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The Reginald Mitchell

Read about one of Britain’s heroes of the Second World War – the Spitfire.

The Tontine, 20 Parliament Row, Hanley, Staffordshire, ST1 1NQ

This pub is named after the inventor of the Spitfire. Reginald Mitchell was born in 1895, in Butt Lane, and educated at Hanley High School. He died at an early age, before the most famous of his military designs flew on official action in World War II. A statue of Mitchell stands outside the city museum.

Text about The Reginald Mitchell.

The text reads: Outside the City Museum stands a statue of the aircraft designer Reginald Mitchell. Born in Butt Lane, 1895, he is best remembered for his legendary aeroplane Spitfire.

Mitchell was educated at Hanley High School and Burslem Technical School before being apprenticed to a firm of locomotive engineers. His interests in aviation later took him to Southampton, to work on seaplane design at the Vickers Armstrong Supermarine Works.

By 1919, he was their chief designer, and his Sea Lion won the Schneider Trophy in 1922. Set up by the arms manufacturer Jacques Schneider, this competition offered an annual prize of £1,000 to encourage fast and reliable seaplane design.

Mitchell’s Supermarines won on four occasions, eventually winning the Trophy outright in 1931.

The same year, the British Air Ministry announced the specifications for a new fighter to replace the Bristol Bulldog. Mitchell’s design was the Spitfire, which was to become one of the best loved aircraft in aviation history.

Flight trails began in 1936, with production starting the next year, during which Mitchell died of cancer.

Right: top, Mitchell with test pilot Henri Beard
Below, the spitfire team after the first flight, (Reginald Mitchell seated centre)
Above: Mitchell and Henry Royce – great engineers and partners in the Schneider Trophy contest.

A photograph of the Schneider Trophy Team 1927 - RJ Mitchell standing immediately below propeller.

A photograph of RJ Mitchell – middle row, 3rd from left, with the Spitfire Design Team.

A photograph of the Schneider Team, 1929.

A photograph of night - time adjustments, and armed guard, for Mitchell’s 1929 Schneider Trophy entry – Mitchell in plus fours.

A collection of photographs of Reginald Mitchell and the Spitfire.

Photographs and text about The Tronties.

The text reads: Formerly known as The Tronties, the curious name of this site – now J.D. Wetherspoon’s Reginald Mitchell pub – and the street on which it stands, is derived from the method used to finance its construction.

A tontine is a scheme in which contributors to a loan or fund receive equal shares of a fixed income. As subscribers die, their shares are distributed amongst the survivors, so that the last one left alive is paid the whole amount.

This site was developed in 1831 by Hanley’s Market Trustees for use as a shambles – that is a meat market.

Text about Havergal Brian.

The text reads: The composer Havergal Brian was born in Ricardo Street, Dresden, in 1876. Virtually self-taught as a composer, he was championed by such figures as Thomas Beecham and Edward Elgar. He seemed bound for success, but his work fell out of fashion after the First World War.

Brian continued to compose, although he was forced to earn his living in other ways. Little of his music was performed, partly because of the large number of musicians of his works demanded.

In something like seventy years if composition, Brian produced operas, concertos, cantatas, orchestral suites, and over thirty symphonies, twenty of these after he was eighty!

The high point of his career came in 1966, when his Gothic Symphony, a huge work written during the early 1920s, was given triumphant performance in the Albert Hall. The 90-year-old composer received a standing ovation from the audience of thousands.

In 1976, the centenary of his birth, Brian’s life was the subject of a play performed at Stoke’s Victoria Theatre.

Text about Arnold Bennett.

The text reads: Novelist, playwright, short story writer and journalist, Arnold Bennett was born in Hanley in 1867. His father was a solicitor who wanted his son to join the family firm. However, Arnold moved to London, where he worked as a solicitor’s clerk whilst establishing his literary career.

In 1893 he left the legal profession to become assistant editor of Woman magazine. Five years later, his first (highly autobiographical) novel was published. Much of Bennett’s work drew on his boyhood knowledge of the Potteries and the people who lived there.

Although written in Paris, The Old Wives’ Tale, and Clayhanger, are set around ‘Bursley’ (Burslem). His best known book, Anna of the Five Towns, attracted criticism for having ‘robbed’ the Potteries of one of its six towns.

Bennett’s original interest in the theatre was a critic, but on his return to England in 1913 he adapted one of his novels into the highly successful play, The Great Adventure. After the 1st World War, he produced many of his own plays, and joined the management of the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.

Bennett rarely revisited the Potteries, but after his death in 1931, his ashes were buried in Burselm.

An illustration and text about Leonardo da Vinci.

The text reads: The outstanding all-round genius of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci was born in Florence in 1452, the illegitimate son of a layer.

