Rev Edwin John Sturdee article 1

A fascinating insight on Brown Edge life from Vicar Sturdee


THE REV. EDWIN J. STURDEE, Vicar of Brown Edge, Sloke-on-Trent. 1902


I AM afraid that our “Sydenham” neighbours, to say nothing of those in the next parish on the other side, have the whip hand of us (if a sporting phrase may be allowed) in the matter of

services. Well trained choirs have their excellencies as well as their defects, and a well-trained choir means a well conducted service. Alas, for our parish, it has no choir, well trained or otherwise. Why we have no choir is a mystery which is kept as secret as the installation of a Freemason. We have choir seats it is true clustered round the well-placed organ, and these seats are more or less occupied, but as there can be no army without drill so there can be no choir without a practice. And yet in spite of these very serious drawbacks our people are delighted with the service, and some have been heard to declare that it is equal to any in the Potteries, which is saying a good deal, for with us “the Potteries” stands for public opinion of the responsible kind.

Our services are congregational. Be it remembered that we are fond of music, and boast of two brass bands and any number of trained singers, who at Christmas and other times parade the parish with the hearty appreciation of the inhabitants.

Our services are also choral, not “fully choral,” which is the correct form of expression, for “fully choral” includes the clergyman, but they are “fully choral” as regards the people. Barnby’s Ferial responses are in use, being more easily joined in than the Festal Tallis. The hymns are selected with great care, preference being given to swinging tunes. No hymn is sung as a rule more often than once in eight weeks, so that no one tune is ever likely by its frequency to kill any old cow in the neighbourhood of the church. The same rule applies to the chants, all taken from the Cathedral Psalter. New tunes and chants are learnt by the children, then brought out for the morning service, and when well seasoned are allowed a place at Evening Prayer, which is our church parade. The sermons are always “understanded” of the people. If they were not, the church would soon empty, for we are honeycombed with chapels of the Wesleyan type, served mostly by local preachers of local fame or the reverse. “I can understand every word,” was the delighted comment of a very occasional worshipper, who, being “no scholar,” was surprised that he could discuss the merits of the discourse with his more educated neighbour. Some time ago a Vicar from the Potteries preached in our church. His own service is so well “rendered” that to invite comparison would be folly, but his remark to a member of our congregation was the highest of all possible commendation, “When I stood in the pulpit I felt there is religion in this Church.” Non nobis Doinine.

Our congregation is not large. It might be much larger if all who came up to the church door would enter, but an incurable shyness seizes some of our lads, who have been known to take to their heels when invited to come in, unless they can see a seat close to the door into which they may pop unobserved. Perhaps this shyness is at the bottom of the disinclination to form a choir, and submit to the publicity of a choir practice. We have a week-evening service. “Of course you do,” would have been the remark twenty years ago, but nowadays the week-night service seems dying out, like the double church attendance on Sunday on the part of the upper and middle classes. The week-evening service is held on an off-night so far s the Wesleyans are concerned, so that some of them come to it, and thereby keep in touch with the church in which most of them were baptized, many were married, and where their bodies will be brought for the last service of all.

Speaking of this leads up to the subject of funerals. It used to be the custom in our parish for the Vicar to go to the house of mourning and conduct a service. Instead, he now meets the body at the churchyard gate, and confines his ministrations to the church and churchyard. All the mourners are invited to join in the Psalm and follow the lesson. Books and leaflets containing the service are handed round. Sometimes we sing a hymn, sometimes a ‘little address is given. All the service, save the committal and last collect, is, as a rule, taken in the church, not only on account of the climate, but also because usually the interest shown in the actual interment is of such an absorbing nature that devotion at this period is flung to the winds. A Sunday or two after the funeral the party come to church, and expect some notice of the bereavement from the pulpit. The system of compromise has to be stretched to its fullest extent in order to spare the feelings of the mourners, and also of the congregation, who, if critically disposed, are apt to resent references to the deceased, which, in some sad cases, are as much out of place as allusions to the gentleness of a Nero, or the kindness of a Caligula.

