Silverdale, Staffordshire

Silverdale is situated approximately two miles west of Newcastle-under-Lyme. It was once a small village in the north of Keele parish. On December 14th 1855 Silverdale, Knutton and Scot Hay combined to become the ecclesiastical parish of Silverdale. In 1932 Silverdale became part of the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme. There are several theories about the origins of the name ‘Silverdale’. It has been suggested that the name could relate to the rich finds of coal and iron in the valley worked by the Silverdale Iron Company in the late 18th century. Another suggestion is that the name derives from the company’s name. It could originate also from ‘Silverdale’ in Lancashire which did have a link with Staffordshire through Farewell Priory. The name ‘Silverdale’ could also be a descriptive one, originating from the silver birches growing in the valley.

Silverdale’s main development took place in the 19th century in response to the high demand for the coal and iron available in the area. The Silverdale Ironworks opened in 1792 and had an output of 1,230 tons, with local coke being used for the furnaces, but by 1815 it had ceased production. However, there was increased demand for iron with the development of the railways in the mid-19th century. In 1848 Ralph Sneyd and Francis Stanier formed the Silverdale Company producing both iron and coal. The Silverdale Colliery was a very rich source of coal and continued to be mined until it finally closed in December 1998. It was the last coal mine to be worked in the North Staffordshire coalfield. In the 1830s there were two silk mills at Silverdale. At this time it would have been a fairly new industry, each mill employing about 150 children between the ages of 9 – 18 years. By the mid 19th century the only silk company left at Silverdale was that of G. Walker and Co. By 1892 it was operating as Silverdale Silk Throwing Company in the High Street, with George Walker as the manager.

Silverdale developed not only as a result of the minerals in the area but also because of the establishment of good transport links. In 1848, once the Silverdale Company was operating, Ralph Sneyd the owner of the land, and Francis Stanier, who leased the mines from Ralph Sneyd, ensured that good railway links were built to provide transport for the iron and coal from their mineral works. This, combined with the canal network and improved roads, allowed minerals produced in the area to be easily transported across the country. The railway line at Silverdale was not originally built for passengers. In 1862 the North Staffordshire Railway Company built a railway station and began a passenger service between Newcastle-under-Lyme and Silverdale. Two years later this was replaced by a new railway station to the west when the line was extended to Market Drayton. The passenger service meant that Silverdale could thrive as more people could travel from further afield for work. Unfortunately, the passenger service was stopped in 1964 as the result of the ‘Beeching Report’, which closed many railway lines.

The parish church of St. Luke’s was consecrated on 28th October 1853. It is built of stone in the Gothic style. There is a tower with a spire containing a clock and eight bells. The Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church at Silverdale opened originally on the premises of a former school in Victoria Street in 1889. In 1925 it moved to its present site in the High Street. There were many non-conformist churches in the Silverdale area, with Methodism being particularly strong in the 19th century. There were Methodist chapels of all denominations. The Congregationalists first met in a room on Bridge Street in the 19th century and later leased the Temperance Mission Hall in the High Street before moving to their church on Victoria Street. As the population grew in Silverdale so too did the need for schools. A National School for Boys and Girls was built in Church Street in 1847 by Ralph Sneyd on land donated by him. It later became St. Luke’s Church of England Voluntary Primary School. Joseph Cook, the Prime Minister for Australia, was educated here. The present school is on Pepper Street.

In 1872 the Silverdale Primitive Methodist Sunday School was opened in Earl Street. It moved to Mill Street in 1876 and by 1877 was operating in two buildings providing education for boys, girls and infants. In 1902 responsibility for the school passed to the local authority. In 1932, the senior children were transferred to Knutton County Senior School and the school was reorganised for juniors and infants. A new purpose-built infant and nursery school was opened in 1977 in Downing Street and called Silverdale County Primary First School. As a result of structural damage caused by subsidence, the junior school in Mill Street was moved to a new extension at the primary school in 1990.

Joseph Cook [1860 – 1947] the Liberal Prime Minister for Australia, 1913 – 1914, worked in the colliery at Silverdale. His father also worked at the colliery but died in 1873 in a mining accident. Joseph became the breadwinner for the family at the age of 13 years and had to support his mother and his five siblings. He was a member of the Primitive Methodists and a lay preacher. In 1885, Cook emigrated to Australia, where he was to become Prime Minister. He took part in the peace negotiations at the end of the First World War and was also the Australian High Commissioner in London.

John Cadman, Lord Cadman of Silverdale, [1877 – 1941] was born in Silverdale. He was assistant colliery manager at Silverdale Colliery, where his father had also been colliery manager. He became a professor of Mining at Birmingham University in 1908. He was quick to realize the importance of oil to the economy and advised the British Government to secure rights to the Persian oil supplies before the First World War. As a result, the British warships were powered with oil rather than coal during the war. He was keen to find oil fields in Britain and found two sites locally, at Apedale and Werrington. He was awarded a knighthood in 1918 and became Baron Cadman of Silverdale in 1937. He died in 1941 and his ashes are interred in the graveyard of St Luke’s Church, Silverdale.

Fanny Deakin [1883 – 1968], the political activist, was also born at Silverdale. She campaigned hard for the alleviation of poverty and better maternity care. One of her successes was to persuade Ramsey Macdonald, the prime minister of the time, to instigate free milk for pregnant women and children under the age of five years.

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