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A history of Talke Church, Talke' O' Th' Hill and a biography of St. Martin

Talke Church

Talke church has a long history, yet a relatively modern building. Earliest records show a worshipping community in Talke during the twelfth century. However, the name of the church suggests earlier origins. Martin, Bishop of Tours died in 397 A.D. A popular book about his life was written by his friend Sulpicus Severus soon after and, as a result, early churches were named after him. Churches with the name 'St. Martin' usually date from around the fifth century, so Talke Church could well have ancient origins. Especially when you consider that Chesterton was a Roman settlement, and Talke would have been on the road North from there.

The oak figures of John the Baptist and Paul ( see photos ), either side of the chancel arch are said to have come from Little Moreton Hall.The church was a 'chapel of ease' to Audley from 1552 until 1859.

In 1553 it was visited by Thomas Cromwell's Commissioners who removed some of the church property and vestments.

The Chalice still used today was given to 'Talk Chappel' by John Bourne in 1728. He lived at the Harecastle Farm.

In 1749 part of the current Church was built. The 1818 Staffordshire Directory describes the Church as ' a small brick structure with a low tower containing a clock and one bell. It is situated in the middle of the village. There was a chapel of ease standing there in 1553 made of wattle and doro.' Further work was carried out in 1794.

In 1830, in a report to the Bishop the church was described as "a small brick building erected above 60 years ago; single body and very plain. The roof is timber, covered with tile but not in a good state of repair." In 1833 the church was considerably enlarged and the tower rebuilt.

St. Martin's 1841

On 27th September 1859 it was constituted a separate Parish comprising of Talke and Butt Lane.

In 1868 a stained glass window was inserted by public subscription. Three figures on it are Jesus, St. Peter, and a soldier, presumably St. Martin. The church also features: two stained glass windows facing North and South in memory of a gunpowder explosion in August 1782, and a Pit Explosion on December 13th 1866 when 91 were killed; a 1950 West facing stained glass window of St. Martin upstairs in memory of Rev Edwards Rector of the Parish for 30 years ( see photos ); and a 1975 North facing window in the side chapel in memory of the mining industry and St. Saviours' Church.

In 1879 St. Saviour's Church was constructed in Butt Lane. It was large and built in imitation Tudor Style with a timber frame filled with concrete and plaster. This replaced a temporary iron church which was re-erected at Rookery. It was consecrated on September 14th. The church was closed in 1972.

St. Saviour's Church

A brick built Mission Church seating 200 was erected in 1887 by subscription at Talke Pits with Mr John Henry Wibberley as lay evangelist. There were also Wesleyan, Free Methodist and Primitive Methodist chapels. None of these exist today. St. Martin's is the only remaining church in Talke and Talke Pits. It continues to serve Butt Lane, and enjoys fellowship with the Baptist and Methodist Churches there.

In 1906 eight tubular bells were hung in Saint Martin's as a memorial to the Rev. MacHutchin, Rector 1859-1906. These are still in the church but are not used as they are unsafe.

St. Martin of Tours (316 - 397), was born in Hungary and Bishop of Tours from 372 for about twenty years. He was brought up in Pavia, Italy. While a soldier in the Roman army, he is said to have divided his military cloak in half giving one part to a shivering beggar ( see photos ) at the gate of Amiens and wrapping the other part around his own shoulders as a cape. After this, it is said, he had a dream in which the beggar was revealed as Jesus. Jesus told a parable about this type of kind deed in Matthew's gospel, Chapter 25, from verse 34 to 40.

After becoming a Christian in 339 Martin left the army, saying, 'I am Christ's soldier; I am not allowed to fight.' He took up the hermit's life and founded the monastry of Liguge near Poitiers in France in 360. His monastry was used a spring-board to evangelise rural France. Many of those who passed through the monastry went on to become Bishops. Saint Patrick of Ireland was probably one of these. Martin founded many monastries and churches in France and is the patron Saint of France. His life is celebrated on November 11th.


The exact origin of the word 'Talke' ( formerly 'Talk' ) is unclear, although it is certainly linked to the fact that it is situated on a high ridge.The Welsh word 'twlch' (pronounced tulk) means 'hill' or 'height'. Another Welsh word, 'tal' meaning a 'forehead' or 'front end' could also relate to it's high position.It is also thought that it may come from an old Anglo-Saxon word, meaning 'High Place'. Until the end of the nineteenth century it was commonly known as 'Talk' O' Th' Hill'.