It would seem, on reference to the first rubric in the service for Public Baptism, that time was no object to our forefathers. To baptize infants “when the most number of people came together” means an addition of some twenty minutes to an already fairly long service. Of course the sermon might be omitted, but no true pastor and no right- minded congregation would consent to this form of excision. And so it has come to pass that the Baptismal Service has been made private instead of public, it being frequently held in an empty church, and as it usually takes place either before a week- night service or, if on a Sunday, when service is over, and there is all too little time to spare before tea, the rite has lost much of its solemnity, and a great deal of its realism.

Latterly we have tried to improve matters in our parish by having baptisms on one Sunday in the month and as part of the children’s service. After the lesson we all turn towards the font; every one has a prayer book and. the sponsors a card. The service proceeds with organ to accompany the Amens, and all take part in those responses which are for general use. As soon as the rite is administered, we sing the well-known hymn “In token that thou shalt not fear,” an interpolation which it is to be hoped will be allowed by Episcopal authority should it ever be called into question. Each child receives a memorial card with space to fill in dates of Confirmation and first Communion. These cards are highly prized, and have often been framed by their owners, though this has not been the case up to the present in our parish. The children’s service and public baptism combined is well attended. Great interest attaches to the number of babies presented so far, seven has been the record but we hope to beat that as time goes on.

The system of having cards of the service for what is called “surplice duty” is a great means of teaching our people that the Prayer Book is not a mere form. At what threaten to be disorderly weddings the attention of the bridal party is frequently centred on the service card, in order to be ready for the responses, so that all passes off well. On one occasion the gloss placed by a witty bridegroom on his endowment of the bride with all his worldly goods (“ I haven’t got any”) failed to rouse the expected laugh, so intent were the party on following the service.

Honor Benton


Honor Benton (nee Dawson)

