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Monday, 10 September 2012

Beauty of Burslem

Friday, September 10th., Burslem.

During this week, when I have been taking early morning walks with Tertia, and when I have been traversing the district after dark, the grim and original beauty of certain aspects of the Potteries, to which I have referred in the introduction to "Anna Tellwright", has fully revealed itself for the first time. Before breakfast on the heights of Sneyd Green, where the air blows as fresh and pure (seemingly) as at the seaside, one gets glimpses of Burslem and of the lands between Burslem and Norton, which have the very strangest charm.

 The stretch of road on which one stands, used by men and young women on their way to work, is sufficiently rural and untouched to be intrinsically attractive. It winds through pretty curves and undulations; it is of a good earthy colour and its borders are green and bushy. Down below is Burslem, nestled in the hollow between several hills, and showing a vague picturesque mass of bricks through its heavy pall of smoke. If it were an old Flemish town, beautiful in detail and antiquely interesting, one would say its situation were ideal. It is not beautiful in detail, but the smoke transforms its ugliness into a beauty transcending the work of architects and of time.

Though a very old town, it bears no sign of great age - the eye is never reminded of its romance and history - but instead it thrills and reverberates with the romance of machinery and manufacture, the romance of our fight against nature, of the gradual taming of the earth's secret forces.
And surrounding the town on every side are the long straight smoke and steam wreaths, the dull red flames, and all the visible evidences of the immense secular struggle for existence, the continual striving toward a higher standard of comfort.
This romance, this feeling which permeates the district, is quite as wonderfully inspiring as any historic memory could be.

Shelton Bar steel works

And, if the effects of morning are impressive, what shall be said of the night scenes - of the flame-lit expanses bearing witness to a never-ceasing activity; the sky-effects of fire and cloud; and the huge dark ring of hills surrounding this tremendous arena.

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