More Audley Street Names

 Stan Brassington

Readers of Volume II of this journal (Dec.1996) will have seen Rose Wheat's article What's in a Name  which ended with the hope that more research would be done into the street names of the Audley district. This contribution attempts to continue the work she started. There are, however, problems in this area of research. Some names were given so long ago that no documentary evidence can be found to confirm any theories we may have about the name's origin. A number of older street names have altered over many years, and what may seem a logical explanation of the present form of the name does not fit the original one. Even more modern names, dictated by a local authority committee, can be subject to both memory loss and furious argument over who, or what, was actually being commemorated. Riley's Way has been attributed, with convincing authority, to at least three gentlemen of that name who have made significant contributions to the local scene.

Many local street names can be easily explained. Roads leading to neighbouring settlements (Alsager, Chester, Nantwich, Barthomley, Apedale), those connected to royalty (King, Queen, Albert, Edward, Victoria, George, etc.) or featuring a major building in the street (Church, Chapel, School) are in little need of research. Richard Parrott's Survey[i] is often cited as earlier naming evidence for streets which existed in his time. Thus Meer Green, or Mees[ii] Green, became Miles Green by 1841, and his names Quarre or Quarrel becomes The Quarry. Hough (or Hougha) Wall becomes Hougher, and the Hollow enters the twentieth century as Dean's Hollow. Similarly Boond (Boon) Hill, Brere (Briery) Lane and Whillocks Pool are reported by him. The last one can lead to confusion. The unwary researcher could spend hours seeking a Whillock, yet from 1275, Lord Audley's estate records show a tenant named de Hullokspole, and thus Parrott, who was not a native of Audley, was accepting a local corruption of the name. More reliably Parrott uses names such as Church Style, Pavement End, Knowle End, Mill End, Park End, Park Lane, Pinfould, Bignall Hill, Tuttel Street, Raven's Lane, Tibb's Croft, Orchard End, Body Lane, and Diglake long before a colliery took the name. Some of these Parrott namings will appear in more detail later (or in a future article).

This article attempts to look systematically at street names in Bignall End and that part of Audley now called Bignall End, beginning in Wood Lane[iii], and moving down to the nineteenth century streets off Ravens Lane and the late-twentieth century development of Boyles Hall Estate[iv]. The Wood Lane was originally the route, now called Apedale Road, which linked Audley to the Woodhouse Farm, by way of Peggy's Bank. In 1733 Parrott reported only eight dwellings here plus the farm. Peggy was a remarkable woman who took over the tenancy of Miles Green Farm, at the foot of 'her' bank, when her husband died. Strictly she was Margaret Berks (1761-1842), but even the Heathcote Estate accounts, which exist for 1828-36, attribute her rent payments to Peggy Berks. Tom Fields appears after 1860 and was a field name within Boughey's estate.

Church Street (Wood Lane) is a misleading name and needs some explanation. Vicar Wilbraham, following the national policy of building mission churches in remoter parts of parishes with growing industrial populations, decided that Wood Lane was a suitable place for such a building. It was erected in 1857-8, but was never consecrated. His mistake was to underestimate the Methodist support in this settlement. There were no Anglicans. In 1858 he wrote "the increase in population in Wood Lane obliges me to open a school in the building which I have erected there. I have secured the services of our former valued teacher, Mrs.Wakelin. This school will add about £30 yearly to our expenses."[v] This National School served Wood Lane children until 1909. Thus the street name records the intention rather than the fact. Megacre Lane originally linked the settlement to Bignall Hill Road, and was a narrow track until after 1850. The Wood Lane end was built upon gradually, including three successive Wesleyan chapels in 1835, 1860 and 1882. This end of the lane became High Street by 1895. Megacre (earlier Migacre) was probably derived from a field name at one side of the lane. Wesley Street was at first named Heathcote Street after the owner who had sold the land. Due to confusion with Heathcote Road in Miles Green, it was renamed in about 1910.  Houses were built on the east side, with a large reserved plot for a new Wesleyan School on the west, adjoining their large chapel. By 1902 the county council was negotiating to take over the Audley Wesleyan School (now Ravensmead) and planning to build a new council school (1909) in Wood Lane, so this Methodist scheme was dropped. Some new housing at right angles to Church Street was unimaginatively named New Street in the 1880s, but by 1895 it was officially called Primitive Street after the chapel at its entrance.

