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For local families one strong link between all these four wards, to the north east of Newcastle, are that they form part of the traditional catchment area of Wolstanton High School – first a grammar school, then a fast-growing comprehensive, which Paul attended from 1973-80 and where he has been a governor since 2000.
Wolstanton is a thriving village, with a long and proud history. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, its name derives from the family of St Wolstan, the Bishop of Worcester from 1862, who founded the local church.
Until 1932, too, it had its own Urban District Council, which was originally bigger in population than Newcastle itself and covered much of the northern part of the present district authority. Then, to thwart an attempted takeover by Stoke-on-Trent, it resolved to merge with the ‘loyal and ancient Borough’.
Stoke’s ambitions towards Newcastle were a recurrent theme in the 20th century, most recently in the early 1990s, but have always been fought off. Bearing in mind the history, Paul has consistently resisted any arguments for a combined unitary authority as ‘sterile and divisive’, favouring sensible co-operation with Stoke instead.
The present St Margaret’s church, Wolstanton’s lofty landmark, was rebuilt in 1859 with the patronage of the powerful Sneyd family, whose traditional seat was Bradwell Hall nearby, before they developed their lands at Keele.
Today Bradwell Hall – built on a hill, with deer park and views of Bradwell Wood to the north – is a residential nursing home. Following the break-up of the Sneyd estates, to pay death duties in 1949, the surrounding land was developed by the Council and private builders to provide much of today’s housing in Bradwell.
Another notable landmark, Bradwell Lodge, at the top of Porthill Bank, also dates from 1859 and was originally on the Hall estate. Nowadays, it serves as a popular community centre managed entirely by local volunteers.
Porthill was originally a small hamlet in itself, but is now a suburban residential area, merging seamlessly with Bradwell and Wolstanton to either side. The area is well-named. Porthill’s steep incline overlooks the A500 ‘D road’, which divides Newcastle from Stoke-on-Trent, and the ceramics factories of Longport and Middleport, local stops on the Trent-Mersey canal, the old industrial lifeblood of the Potteries.
The area has two popular sports facilities, neither strictly positioned where the name suggests. Wolstanton golf course is along Hassam Parade towards Bradwell, its club house on the site of the old Dimsdale Hall. Porthill cricket club, meanwhile, is further along, next to the open grassland of Wolstanton Marsh.
The Marsh itself, and its much-used playing fields, stretches over into May Bank, a diverse ward taking in parts of Basford on the Stoke border to the west and some of Newcastle’s most striking buildings along The Brampton towards the town centre.
For any visitor, The Brampton is well worth a leisurely stroll. One on side, Brampton Park houses Newcastle’s museum and art gallery, together with train rides, children’s playgrounds and tea rooms.
On the other, many of the superb old mansions now house some of Newcastle’s most successful professional firms and - in the imposing seat of the old Milk Marketing Board - the headquarters of Aspire Housing, which took over responsibility for the Council’s housing stock in the year 2000.