottom: the top is generally open, and a great body
of flame may be seen shooting up night and day.
At the bottom of the blast furnace there is a deep
square hearth, and all the hollow of the furnace, above
this hearth, is filled with ore and coal. But if only
ore and coal were burned in this furnace, we should
never get iron out. It is a curious fact that certain
substances have an affection, or what chemists call an
affinity, for each other. The ore, as it is cast into
the furnace, contains much clay along with the iron.
The thing to be done is, to separate the iron from the
clay; this separation is brought about by throwing in
another substance, along with the coal and the ore, for
which the clay has such an affinity that it will leave
the iron and join itself to this new substance, so
leaving the iron pure.
Lime is this useful substance; one reason why the iron
of South Staffordshire is so valuable is that lime, as
well as coal, is found quite close to the ore, often in
the same seams.
When once it is filled, the furnace is kept roaring and
blazing away, fresh coal and ore and lime being poured
in at the top three or four times every hour, day and
night. The metal, when it is melted, being heavier than
the rest, sinks to the square hearth at the bottom of
 When the melted iron has been falling into this square
trough for twelve hours, it is tapped, or allowed to
In front of the furnace is a flat space covered with
sand. One long channel, or hollow in the sand, called
the sow, is made down the middle of this space: from
each side of the sow, a hundred or more smaller
channels, called pigs, branch out.
All being ready, the clay stopper to the hole at the
bottom of the furnace is broken away, and the white-hot
liquid metal pours forth in a stream, bubbling and
hissing, taking all manner of beautiful colours, and
filling the air with a cloud of fiery sparks. Men stand
about with long poles to turn the stream of liquid
metal into the pig moulds, until they and the "sow"
are all filled; and fiery bright and very beautiful
the whole appearance is. The pigs soon become solid,
and are carried away from the moulds while they are yet
IV. THE FOUNDRY
THIS is pig iron, which, to make fire-grates and
railings, and knobs, and a thousand other things, is
once more melted in a furnace; and then the liquid
metal is poured into a mould, a hollow clay shape of
the exact pattern of the article that is to be made.
This is called casting, and all goods which do not
require either great strength or great beauty are made
of cast iron. Look at an iron fender or fire-grate, and
you will generally find that the edges of the pattern
are round and dull, not fine and sharp; a proof that
the article has been
 cast in a mould, "and not wrought with hand and hammer.
But if the iron is to be brought to the forge to be
made very close and strong, or to be wrought into
delicate patterns, it has much to go through yet; for
pig iron is brittle and will not bear the hammer.
The "pigs" are once more cast into a furnace called a
finery, out of which the melted metal, much purer than
when it went in, flows into a flat mould, where it is
instantly chilled with cold water. Then these long
slatis of refined iron are broken in pieces, and put
into the puddling furnaces, where the brittle iron
becomes malleable, that is, able to bear the hammer,
and ductile, that is, capable of being drawn out into
thin wire if need be. The puddling furnace is one in
which the flame and heat are cast down, or
reverberated, from an arched roof.
The "puddler" is a kind of salamander, able to bear
any heat. Naked to the waist, he watches the iron as it
begins to melt through a hole in the furnace, stirring
the pieces about with a long bar of iron which he is
obliged to change for a cold one every few minutes, or
the bar would melt.
When the whole is melted, the puddler keeps the mass
constantly stirred, and, under the stirring, the fluid
becomes thickened, and gradually separates into lumps;
these, with two iron rods, he works into one big ball,
or bloom, as it is called.
Then the fiery ball of iron is lifted out of the
furnace, and passes from one workman to another with
great rapidity; it is carried in little iron carriages
from one place to another.
The bloom is flattened under an enormous hammer, and
then pressed out further under great rollers, until
 it is brought to the shape and size required. This
rolling is very hard work, as the sheets of iron must
be made red-hot between each rolling; and the men may
be seen, bathed in perspiration, carrying a sheet of
red-hot iron, two or three yards square, to and from
the furnace. By plunging the hands in water it is
possible to handle red-hot iron. More wonderful still,
in many foundries iron may be seen "cut like cheese "
by a huge pair of shears worked by machinery.
The iron is now ready for the forge; where the smith
shapes and hammers it upon his anvil into whatever kind
of wrought-iron goods it is his business to produce.
In the towns of the "Black Country," Wolverhampton,
Walsall, Bilston, Wednesbury, West Bromwich, different
kinds of hardware, the name given to iron goods, are
produced: nails, bedsteads, locks, bolts, keys, screws,
in fact all kinds of iron articles; as well as much
japanned ware, that is, iron goods coated with a
peculiar kind of varnish such as we see on some
V. THE POTTERIES
ONE of the oldest and most interesting of all crafts is
carried on upon the North Staffordshire coal-field.
