HOMe-hOUSE 33 – I am here…
My psyche needs to know where I am all the time, this is both physically and in time, so when I didn’t have a watch for a few days at a writers retreat I became quite depressed and if I had had the opportunity would have left early. Maps and clocks are important to me and the newer technologies help me to be even more exact.
My home in Newfield Street, Tunstall can be found with exact settings online, I can use a compass to see the angle of the house, I can see something of the history of the house and area on maps.
My compass set on a window ledge at the back of the house shows that it is set only a little off North/South, 3° NNE the front wall – 3° SSW the rear.
The grid reference is SJ85676 51882.
The Latitude 53.063987 North The Longitude -2.7152008 West
So if I went in a straight line eastwards I would pass through many small places in the east Midlands and Lincolnshire hitting the North Sea just north of Boston (where I used to work). The biggest city I would reach would be Bremen in Germany which is almost on the same latitude then after a huge journey Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the far eastern edge of Russia. Going further eastward across the northern Pacific, Alaska and Canada I would eventually hit Akimiski Island in St.James Bay on Hudson Bay. Which shows Newfield Street is in quite a northern position on the Earth, luckily we don’t get the continental weather Akimiski Island gets in the winter!
Go westwards and I would pass through the edges of Wrexham then hit the Irish Sea at Pontllyfni and the Irish coast south of Bray and the Atlantic at Kinvarra, ending up in Canada in the middle of nowhere on the shore of Bad Bay, Newfoundland.
The longitude shows I am just a little west of 0° (Greenwich Meridian). Southwards a straight line would pass through Birmingham and cross the south coast at Lulworth Cove in Dorset, then across to Britanny near St.Malo and into the Bay of Biscay at Saint-Nazaire hitting Spain near San Sebastian and into the Med near Almeria. Travelling southwards I would reach Africa on the Algerian coast then huge deserts and through Burkina Faso until reaching the Atlantic at Lome the capital of Togo. Then it is nothing but ocean until Antarctica.
Travelling northwards I would go through Manchester and leaving land into the North Sea just along north of Berwick and passing through some of the Shetland Isles and sea and ice until reaching the North Pole.
These lines place me on The Earth. These imaginary journeys can take place using maps, Google Earth is great or better still my Times Atlas of the World. Or like Richard Long I could take many decades walking and sailing in straight lines…
Maps can also show the more localised history of my home.
A map from the late 1770’s shows New Fields just north of the village of Tunstall, this street was not even thought of and the area just beginning to industrialise, packhorse roads carried the pottery from the burgeoning industry and were soon to be taken over by the canals. The Trent and Mersey Canal opened in 1777 is shown with Harecastle Tunnel, so in the time the map was made this area would have been a hive of building work and people moving in to work on the canals and linking roads, camps for navvies, pubs, brothels and chapels, it must have been a lively place.
Newfield Street is first shown on the OS map of 1898 (available through Alan Godfrey Maps who reprint maps for all over the UK). On one side of the street it is only half built, but no.39 is there and the houses unchanged since. The streets just north in the triangle of roads are not shown but may well have been under construction. It wouldn’t have been a particularly pleasant place to live. At the top of the street where Summerbank School is now was a tilery, where some of the materials for 39 may well have come from.
A few streets away was the huge Royal Albert and Victoria Pottery, on the map you will see circles, these are bottle kilns which were particularly dirty, belching out smoke.
The surrounding ‘fields’ would just have been wasteland, just look at the number of disused mines, this would have been like this right through to the early 1960’s. A photograph by Bert Bentley for The Sentinel from probably the early 1960’s shows a bleak landscape now covered in trees, grass and bushes as can be seen in a photograph from my Streets series photograph taken of the same place cottages.
A map like this shows just the bare bones details what is there but not how it looks and feels. The most recent map is a digital map found at the OS site, updated regularly and full of detail. It shows all the new builds on what was wasteland, the ‘new’ road taking traffic away from Tunstall, the small park, although the shape and old roads are basically the same on the ground it is a very different experience. The clean air acts, environmental policies, demise of the pottery and mining industry mean a cleaner place to live; what it doesn’t show is the break-up of the long term communities, the loss of a sense of place.
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