Much of old Wood Lane was demolished in the 1960s, and replaced by new housing on an adjacent green field site. Here street names include Wedgwood Avenue after John Wedgwood (1760-1839), squire of Bignall End and a former owner of the land. His prominent monument, erected at his own expense in 1844-5, was a 60 feet high landmark until a violent storm removed the top two-thirds in January 1976. Turner Avenue was named after George Turner who was the eldest of seven children born in a small cottage in Wood Lane in 1889.[vi] After a move to Butt Lane, George worked as a clerk at Bignall Hill Colliery from 1902 until its closure in 1947, then at Wolstanton pit until retirement in the early 1950s. In the pre-1920 period he managed his uncle's cinemas in Butt Lane, Burslem and Congleton, and visited each one every evening. In 1926, after six years of marriage he moved to Wood Lane, having a bungalow built at Megacre. In his native village he became secretary to the cricket club and was very involved in the Free Church (Hill Top), and on its closure he moved to the Wesleyan Chapel. His public service included membership of the rural district council, as an air raid warden (1939-45) and was active in promoting the Wood Lane Youth Club.

Boon Hill was originally Boundary Hill as the sixteenth century dividing line between the Constablewicks of Audley and Bignall End ran along the centre of the roadway. Bignall is a corruption of Big Knoll - a comparison with the smaller knoll, or hill, at Knowle Bank, both names probably handed down from pre-conquest Audley. Ravens Lane was originally a country lane in Audley township, Bignall End actually begins at the Plough Inn. Parrott records but six cottages in its whole length, all on the southern side. Possibly the bird life gave it the name, and this remains after its elevation to a turnpike in 1768, and as part of the A52 (Skegness-Nantwich road) from the 1930s. The north side of the road was gradually built up and side streets added from the mid-nineteenth century. Tibb Street was built upon Tibb's Croft, a field so named in Parrott. Incidentally, Tibb's Croft was the original home of Bignall End Cricket Club. Hope Street must belong to that group of Victorian names which were optimistic in nature, if not in appearance! Diglake as a name was in use for three centuries at least, the earliest as a farm name. A succession of collieries on the hillside used it, the last being from 1870 which closed disastrously in 1895. The street name reflected the employment of its first residents. Wood Street (1860s) is named after Nicholas Price Wood (1810-1869) who was the great-nephew and heir of John Wedgwood as squire of Bignall End, and was the principle shareholder in neighbouring collieries. The development of this group of terraced streets incorporated shops on most corners, a number of which survive today.

Chapel Street was a partial renaming of Old Road, which in turn took this name following the opening of the turnpike improvement of New Road in 1816, which by-passed this steep and tortuous route for all the area's east-west traffic. The Wesleyan Chapel dated from 1810, and its adjoining school from 1812. The final part of New Road, through the rock cutting to the Town Square was until recently called Hall Hill, but to which hall it was related is not clear. The new estates on the south of Ravens Lane have local authority chosen names, and, as elsewhere, there is a broad connecting theme. Here local celebrities from several walks of life are commemorated, often with the affectionate use of the Christian name only. Ikins Drive remembers a much respected local and national cricketer, John T. Ikin (1918-1984). He played for Lancashire from 1939 to 1957 as a left handed batsman, leg break bowler and brilliant short leg fielder. He also played in 18 Test matches for England. Locally he played for Staffordshire and Bignall End from 1934 to 1838, and from 1958 until retirement. Both his father, A.W.Ikin, and his son Michael also played for Staffordshire. Aarons Drive remembers another cricketing star, Aaron Locket, who is featured in another article in this journal. Much of this estate is built upon the Boyles Hall Colliery site which dated from at least 1803 as a deep pit. One of the shafts was called Watlings, or Watlands, and a main access road to the workings was called Delph Lane. Both names are found on the estate, a 'delph' was the old name for a digging, as in delve. Finally, as a signature of the builder of the Ravens Park estate, Georges Way is named for George Poole, a borough and county councillor for many years, whose firm was responsible for the construction. Earlier industrialists are found in Gresley Way and Boughey Road. Sir Nigel Bowyer Gresley (1753-1808) was responsible for the Apedale Canal and the first three major pits in the area - Wood Pit, Sladderhill and Podmore Hall, besides leasing out the first ironworks, all between 1775 and 1804. The Bougheys first appeared in Audley in 1332, with Thomas de Boghay on the taxation roll. Three more are found on the military muster roll of 1539, and the family are early entries in the parish registers from 1555. The local line died out in 1788, but the name was taken over by the Fenton Fletchers as a condition of inheriting the Aqualate estate from George Boughey in that year. In 1790 they purchased Audley manor, and had interests in farming and mining here, though they were never to reside locally. With successive calls for death duties between 1906 and 1927, Audley properties were sold and their association ended.