This document was found in the old school as it was being converted to the Village Hall and was written for a school project in the early 70’s after she retired in 1971. She was awarded the MBE for services to education She was born at Brown Edge in 1901 and lived at Brookfield, St Anne’s Vale. and taught at Brown Edge for over twenty years, until re-organisation took place in 1939. She then moved to Endon Secondary School. She married Mr John Benton, also a teacher at Brown Edge and Endon. After the death of her husband in 1963, Mrs Benton continued to live at Brookfield with two of her sisters, Eunice and Mary. She died in 1983.
If you were to read in a book about what happened in Brown Edge 60 to 70 years ago, you would have no idea how far back that was, but if I told you that I was a child in this school over 60 years ago, you might get a clearer picture of time. I once asked a class in this school to write what they thought Brown Edge was like 100 years ago and I was astounded to find that they thought people would be running round in skins of animals. I soon explained that my father and grandfather were living 100 years ago and didn’t wear skins. 60, 70 or 100 years isn’t a very long time but a lot of changes have taken place. I suppose, really, I should begin to tell you a little of what I remember about my earliest days at school. Today children don’t go to school until they are 5, but I went when I was 4 years and 1 month old so I don’t remember much about it. The Infants School was in Church Road, or Lane Ends as we called it, and it is where Merle Harvey now lives. There was no playground, so we were sent into the road to play. There was no supervision but there was not much danger as there were no motor cars. Occasionally a horse and cart could be seen but they moved slowly and we could easily get out of the way. When I was 6 years old I left the Infants School and came to the Big School. I suppose was called Big because bigger children attended it. In those days children didn’t go to Endon Secondary School when they were 11, but stayed until they were old enough to go to work. A soon as a child’s 13th birthday arrived, he would go the headmaster and say ‘Please sir, will you look to see if I have made my times?’ Then the headmaster would look in the registers to see how many attendances had been made and if the correct number had been made, the child could leave. My parents left school when they were 10. This school was very much smaller than it is now. The present hall was one classroom containing about four classes and there were two small rooms. The entrance to the school was facing School Bank. In one room was the school bell, pulled by a rope, to ring twice in the morning, once at a quarter to nine and again at 9 o clock. As it was a Church school the Vicar came every morning to open school and every evening to close school. The children were divided into classes called standards ranging from Standard 0, which contained the backward children, many of whom stayed there until they left school, to standard7 or Ex.7.
The rooms were furnished with long desks each holding 4 or 5 children. In these desks were slots in which slates were placed, for most of the written work was done on slates to save the expense of paper. There wasn’t much money allowed for education and so paper and books were very scarce. The work on slates was done with slate pencils, which was a piece of slate in the form of a pencil to write down our sums. The teacher came round with a piece of chalk and marked them right or wrong. While I was at school, slates were banned for health reasons. To clean a slate, you need a duster but this does not fetch off all the marks so children used to spit on the slates and wipe it off with their own duster, but if they hadn’t one the boys would use their jacket sleeves and the girls used their pinafores. This of course, was unhygienic, and so slates were banned. When the slate pencils became blunt they were sharpened by rubbing them on a stone window sill and this made grooves in the stone. There is one of these sills showing the grooves in the hall but it has now been painted over. The slate pencils had another use. There were no school meals provided so the children who lived a distance from the school had to bring sandwiches. The children didn’t like this in the cold weather so they used to bring bread and butter sandwiches, take a slate pencil from the cupboard, push it through the bread and toast it in front of a big blazing fire. This was called French toast. There was no supervision by the staff. There was no water laid on at the school and if we wanted a drink we would take a medicine bottle to Stone House well and fill it with water and drink it. Again there was no supervision although it was an open well.
The lessons at school were very different from what they are today. Every morning for the first lesson we had Scripture or Religious Instruction, the rest of the morning was spent with the 3Rs. For most of the other lessons we had to learn by heart. Our geography lessons consisted of learning the names and locations of capes and bays, tributaries of rivers or the peaks in the mountain ranges, e.g. Flamborough Head and Spurn Head in
Yorkshire, Lowestoft ness in Sussex, the Naze in Essex, North Foreland and South Foreland in Kent. or Swale, Ure, Nidd, Wharfe, Aire, Don, Calder (tributaries of the Yorkshire Ouse).
I had a sister much older than I who told me that when she was at school only boys learnt Geography while the girls did Needlework. This was understandable in a way because Needlework was very important to a girl then. Remember there was very little entertainment for people in those days. There was no radio, no television, no cars or buses to take them out of the village, so in the evening the girls spent their time in knitting, darning and sewing. If they wanted new clothes they couldn’t jump on a bus and go to Hanley to Marks and Spencers because there were no buses and no Marks and Spencers as such. Even if they possessed a horse and trap, the only clothes they could afford to buy would be badly made or of poor quality so usually the clothes were made at home or by the village dressmaker. Children in school were not as fortunate as children today. The girls didn’t have two or three summer dresses and two or three winter dresses. Because money was very scarce, and there were no family allowances, girls would have one thicker frock in the spring and this would last all the year for best wear, and then be taken for school-wear the next year. It was very necessary to keep these frocks clean because if they were washed they would shrink badly. So every child wore a print pinafore. The boys wore short trousers, jackets without a collar, and stiff white collars – Eton style. No boy wore long trousers until he went to work. The girls wore long hair, tied back with a bow of ribbon. Almost all the boys and some of the girls wore clogs because they were cheap, waterproof and durable and were suited for the rough stony roads. The clogs had iron tips renewed by the village clogger.
When the children were ready to leave school, the teachers would know what the children would do. As there were no buses or cars, the work for the boys would have to be within walking distance. It was no good getting a job in Leek or Hanley or Burslem because it would be too far to walk there in the morning and back again at night, so apart from the odd butcher’s boy or farm labourer, all the boys went to Whitfield, to work in the coal mine. They came home with black faces because there were no pit baths. If a girl could not stay at home to keep mother, there was nothing for the girls except domestic service. This meant that a girl would get a job as a domestic servant at a house, perhaps in Endon or Leek, or Burslem and she would live in, coming home perhaps every other Sunday, but even then she had to be back by 9pm. She had to work hard, scrubbing floors, washing or cleaning grates, and for very little wages. There were no washers or vacuum cleaners, or any other labour saving devices. When the buses came after the First World War all this was changed. Nearly all the people in the village spoke dialect. In school proper English was spoken but the moment the children were released, dialect was used. Some of the older people couldn’t speak English as it is used today. It is only since people have been able to get out of the village that dialect has become less frequently used and although many people still use it, they can also speak correctly.


