Sunday read with Mervyn Edwards

The first in a series coming each Sunday


Burslem Market Place is still the address of several pubs, but the most important pub in Burslem from around 1780 to 1830 stood roughly where
the present Britannia Building Society stands now. An illustration in the Warrillow Collection at Keele University shows Market Place from
the area around what was later Fountain Place. In the middle of the picture is the Town Hall of 1761, whilst the Legs of Man is the building
with the prominent second-floor sign-post. It stood in a prime site in Market Place, and according to sales particulars announced in 1800,
it adjoined “ five Dwelling Houses, Smith’ s Shop and Hovel” and the nearby Marquis of Granby.

In late Georgian times, this was an important meeting place for industrialists and town businessmen. It was also Burslem’ s first coaching
inn. Allbut’ s directory (1802) tells us that the Expedition coach left the Legs of Man for London every day at 6.00 a.m. Another coach departed
from the pub at 6.00 p.m., en route to Liverpool. By 1818, the Light Post, Regulator and Prince Cobourg coaches were recorded as calling at
the Legs of Man on their way to Liverpool, Birmingham and London.

The post was also delivered to the pub with the daily mail coaches from London to the North running through Burslem by 1790.

Charles Cotton, the landlord of the Legs of Man, was postmaster by 1790. The Staffordshire Advertiser announced in 1825 that his daughters,
the Miss Cottons, had taken on the “ Legs of Man and Post-Office” on their own account, the inn having been “ conducted for more than
forty years past” by Charles. The newspaper notice suggests that the daughters soon made efforts to create a female-friendly pub: “ The Miss
COTTONS flatter themselves that the alterations and improvements proposed to be made will meet with the approbation of Commercial
Gentlemen, by whom the house has been hitherto favoured. It will be their particular desire also, to render the Inn agreeable to Ladies who may
honour them upon their journies [sic].” A post-office at Miss Cotton’ s, Market Place, is still referred to in 1834, whilst the Hark Forward coach
continued to call at the pub on a daily basis, en route to Birmingham and Wolverhampton by this time.

Public meetings and dinners were held with great regularity at the Legs of Man. Some were held to celebrate important victories during the
Napoleonic Wars. Gentlemen attended a public dinner to celebrate George IV’ s Coronation in 1821, whilst the inn also played host to the
annual Pitt Dinner, which celebrated the birthday of the late William Pitt (1759-1806), the former prime minister.

It will be seen that the suitability of the attached assembly room was a real money-spinner for the licensee. A meeting of owners and occupiers
of Burslem public houses met in the room in March 1830, in order to draw up plans to oppose the imminent Beer Act, which became law in
October. This permitted any householder to sell beer from his own home, as long as he paid two guineas per year to the exciseman. Fully-licensed public houses such as the Legs of Man did not welcome the competition.

The inn declined in popularity after about 1830, partly due to the growing prosperity of the nearby Leopard. The decline of the Legs of Man is
alluded to in the Staffordshire Advertiser at the time when Mary Holland (formerly of the Cross Keys Inn, Burslem) took over as licensee in
1837: “ It will be her study to restore the celebrity of this old-established Commercial House, which has undergone a thorough and complete
repair; the beds and furniture are newly-purchased: and she trusts the general comforts of the Inn, combining moderate charges with exertion
and regularity, will render it every way worthy of public favour” . A daily Ordinary was advertised, as well as “ Lock-up Coach-houses,
extensive and excellent Stabling, with attentive and obliging servants.”
Notwithstanding these improvements, Mary Holland removed to the George Hotel in 1843. Sales particulars in the local press particularly
referred to the inn’ s commercial room and the bar, as well as the mash tubs and other utensils used for brewing on the premises.

The inn can also claim to have played a minor role in the establishment of art education in Burslem, for the town’ s first art school (its second was
incorporated in the later Wedgwood Institute, and the third in the School of Art in Queen Street) was based in the assembly room of the Legs of
Man. This Government School of Design supervised by W J Muckley from 1853 to 1858, closed partly “ from being situated in a villainous
room in a locality where no-one having physical decency, to say nothing of health, would go.” The publican apparently kept pigs below!

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