Staffordshire is a sheltered county in the
west Midlands of England. It is mainly the basin of the River Trent, which
flows south past Stoke-on-Trent, Stone, Burton and eventually towards
Nottingham. North Staffordshire is hilly and bleak, but the area which
adjoins Derbyshire has considerable natural beauty. Cannock Chase is a
peaty, gravelly northern moorland area, a wasteland known for its bracing
climate. The Trent basin itself is rich, fertile land broken by gentle
Several rivers flow into the Trent, including the Lyme, Tame and Dove
and many have been adapted to form canal feeders. Staffordshire's canal
system included the Grand Trunk, enabling transport by canal to Liverpool,
Birmingham and Worcester.
Rail communications were excellent. The main London and North Western
line passed through the county with access to Crewe, Liverpool and many
important northern destinations, and the Great Western Line linked Staffordshire
with Birmingham, Oxford and London.
At the end of the 19th century, Staffordshire was renowned for its manufacturing
industries. The area around Stoke known as the Potteries includes the
world-famous Wedgwood works at Etruria, as well as producers of stoneware,
porcelain, china, tiles, sanitary ware and chemists' equipment.
Many items in daily use were produced in Staffordshire. These included
locks (Wednesfield), keys (Wolverhampton), bolts, hinges and bridle bits
(Bloxwich), horse shoes, combs, spurs and stirrups, nuts, rivets, bolts,
pulleys and screws, corkscrews, gridirons, frying pans and spoons, spectacles,
mouse traps, jews harps and tin toys, blades, files, augers, gimlets and
hammers, as well as bicycles from Cannock, anchors, iron chains and pumping
machinery from Tipton, gas fittings from West Bromwich, silk from Leek
and boat building in the south. Burton was famous for breweries producing
Men from Staffordshire also worked in the coal industry: there were just
under 400 collieries in 1910. Other extractive industries (gypsum, gravel,
sand and stone) were also important employers.
Stafford is the county town. However, while much of Staffordshire was
still rural, with remains of older country estates and family seats, other
important towns at the end of the nineteenth century included Walsall,
Wolverhampton, Lichfield, Leek and Uttoxeter. Its symbol is the Staffordshire
Knot, which is displayed in the stonework of many extant drill halls,
such as Walsall and Smethwick.