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The Davenport Family

William Davenport came to Brown Edge from Lask Edge before the 1861 census.  However he was the patriach of all subsequent Davenports.  He was born in Longsdon or Ladderedge as it was called then, where he was living next door but one to James Turner who came to Brown Edge before 1861 also.

Mrs Mary Cornes nee Harvey has kindly provided the following photographs and commentary.

This is a photo of the grandmother of all the Davenports of Brown Edge. It is Hannah, my great grandmother wife of William. She was born at Meerbrook, in 1830, married William in 1851 and on the census for 1851 they were living at Lask Edge, with Hannah’s sister Jane Redfern, husband William and her mother Ann Hall. In 1861 and 1871 they were at Hobbs House Old Lane, Brown Edge where my grandfather was born. Sometime between 1871 and 1881 they were living at Upper Stone House Farm but by 1881 they had moved to Sprinks Farm Horton Haye. Two sons William and Thomas were married and remained in Brown Edge. William died in 1894 when Hannah went to live with her daughter Elizabeth and her husband Joseph Dawson at Poole Fields. This photo was taken in the early 1900s in the field opposite the house. I think the land is now built on but, the houses are the ones opposite the Holly Bush playing fields.

A family group of my grand parents Charles and Martha taken in 1906 in front of
Lane End Cottage( now 31 Church Road). In the back row are from left to right,
Arthur, (Phillip Davenport’s grandfather) Hannah, (Edwin Sims grandmother) and Mary
Jane (known as Polly).
Middle row left is my mother Beatrice, then grandparents, then James. In the front is
Charles and Martha returned to Brown Edge in 1891 and were living in Sandy Lane
at the time of the census. They lived at Lions Paw for a short time but bought Lane
End Cottage about 1893 and it remained in the family until my mother died in 1972.


This is the only photo I have of the youngest member of the family, Phyllis, she is on the left and, on the right is Mrs. Benton (Honor Dawson) do not know who is in front. If possible I would like a mention of her in the Brown Edge history. She was born at Lane End Cottage in 1907 and lived all her life there. She taught at St Anne’s school from the late 20s to 1953 the day she died. She devoted her life to the children of the village and during the war organized a knitting group to make comforts for the troops. With May Berrisford (nurseries at Double Gates family) also a teacher at Brown Edge, she raised money by holding Whist Drives. There has been a lot written about the Bentons. They moved to the new school in Endon while Aunty Phyllis remained at Brown Edge teaching the third year (9 to 10 year olds) and I feel has been forgotten in recent histories of the village. Anyone at school in I 930s, 40s or early 50s I am sure will remember her. I think the children planted a garden, to the left, in front of the church gates, in her memory.

There are two photos of St Anne’s drama group when we performed “Mrs. Whigs of the Cabbage Patch” at the school in 1950. I cannot remember all the names but here are some of them.
.Far left Mrs. Proctor, Tom Mitchell, Rosemary Attoe and behind her Bertha Clements and, far right myself Mary Harvey.