Several streets in Ravens Park are names after politicians. Stephens Way remembers Stephen Swingler who was MP for Newcastle from 1951 till his untimely death in 1969, and from 1964 he was a junior transport minister, being responsible for the construction of Spaghetti Junction, along with many other road works. Benjamins Way reminds us of Ben Heath (1898-1982) who was born in Audley, one of nine children[vii]. Starting work at 12 as an apprentice butcher, he served in the Great War having overestimated his age at the recruitment office. As a collier from 1919 to 1963, he worked at Burley, Maltby Main (Yorks.), a wartime spell at Radway Green, then Rookery, Glasshouse and Leycett collieries, finally retiring from Apedale footrail. His public service was on parish and rural district councils from 1945 to 1974. As mentioned earlier, the naming of Rileys Way has caused much debate. Dr. Riley, who is fondly remembered is one candidate, as is Daniel Riley, a nailmaking friend of Sammy Brindley. But the consensus is that William Riley is being honoured for numerous services to the Bignall End community.[viii] "Bill" was a local hairdresser from 1924, who frequently travelled along Delph Lane to his allotment. He was secretary to the Wesleyan chapel choir and for many years booked well-known singers to enhance special services. He was the main organiser of the Audley School Strike in 1938 when the village resisted the county council's reorganisation of schools in Audley parish. As a sportsman he played cricket, football and snooker, organising teams for local tournaments with great success. A keen supporter of Stoke City FC, he organised buses to convey local supporters to home matches, when few local people had cars. This continued right up to his death. Brindleys Way is a worthy memorial to Sammy Brindley (1792-1875) the locally famous preacher, whose contribution to the area is detailed in another article in this journal. Boyles Hall Road is the last link with the farm of that name which in its grander days was the birthplace of Admiral Smith Child (1730-1813) whose naval service ended in the Napoleonic War, aged over 70, in charge of recruitment in the north of England.

In the next edition (1998) it is hoped to conclude this survey with a look at names within Audley village centre, Wereton and Halmer End township. In the meantime any readers with comments or corrections are welcome to contact the writer.


[i] S.A.H.Burne (ed.) An accountt who hath enjoyed the severall estates in the parish of Audley and hamlett of Talk in the county of Stafford for 200 years last past.   Richard Parrott, 1733, Staffordshire Historical Collections, 1944 edition.

[ii] Named, according to Parrott, after a Thomas Mee who was the major tenant there in the early 1500s.

[iii] Dave Dyble has researched the Wood Lane area extensively and has generously donated this material to the writer.

[iv] Audley Parish Council chose the names here, and several of its members from that era have assisted in supplying the origins for many of these names.

[v] From Charles Wilbraham's Personal Diary 1847-74.

[vi] Biographical information from Roy Turner of Whitmore.

[vii] Biographical information from his daughter, Mrs. A.Hughes.

[viii] Biographical information from his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Beryl Riley. Hicken was followed by his curate Thomas Garrett. His nine years come to notice for his outspoken disputes with the larger local landowners.