A Brief History of Oakamoor

 

 

 

Our village is situated in the Churnet Valley in the Staffordshire Moorlands and has a history of industrial activity dating back to the Norman Conquest; we are, however, now a rural community.

 

The area of land adjacent to the river Churnet has been used continuously for centuries for various industrial activities starting in medieval times with a water driven slitting mill and ending with the demolition of Bolton’s Copper Factory in 1963.

 

The River Bridge was erected in 1710 and widened for turnpike traffic in 1778. It is still in regular use today .

 

The weir and sluice gates were built in the 18th century to power strip mills owned by Thomas Patten. At its peak, around 1860, four water mills were operating in the factory. The largest, overshot, wheel was 20 ft in diameter.

 

The Uttoxeter Canal passed through the village and was constructed by John Rennie in 1808, the completed stretch opened in 1811. The arch of Rennie’s canal bridge can still be seen in the garden wall of the Cricketers’ Arms nearby.

 

This provided a transport medium for copper and brass from Oakamoor wharf.

 

The canal had a very short working life being finally closed in 1843 to make way for the railway. Ashes and clinker from the factory was used to infill the waterway during the next 60 years.

 

The houses at Riverside, Woodside and Churnet View are built on this infill.

 

Oakamoor wharf then became known as Jimmy’s Yard and was served by a railway siding, which used the old canal bridge under the road for access to the village.

 

The Churnet Valley railway line was opened in June 1847, the station opened in 1849 and Jimmy’s Yard was used as a coal wharf from then until 1920.

 

The Churnet Valley line succumbed to Dr Beeching’s axe in 1963 followed quickly by the demolition of Bolton’s Copper Works later that year.

 

There had been a mill at Oakamoor since medieval times and there is a record it being owned by the Foley family in 1683, in 1761 George Kendal was the ironmaster and in 1790 Thomas Patten begins serious production.

 

This continued until 1851 when Thomas Bolton bought the site for £7750.

 

In 1857 the first Transatlantic Telegraph Cable was manufactured at the site.

 

Production continued until 1962 when the factory was closed and all production switched to Froghall.

 

The factory was demolished in 1963.

 

Holy Trinity Church was built in 1832 as the Chapel of Ease with a schoolroom beneath which became Oakamoor National School.

 

In 1871 the school moved into the building which is now the Village Hall and in 1892 moved again into the present building.

The school which is now called the Valley Primary and still flourishes with pupils attracted from the local area.

 

The Memorial Free Church was opened in 1879 and was built by the Bolton family who owned the factory.

 

Without the stimulus of the factory workers the retail businesses in the village gradually declined to the present situation of three pubs and a Post Office.

 

We have lost two grocery shops, a butcher, blacksmith, newsagent and petrol filling station in the last 40 years, due to outside competition and the increased mobility of the population most of which work outside the village.