There the potter may be seen at work, perhaps upon the
very sort of potter's wheel mentioned in the Bible.
district called "The Potteries" lies a little to the
east of Newcastle-under-Lyme, and is about ten miles
long and two or three broad. It is really one long
street, for all the towns and villages are so near
 each other that they either touch, or are joined
together by rows of houses. There are many towns and
villages along this high road; beginning at the north,
the most important we pass through are Tunstall,
Burslem, Hanley, Shelton, Etruria, Stoke, Fenton, and
Lane End. Along either side of the road passing through
these towns is a long string of potteries and porcelain
The Grand Trunk Canal goes through the Potteries,
bearing many barges, which bring flint or clays from
the south coast, or carry away cups and jugs and plates
to one of the two great ports which the canal connects,
Liverpool or Hull.
Flint and clay are the materials used by the potter,
and they are not found in Staffordshire, which yields
nothing now but coal to bake and water to bear away the
ware. The blue clay of Purbeck and other parts of
Dorset, black and brown clays brought from the south of
Devon (which lose their colour and become white in the
oven), and the white china-clay of Cornwall, are the
clays most prized. Flint is always found in the chalk
districts, and the roundish flint stones are brought
from the south in boat-loads, chiefly from Gravesend.
These materials are prepared for the potter with great
care. First, the clays are mixed with pure water to the
thickness of cream. Then the flints, hardest of all
stones, are also, by means of much burning and beating,
made into a sort of cream of a beautiful whiteness,
though the stones themselves are nearly black inside.
These creams then flow into a large tank, where they
are mixed together; the mixture is drained through very
fine silk sieves, so that it shall be perfectly smooth;
it is then "slip," and is carried to the slip-kiln, a
 open trough with great fires underneath, where the
water evaporates until the cream becomes a rather stiff
The clay is then kneaded pretty much as dough is
kneaded for bread, only this kneading is always done by
VI. "BISCUIT" MAKING AND PRINTING
POTTER'S "biscuit" is the dough after it has been made
into vessels and baked.
After the kneading, the dough is cut into wedges, which
are allowed to lie for some months; then it goes
through a violent process of "slapping" which lasts
until there are no air bubbles left in the mass, when
it is ready for the thrower.
The thrower works with a potter's wheel, that is, a
little round table on a single leg, which is so set in
the ground that it can turn round freely. Bound the
table leg is a band, which also goes round a wheel at a
little distance. This wheel is kept constantly turned
by a woman or a boy, and as the wheel turns, the band
causes the little table to twist round with it.
The potter sits on a stool behind his little whirling
table. A boy at hand gives him a ball of dough large
enough to make cup or jug or other vessel of a round
shape. It is truly an astonishing thing to see the
potter at work on his clay: it seems as if he could do
anything, everything, with it.
Pressing his two thumbs on the top of the mass, he
 hollows it, and, with the thumbs inside and fingers
outside, he so draws and presses and moulds the clay as
to make it convex outside and concave inside, and of
any form he may desire. The whirling of the table
causes the clay to whirl round under his hands, and so
to take a round shape. Vessels which are not quite
circular are baked in moulds.
We cannot follow the jugs and mugs through the drying,
the shaving under the turner's lathe, the baking in the
large sugar-loaf shaped kilns, from which they come out
as biscuit. There is no pattern on the biscuit, and it
is quite dull looking.
The pattern is drawn by a designer—leaves or flowers it
may be, or pretty pictures; the engraver copies the
pattern in deep lines on a copper plate. These deep
lines are filled with ink of the proper colour, green,
or blue, or red. A sheet of thin yellow paper is
pressed upon the copper plate and takes the pattern of
the lines in the moist ink. Then the paper is laid,
inky side down, upon a dish or saucer, and a woman rubs
the paper with a roll of flannel until the wet ink has
gone into the dish and made the pattern on it.
The "biscuit" ware is baked again to fix the pattern ;
and then the vessels are plunged into a tub of glaze,
and come out with a new coat,—they are covered with a
substance bright and smooth like glass. After one more
baking, they are ready for use;—cups and saucers, jugs
and plates, such as we have upon our tables, which are
smooth, shining, and gay with a pretty pattern.
The greatest of our English potters was Josiah
Wedgwood, who lived in the reign of George III., and
built the village of Etruria, or "Trury," as the
 call it, for his workpeople. He took part also in the
making of the Grand Trunk Canal, a most useful canal to
him, in bringing materials and carrying his pottery
away from the works.
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