The Parish Church of Saint Anne Brown Edge

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    HISTORY

Background

This area has been inhabited for many centuries.  A bronze axe-head was found just beyond the boundary of Brown Edge and Endon, dating from about 2000 BC.  There are also place names dating from the Anglo-Saxon period.  The oldest part of the village faces south, sloping down to the bottom of the valley where the infant River Trent runs.  There are a number of springs or wells, reasonably fertile soil and an abundance of stone and wood for building and other purposes, making it attractive to earlier settlers.   For many centuries, it formed part of the manor of Norton-le-Moors and originally services were the responsibility of the Rector of Norton.  There appears to be some dispute as to which building was used before the present church was built but with the strong Methodist connections of this district, it is possible that this was the main Christian tradition hereabouts.

From the start of the industrial revolution, the coal on which North Staffordshire is built was in high demand for the local ceramic factories (“potbanks”) and it is interesting that there is a direct connection with the family of Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) whose great-nephew, Abner Wedgwood, the manager of the Seabridge factory, had a “shooting box” built in 1846 on the boundary with Endon.  “Rock Cottage” is still here but Mr. Wedgwood would have a shock today, since it has been greatly expanded and is now a large care home, providing local employment.

Brown Edge was always known as a miners’ or colliers’ village but there have never been mines in this valley. Those choosing to live here walked a distance of two or three miles to the next valley where the Whitfield, Black Bull and other mines were situated.  Footpath Nr. 38, which leads off Stonehouse Lane, is still known colloquially as “The Miners’ Path.

The history of the church is intimately bound up with coalmining, since the benefactors who gave land and money for it were the owners of the above mines, together with other local worthies, such as the Lord of the Manor (meaning Norton).

Original building

The architects were J & C Trubshaw, Newcastle-under-Lyme and

there was plenty of available stone on the site. In its first phase,

it consisted only of the nave, chancel, a porch on the south side,

a vestibule at the west end and a vestry on the north.  If you

looked at the medallion struck to commemorate the consecration of the church,

you would hardly identify the building as the present church. 

The drawing was done showing the south side and the east end

but there is a glaring omission — the tower. This was the church

consecrated on 1st June, 1844 by the Bishop of Lichfield who

was accompanied by the principal benefactor, Mr. Hugh Henshall

Williamson of Greenway Bank and his wife, together with other

benefactors and office-holders. Among these are such names

as Adderley, Copeland, Wood and Bateman which will ring a bell

with any student of local history and the Potteries.  Apparently

the Bishop was very impressed by the building, saying that it

was the best specimen of ecclesiastical architecture he had
yet consecrated
(The Staffordshire Advertiser, 1st June, 1844). 

Was he surprised by the building of such a church in a village of

approximately 600 souls, mainly associated with mining

or farming?  We shall never know!

 

The church as we know it now

This has the splendid spire added, with some of the features, such as the gargoyle in the picture, more reminiscent of Disneyland, but in fact just Victorian exuberance. It also has 6 bells, unusual for such a small church.

There is no extant record of when this ambitious structure was completed.