The hidden history of street name changes in Stoke-on-Trent


A street sign has uncovered a hidden history of road name changes in Stoke-on-Trent.

Residents in Minster Street, Burslem, were left ‘surprised’ after spotting their street sign had come loose and was hanging down. It revealed that, once upon a time, the road went by a very different name.

Etched into the brickwork was ‘York Street’, which got people wondering why the name was changed, and when.

It all dates back to the federation of the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent in 1910, when Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Fenton, Longton and Stoke came together to form a city.

Local historian Fred Hughes shed some light on the reason for the street name changes, which actually took local leaders more than 40 years to sort out.

Fred said: “When the six towns came to federate, on March 31, 1910, they had 12 months to prepare for the handover, and they came across several big issues that needed sorting.

“One was which town hall would be the main one – it turned out to be Stoke – and then they had to look into other things such as electric and gas works, sewage systems and police forces – because Burslem and Hanley had their own.



Minster Street, Burslem – the street’s sign can be seen hanging off to the right

“They managed to do all of this within 12 months, but the one thing they didn’t do was organise the names of streets.

“For instance, they suddenly realised that under the new structure, there were something like 14 Victoria Streets, Albert Streets galore, and numerous Coronation Streets, all named after royalty. Each town also had its own High Street, so all of these had to be adjusted.”

As a result of two world wars and mass unemployment, the changes were pushed back for many years, until Stoke-on-Trent started to experience lots of success – and lots of visitors – in the 1950s.

Fred added: “When they federated in 1910, there was so much to do, that this was placed on the back burner. They thought they’d manage and put the other things through first.

“In the early 1950s, Stoke-on-Trent wasn’t doing too bad at all. A lot of people were visiting looking for trade, opportunity, commerce and shopping, and they were getting lost in all these streets with the same names.

“Visitors couldn’t work out that Victoria Street, Fenton, wasn’t the same as Victoria Street, Burslem. So, in 1953, they decided to tackle it. But it was a big job, a big deal.”



Minster Street, Burslem, 1964

While York Street in Burslem got the chop, Hanley’s York Street – near to The Dudson Centre – survived, and it’s the same for many other street names across the city.

“You can go anywhere in Stoke-on-Trent, like Minster Street, take off the street name sign and underneath there will probably be the original name in the brick,” said Fred.

“One of the streets that they discovered to be widely used was Station Street, or Station Road. There were dozens of these because every town had its own little station on the loop line.

“When it came to changing the names, they threw it over to the councillors at the time. There was one very well known councillor in Tunstall, Leonard Barber, and he had to help change the names of the streets in Tunstall.

“There was a Station Street in Tunstall, that runs out of town and goes up to High Lane. He felt that – because he’d helped to get the beautiful wartime gates established in the park – he was quite justified in calling it a posh name.

“So he called it The Boulevard. It’s the strangest of all that got changed, because it was outrageously pompous, but his way of saying, Tunstall should have its fame and this is like a boulevard in Paris.



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“All the councillors had these opportunities to make changes to the street names in 1953, but that was his. That’s the best illustration of how a councillor had a lovely input in the changes of names in 1953.”

Some Minster Street residents were surprised that the street once had a different name – but others were more clued up about the city’s history.

Paul Johnson, aged 66, said: “I noticed the sign was hanging down at the weekend. I was quite surprised to see another name underneath.

“York Street does ring a bell, but I had no idea that the road used to be called that.

“At the time of changing it, they obviously just put the new sign over the old one rather than replacing it, so it’s become loose over time. It’s nice to see the old name still there in the brickwork.”

A neighbour, who only wanted to give his first name, Marcus, said he’d love for Minster Street to be renamed back to York Street.

He said: “There was a man who used to live right at the end of the road, we worked together, and he lived here when it was York Street. He told me about it once.

“It’s very nice to see it, it’s a bit of history, and I prefer York Street, I think it sounds better.

“I have heard that if enough neighbours get together, you can ask to have your street name changed, but there’s no chance it would go back to that name now.”

Our Burslem founder June Cartwright said that it’s ‘interesting’ to see an example of this in the Mother Town.

She said: “I did know that the names had changed in the 1950s. The street I was born on was called Birch Terrace and that’s now Herd Street.

“I also have a card somewhere that we got from my grandfather, which says his address as James Street, which is now Evans Street.

“It’s very interesting to see the names still there in the brickwork – it’s a part of our history.”

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