Compiled by Percival Denny
Ed. Dr Stella Barrows
Stoke-On-Trent is a polycentric city made up of six towns which became a federation in 1910. Taking its name from Stoke-Upon-Trent which was the primary railway station in the area, the other towns are: Hanley, Burslem, Tunstall, Longton and Fenton. Since the 17th century, the area has been almost exclusively known for its industrial-scale pottery manufacturing and it is often referred to as ‘The Potteries’.
The local abundance of coal and clay suitable for earthenware production led to the early development of the local pottery industry and the construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal enabled the import of china clay from Cornwall in the late 1700s. It is the hypothesis of the NISG that the extensive disruption of mineral and rock extraction over hundreds of years from the subterranean strata has led to the emergence of wider sonic phenomena and the eruption event which is taking place today. The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery opened on its current site in 1956. We believe that the recent landscaping around The Potteries Museum site has triggered this most recent eruption event.
The word Stoke comes from the Old English ‘stoc’ which means a crossing place, or a place of worship.
Frequently suggested interpretations suggest that it is a word which has derived from the Roman road that ran from present-day Derby to Chesterton, or the early presence of a church which is said to have been founded in 670 AD. These entomological explanations also give us clues to some of the sounds we have picked up via our Ear Trumpet listening apparatus – the sounds of Latin and Roman cavalry, as well as several instances of what can only be describes as church bells. Members of the NISG have also discerned some Anglo-Saxon chanting which could well be attributed to the ancient settlements in these parts.
It is worth remembering that this area was part of Mercia, one of the three main Anglic Kingdoms founded after Roman Britain was settled by Anglo Saxons in an area called the Heptarchy. It was centered on the River Trent and its tributaries in the area now known as the Midlands.
(Gemorphically speaking, the site proximity to the Peak District and the Pennines must also be a factor - SB)
The geological strata of North Staffordshire are very unusual, and with vertical faulting and extensive outcropping a great variety of clays are available in the local area. We believe that this clay, which has been so formative for the history of this city is why we are experiencing this eruption event today.
North Staffordshire was also great centre for coal mining. The first reports of coal mining in the area come from the 13th century and The Potteries Coalfield (part of the North Staffordshire Coalfield) covers 100 square miles. Wolstanton Colliery, had the deepest mining shafts in Europe at 3,197 ft and Florence Colliery repeatedly set regional and national production records.
(Ahhh, the unique geomorphology of a place always forms people, their work, and of course the sonic hot spots which subsequently occur. This is why this is such a rich science! - SB)
As already mentioned, this region is exceptionally rich in natural resources, and has a long history of mineral extraction. Stoke-on-Trent lies at the southwestern end of the Pennines, where Carboniferous (360 and 300 mya) strata are flanked by Permo-Triassic cover rocks to the south and west. The Potteries conurbation, which includes Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme, forms a built-up tract on the Carboniferous outcrop. These Carboniferous rocks include the Coal Measures of the Potteries and Shaffalong coalfields. These strata contain probably the thickest sequence of workable coals in Britain and have been of major economic importance to the district, as have the clays of overlying Carboniferous red-bed formations. As any sonic geologist will know (be they professional or amateur) clay is an excellent conductive substrate for transmission and emission of sonic phenomena.
We posit that sedimentary clay deposits from the water may be a factor in the transmission of proto historic sounds from these surrounding settlements, which date back to Neolithic, Roman and Saxon times. This sounding space boasts significant proto historical sonic activity.
NOTE: Studies by NISG have revealed significant imprinting of bass-frequency sound associated with the movement of ancient glaciers. This ground-breaking research (no pun intended) is generating a glacial sonic map that reveals processes that have shaped the very Earth itself (Brunel, H. & Lathenby, B., Journal of Experimental Sonic Geology: 22.1, 75-91).
The first church on the site was built of timber in 670. It was replaced with a stone building in 805 which was extended over the centuries. Some remains of these early buildings survive in the churchyard. The re-erected arches date from the 13th century when the chancel was rebuilt. Saxon evidence survives in the baptismal font rescued from use as a garden ornament and restored in 1932.
The west tower has a ring of 10 bells, all of which was recast in 1971. The tower has also a clock with a single bell, which John Taylor & Co cast in 1888. The NISG posit that the sounds of these bells, which have rung out for generations in this landscape have percolated through proto-historic seeding into the clay and are being replayed during this eruption event. It's worthy of note that the church is the burial place of several generations of Josiah Spode’s family, as well as Josiah Wedgewood, that there are ceramic memorials to many of the potters of the district and that there is a modern memorial to the football player Sir Stanley Matthews.
Stoke-on-Trent is the smallest city to boast two professional clubs in the English Football League. The sound emitting from stadiums is known to percolate into rock layers due to its sheer force and decibel level. The NISG have noted that over many eruption events that due to the frequency of sustained sound music, singing and chanting seem to percolate and seed more readily than any other sound. Additionally, British Geological Survey (BGS) reports indicate glacial carving by meltwater during the last Ice Age and deepened by the high speed 'sludging' of the saturated clays which we feel may have created the transmission layer for ‘crowd sound’ – which is very loud and akin to sonic Earth Trauma.
NOTE: At least three NISG field workers have confirm suffering temporary hearing loss after tuning into these intense sonic historical imprints of past football matches without the regulation headgear.
(Plum, as the force of eruption is probably also down to the post-glacial landscape it is seeded into practitioners MUST remember to practice SONIC SAFETY! – SB)
Geological connectivity through the canal area suggests that we might expect to detect Reflection Phenomena, as geological sound ‘flows’ along the riverbed via underwater Transmission Layers. Atmospheric and radio wave imprinting within the surface geology of the area is expected to be a significant influence on the background sound profile.
Because clay is a weak mass of particles it erodes more rapidly than the more resistant rock. Rain and rivers also wash and reform the land in a constant cycle, releasing historic sound and creating a sonic porosity that is unrivalled in the UK.
(This also reminds me of Godfather of geology, William Smith and his obsession with canal basins – I often wonder if he heard anything in his work! - SB)
RECENT GROUND DISTRUBANCE
Earth Trauma caused during the Industrial Revolution, in which countless building works were completed, dislocating surface geologies and exposing the ground in a manner conducive to seeding and percolation of contemporary ambient phenomena. Stoke-On-Trent saw an expeditious period of growth and development during industrialization in the 1800s with the rapid expansion of heavy industry and coal mining. More recently though, The Potteries Museum site has recently been re-landscaped as part of significant building work for the ‘cultural quarter’. This layering of earth traumas (almost like sedimentary layers of rock in complex lithological formations!) is surely a factor in this eruption event.
A final note here is to Arnold Bennett, an English novelist, playwright, and essayist, born in Hanley in 1867, Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire. Hanley was the real-life model for one of the "Five Towns" of his novels. After a local education Bennett finished his education at the University of London and for a time was editor of Woman magazine. The Clayhanger Family is a series of novels published between 1910 and 1918. Bennett is best known for his novels, several of which were set in The Potteries, and he is known as a celebrated chronicler of this place, its people and rock. Whilst sonic geology does not seem to feature in his work, Bennett has a great listening ear for detail, people and the distinct ‘potteries dialect’.
NOTE: It would be well worth keen amateur sonic geologists keeping their ears peeled for other extraneous eruption events beyond our specific (physical) field of study due to the richness of this place, despite its outwardly urban location.