Talke and Audley are mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086. A 'Charter of Free Warren' was granted to James de Audley by Henry III in 1253. This, among other things, allowed a market to be held every Tuesday in the 'Manor of Talke'. A stone cross was erected on the site of the market in 1253 and this was restored in 1887. It is situated opposite to 'The Swan' Public House today. Talke was on a major route from London to Carlisle which entered Staffordshire near Lichfield and ran through Stone, Newcastle, Chesterton, Red Street, Talke and Butt Lane. Packhorse trains, wagons, soldiers, peddlers and farmers taking goods to market all passed through Talke which was famed for it's inns ! In 1733 a traveller spoke of 'The Plume of Feathers' in Talke as 'a great waggoners inn' where he had seen 'above twenty teams of a night'.

In the fourteenth century iron was being worked at Talke. Newcastle was the centre of the iron stone industry and had it's own ironmarket. From the sixteenth century coal was being mined in some areas, initially without underground excavations.

In July 1782 a fire occurred in the village, destroying a large amount of property. A gunpowder explosion occurred on August 4th 1782. 39 cwt of gunpowder was being transported through Talke. The driver went into the Queens Head to have some refreshments and Joseph Fallows, who was a stagecoach man, offered to drive the waggon whilst the driver was there. When the wagon was going down what we know as Coalpit Hill there was an explosion. Fallows and the two horses were killed, and two houses reduced to rubble. The damage of these two events totalled 2,387 15s. 3d. and a collection was instigated in England and Wales by George III.

The Talke Directory of 1851 states that the great northern turnpike road used to pass through Talke, but about 1828 a new road was made half a mile to the east ( now the A34 ) to avoid the hill. Perhaps this was prompted by memories of the the gunpowder explosion ! By 1851 the market was described as having been obsolete for a long time.

There was a pit explosion at 11.15a.m. on Thursday December 13th 1866 at the Talke O' Th' Hill Colliery  when 91 men and boys were killed out of the 180 who descended that day. Thirteen men and boys were rescued alive, two of whom died later. By Friday morning 58 bodies had been recovered and removed to 'The Swan Inn'. Two rooms had been provided there for the reception of bodies and identification by relatives. There were terrible scenes as people searched for their loved ones, many of whom were dreadfully mutilated.

The cause of the explosion was never established, but several home made keys to the safety lamps were found in the pockets of those who died. Evidence was also found of miners smoking underground. A collection ordered by Queen Victoria raised over 16,000 for the widows and children. The 'Talke Directory' of 1872 records that '170 persons are now receiving relief from the fund, widows receiving 5s a week, and 2s a week will be paid for children until they arrive at the age of 14'. An additional fund was set up after this to provide for those affected by subsequent disasters.

In April 1875 another explosion occurred in the Bunker's Hill coalpits, killing 42 men and boys. 3,000 was raised for the widows and orphans.

There were also explosions at Talke O' Th'' Hill on the : 18th February 1873, killing 18; 24th December 1884 ( 17 ) : and 27th May 1901 (4 ). Other disasters were at the Jamage Pit on : 5th January 1876 ( 5 dead ); and 25th November 1911( 5 or 6 ).

In the late nineteenth century the coal industry changed from small, single pits to larger, centralised collieries. There were numerous old and disused pits in the area around Talke. The seams of coal under Talke and Kidsgrove were rich but badly faulted, liable to spontaneous combustion, and prone to flooding.

1926 saw the start of swift economic decline. Dole queues lengthened as smaller businesses collapsed. Talke colliery closed in 1928, putting 1,000 men out of work.

On July 12th 1934, Prince George, the Duke of Kent visited Halmerend, Butt Lane, Talke, Audley and Wereton where he visited centres organised as Social Service Clubs and occupational centres for the unemployed.

The parish of Talke was added to Kidsgrove Urban District on April 1st 1932. It comprised of the villages of Talke Pits, Talke O'Th' Hill, Talke, and Butt Lane.

St. Martin's today

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