Back row Joe Cumberlidge, Gladys Hammond. Behind her Rev Walter Attoe.
In the middle with the white hat Mrs. Bond and behind Bert Pointon, then Mrs.
Crossley, Eric Jolly, Betty Jolly (Mrs. Mosedale) on the end Tom Mitchell. Sitting
down in the middle are Bill Bourne, Mrs. Proctor and, with the tall hat, George Hall
(then the church warden) Sitting, with plaits, left Bertha Clements and right myself.

This is Granny taken in the garden at Lane Ends.

This is a school photo of myself age 6 . We never had group photos, and none taken during the war


Mumming play

The Brown Edge and Biddulph Moor Mumming play.

This play was collected from a lady (whose name escapes me at the moment) in 1966 by John Levit. She lived at Biddulph moor but came from Brown Edge as a child.  She remembered the play being performed in local pubs primarily at christmas time.


King George    The Prince of Paradise

Slasher            Bealzebub
The Doctor      The Little Devil Doubt

Devil Doubt

Open this door to let in,
For I am one bound to win.
Whether  I rise or whether I fall
I’ll do my duty to please you all.
A  room, a room which I desire,
Stir up this fire, and  make a light,
For to see this Jovial act by night
I act by night, I act by day,
I mean to act this jovial  act before I go way
If you don’t believe these words I say,
Step in King George and clear the way.

King George

Here art I, King George
The Noble champion bold, of all the world,
With my bright  buckled sword down my side
I won ten thousand pounds in Gold
Because I have fought the fiery dragon
And bought him to the slaughter
By these means   I won the King of Egypts daughter


Here am I Slasher,
Brave, bold, gallant slasher,
Slasher is my name,

The Turkish Moor, a knight of fame
If I fought a fight with thee,
I fear thou art not able
For as I draw my glittering sword
I’m sure I‘ll thee disable.

King George

Disable, disable?
I’m not in thy power
If I draw my glittering sword
I’m sure I’ll thee devour
Stand back Slasher, let no more be said 
If I draw my glittering sword

I’m sure to break thy head




How canst thou break mine head

For my head is made of iron, my body of steel

My hands of fearsome knuckle bone

I’ll challenge thee to a fight


Slasher fights and falls


Devil Doubt

Call in the prince

The Prince of paradise

            Here am I the prince, the prince of paradise

King George  King George

What hast thou done

Thou has killed and slain mine only son, mine only heir

Look there he lies a bleeding there.

I will pay  a thousand pounds

A doctor to engage

Devil Doubt

A doctor a doctor?

What Kind of doctor?

The Doctor

            Make way make way

For I am a doctor!

Devil Doubt

            Since when, since when.

How becomes thou a doctor?


Form Italy, Sicily, Germany, France and Spain

I have now come to cure diseases in old England again.

King George

What diseases canst thou cure


All sorts

King George

All sorts, what kind of ailment is that?


It’s the Itch, the twitch, the palsy and gout

The pain that’s within and the pain without

I’ve cured a man with 15 devils in his soul

And cast 20 out

Surely I can cure this poor chap.

Here take a little out of my bottle

And let it run down thy throttle

If thou are not quite slain

Then rise up to fight again


My Back my back


What’s amiss with thy back


My Back is wounded

My Heart is confounded

To be struck out of seven senses into four score

Likewise I have never seen it before


Here am I old Beelzebub

Over my shoulder I carry my club

In my hand a dripping pan

I think myself a jolly old man

Put up these swords and spears to rest

As peace and quietness is the best

Ive lived in houses lands and cities

Ive sung all the songs and the ditties

Ive seen the men eating dumplings and pancakes

Ive seen Bulls and piglets running up the street

Old peter comes up with a turmit cart and got struck on the crown

And made him shout termits all over the town.


Little Devil Doubt


Here am I Little Devil Doubt

If you don’t give me money I shall sweep all of you out

Money I want and money I crave

If you don’t give me money I’ll sweep you to the grave

Now ladies and gents as you sit at your ease

Put your hand in your pocket

And give what you please

If you haven’t got a copper a silver will do

Pull out your purse and give us a few.