His illegitimacy barred him from the co-called ‘respectable’ professions, and instead Leonardo turned towards scientific observation and invention, as well as painting.

His manuscript books record notes on many subjects and include drawings of flying machine. However, his man-powered device, designed to flap its wings like a bird, would not have worked, as the materials then available would have made it far too heavy.

Da Vinci also sketched out ideas for a helicopter and a parachute, centuries before they became a reality.

Photographs, prints and text about Stanley Matthews.

The text reads: One of the world’s greatest footballers, Stanley Matthews, was born in Hanley in 1915. His father was a barber and a former champion boxer. Matthews’ tantalizing body-swerve, devastating acceleration, superb ball-control and pin-point passing, made him the nightmare of opposing defenders.

His professional career began with Stoke City in 1932. Having played for England as a school boy, he made his full international debut three years later against Wales. After the 2nd World War, Matthews went to play for Blackpool.

In 1948, he became the first ‘English Footballer of the Year’, and made the first of his three FA Cup appearances for Blackpool.

Despite Stan Mortensen’s hat-trick, the 1953 FA Cup Final is remembered as ‘the Matthews Final’. Trailing 3-1 to Bolton with 20 minutes remaining, Blackpool were inspired to victory by their 38-year-old winger.

He also played 54 internationals, including England’s 10-0 win over Portugal in 1947. Matthews became the first European Footballer of the Year in 1956.

He returned to Stoke in 1962, helping them back into the top flight. He played here until he turned 50, when he became the first footballer in Britain to be knighted.

Above: left, Stan’ father on a boxing poster, right, Stan at Stoke in 1935, centre, three ‘greats’ – Stanley Matthews, Duncan Edwards, Billy Wright.

Photographs of Stanley Matthews.

Above: The ‘Wizard of Dribble’ mesmerises another full-back
Below: Stoke City’s 1962-63 team (Matthews back row second from left).

Illustrations and text about the first people to fly in the sky. 

The text reads: It seems that Chinese criminals were the unwilling pioneers of human flight. According to the 13th century Venetian traveller Marco Polo, they were punished by being strapped to giant kites.

Manned kites were also used at one time as a means to spy on enemy territory.

The ancient Chinese also knew the principles behind hot-air balloons. However, the first human flight in one took place centuries later in France, in 1783. Two years later, Blanchard and Jefferies made the first aerial crossing over the English Channel.

Two American brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, were the first to fly in a heavier-than-air-machine (in North Carolina, in 1903). Nearer to home, the first flight across the Channel was completed by the French aviator Louis Bleriot six years later.

Illustrations and text about Daedalus and Icarus.

The text reads: Daedalus was an inventor, who, in Greek mythology, made the first axe, saw, and grimlet. He was also employed by King Minos of Crete to design a labyrinth – a sort of underground maze – containing the monstrous Minotaur, half man, half bull.

To keep the labyrinth secret, Minos imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus in a tower. However, Daedalus collected birds’ feathers, and constructed wings for himself and Icarus, using beeswax to fasten them to their arms.

The escaped from the tower, but in spite of Daedalus’ warning, Icarus flew too close to the sun. The wax melted, and he drowned.

Prints and text about Captain Smith.

The text reads: On 14 April 1912, just before midnight, the world’s newest and most luxurious ocean liner struck an iceberg off Newfoundland. By 2:20am, the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic had disappeared beneath the Atlantic. The pride of the White Star Line had taken around 1500 passengers and crew with her.

Among them was the ship’s Captain, Edward John Smith of Hanley. Born in Well Street in 1850, Smith had joined the White Star Line as a junior officer at the age of 30. By 1912, he had risen to become the Line’s Commodore, and was first choice to take command of their new vessel. Smith’s career had been eventful. Three times, White Star ships under his command had run aground, twice serious fires broke out on board, and on one occasion, three men were killed in a boiler explosion. After he took charge of the Olympic, sister-ship to the Titanic, the ship was twice forced back to Belfast for repairs, and nearly crushed a tug in New York Harbour.

Captain Smith was a courageous man. Decorated after commanding several troopships during the Boer War, he behaved heroically during the sinking of the Titanic. He last recorded act was the rescue of a small child.

Right: Captain Edward John Smith
Above: Captain Smith informing the director of White Star Line that the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic is doomed – from the film A Night to Remember.

Photographs of an historic Hanley.

Prints of Trentham Hall, designed by Sir Charles Barry, seat of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland.

The Reginald Mitchell was once a meat market.

The original roof can still be seen in the pub today. It used to open to allow fresh air into the market, but it has since been sealed.

External photograph of the building – main entrance.

Extract from Wetherspoon News Spring 2019.

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