11 things you never knew about Uttoxeter, Staffordshire
PUBLISHED: 11:54 25 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:25 20 February 2013
Just two miles over the border into Staffordshire, Uttoxter can boast history, architecture, racing and being 'top of the shops'
1. THE NAME
Wotocheschede, as it appeared in the Domesday Book, is just one of around 79 different spellings of Uttoxeter. Huttokkeshatre, in the reign of Henry V and Ottokeshther at the time of Edward I, are others but by the time of Speeds map of 1610 the name Uttoxeter had been established. Uttoxeter was an early British settlement and there was a Roman fort at nearby Rocester.
2. THE MARKET PLACE
Now re-paved and a focal point for town celebrations, the Market Place has several notable memorials. Addition to a war memorial, theres the Johnson Memorial (home to one of the countrys smallest shops), which marks the spot where in 1780 Dr Samuel Johnson stood bareheaded for several hours in the pouring rain in penance for refusing to man his ill fathers bookstall 50 years earlier. The Millennium Monument is the latest addition. The Market Place also claims a notable place in history. In 1648, after the crushing Royalist defeat at the Battle of Preston, James, Duke of Hamilton fled to the town with the remnants of his army. In what was the last surrender of troops of the Civil War, he was taken prisoner by General John Lambert and sent to Windsor Castle, to be beheaded at Westminsteron 9th March 1649. Some of his soldiers were imprisoned in the church, apparently causing some damage. King Charles I had himself visited the town several times when hunting in the nearby forest.
A charter for a Wednesday market was granted by Henry III to William Ferrers, Earl of Derby in 1252. In the 18th century the market was notable for its dairy produce and a source of supply for many London cheesemongers. Uttoxeters thrice weekly cattle market was the largest in the area when it closed in 2005 to make way for a retail and housing development. Happily surveying work began earlier this year for a new cattle market. There is still a market every Wednesday, a Spook market on Fridays and on the final Saturday of the month an extremely successful farmers market a popular source of excellent local produce.
4. CHURCH ARCHITECTURE
The original 14th century parish church of St Mary was badly damaged by fire in 1672. It was rebuilt, except for the original tower and spire, in 1828. St Marys RC Church (1839) in Balance Street was the first design of the famous architect AWN Pugin who had been commissioned by the Earl of Shrewsbury to work on Alton Towers and at the same time worked on several Catholic churches in the area. The Friends Meeting House and United Reformed Church (1828) in Carter Street are also interesting buildings. The commodious Wesleyan Chapel was erected in the High Street in 1812.
5. OTHER BUILDINGS
Once you start looking, its hard to stop. Theres a proliferation of splendid buildings including inns, almshouses, halls and some lovely domestic architecture. The Old Talbot Inn in the Market Place dates from the 13th century. The White Hart Hotel, originally built in the early 16th century was a coaching stage post on the London run. Supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie used it as their headquarters in 1745. The fourth generation butchers TG Sargeant & Sons occupy a timber-framed building of c1600, restored in 1980, while in a 17th century timber framed building is the towns Heritage Centre and local information hub. After a threatened closure, a group of local volunteers is to keep the centre open newly renamed Redferns Cottage: A museum of Uttoxeter Life and well worth a visit. Bank House (now a hotel) was the home of Uttoxeters first bank. Designed in the 18th century by local architect Thomas Gardner, it is a simpler copy of Pickfords House in Derbys Friargate. The impressive Town Hall was built in 1854 and now has the clock that once adorned Buntings brewery where the car park and bus station stand today. Another intriguing building to the rear of the Market Place, is the domed onetime headquarters of Bamfords ironmongery business (note the B on the weather vane). Alleynes grammarschool was founded in 1558 was moved to Back Lane in 1859.
6. FAMOUS NAMES
Robert Bakewell, the foremost wrought ironsmith of his time, was born in Uttoxeter in 1682. Writer Mary Howitt, perhaps best known for her poem The Spider and the Fly but also one of the first people to write childrens books came to live in Balance Street in 1801. Admiral Lord Gardner was born at the Manor House in 1742. By all accounts a dashing captain and then a senior admiral, he became MP for Plymouth and later Westminster. Rewarded with a peerage he chose to be Lord Gardner of Uttoxeter. More recently Joseph Cyril Bamford (creator of JCB, or J.C. Bamford Excavators Limited) was born here. A member of a successful local family Joe Bamford decided to go into business for himself fame and fortune followed. Film director and screenwriter Shane Meadows is from Uttoxeter. A rising star of British cinema, several of his films have local associations.
Uttoxeter has always been a thriving town several maltsters, tanners, fellmongers, nail makers, Bendware manufacturers, woolstaplers, rope and twine spinners, timber merchants, etc, and a Joint Stock Bank, and a large brewery are listed in Whites Directory of Staffordshire, 1851. Today the main employers are JCB and Foxs Biscuits. A recent business currently making waves is Glennans, the largest manufacturer of pan-fried vegetable crisps in the UK and Europe.
Wandering round the pedestrian friendly streets I fell foul of Uttoxeters justifiably acclaimed specialist retailers and bought something in virtually every shop I visited. I was following in the footsteps of the mystery shoppers of a professional retail research team who last year voted Uttoxeter second only to Stratford upon Avon (and by a very narrow margin) from 79 towns across the UK. Uttoxeter was praised particularly for the extremely high standard of service. Of 4,000 individual shops looked at nationwide, only four were awarded full marks, and one was in Uttoxeter. Its impossible to name them all, but designer clothes and great shoes, cookware, unique accessories, quality bath products, beauty salons, specialist local produce and excellent interiors shops came high on my list. A short walk towards the railway station and theres a Top specialist furniture retailer. As David Hunter from Indulgence Coffee Lounge in the courtyard off Market Place, says: Its a brilliant town. Anyone who wants to shop somewhere where they can feel safe and secure and be assured of great service in a range of individual shops should come to Uttoxeter. I must also mention the friendly welcome I received at the library and heritage centre.
9. UTTOXETER RACECOURSE
Uttoxeter Racecourse is probably the towns most famous landmark. It is in an enviable country setting a short walk from the town centre and conveniently placed for access by road or rail. The thrilling world of punters, bookies, owners, trainers, eccentrics, hangers-on and grandees is right here on our doorstep. Uttoxeter is home to the Midland Grand National as well as staging 25 exciting race days throughout the year, including themed race evenings and family fun days. The course also hosts car boot sales, shows and auctions. Another lovely swathe of green is the Bramshall Road Recreation Ground which has bowling green, tennis courts and play areas.
10. EATING OUT
The town centre is rich in excellent coffee shops and places to find a light bite and a variety of characterful inns and a range of restaurants and takeways to suit every palate. A short and pleasant country drive away at Strines Farm is the excellent Restaurant Gilmore, which emphasises its use of local produce.
11. AROUND AND ABOUT
Croxden Abbey ruins are peaceful and atmospheric. Within easy reach are the award-winning Denstone Hall Farm Shop for great local produce, china factory shops in the Potteries, Alton Towers and last but by no means least the glorious Peak District.