The Vanished Landscape: A 1930s Childhood in the Potteries
by Paul Johnson
The Vanished Landscape was passed on to me from a friend quite some time ago now. It has been on my bookshelf for far too long, but I’m so glad I finally got the chance to read it. It is such a wonderful read about the old Potteries in a time I can only imagine. This is Paul’s story of growing up in the 1930’s when The Potteries truly lived up to its name. I was born in Stoke-on-Trent and raised in Newcastle-under-Lyme (where I live again now), so every place Paul talks about I know exactly where he means, although I can’t quite imagine how it must have looked back then. The Potteries are quite different these days.
I loved that Paul is the youngest sibling, born when his parents were that bit older. They talked to him all the time, about everything. They seemed to have unwavering patience with all their children and come across as a lovely family. The way Paul interprets some of the things they tell him as a 4/5-year-old is quite endearing and I smiled a lot throughout this book. His mother was a fascinating character!
I had to smile also when those from Newcastle-under-Lyme are referred to as “snobby” and not from the “proper potteries”. I’m sure people did think like that then as some still do now! I know many people from Newcastle-under-Lyme who are quite offended if someone suggests they live in Stoke. Lol! They are right though. Newcastle-under-Lyme is not Stoke-on-Trent. We have our own council. It’s just easier to say you’re from Stoke to people who often don’t realise Newcastle-under-Lyme exists.
Anyway, as well as being a heartfelt account of a happy childhood this book is steeped in local history. I learned a lot along the way and thoroughly enjoyed every page.
If you live in, or are local to, the Potteries I think you will love this memoir. If you don’t live anywhere near here but you’re interested in history at all then I think you will love it just the same.
I highly recommend.
Many thanks to my friend, Clare Baker, for passing it on to me.