The extraction and processing of gypsum in the Dove Valley has been largely in three phases.
Firstly it was undertaken by the landowners or their tenants mainly for its alabaster.
Secondly, it was by family firms in which period the steady increase in the production of plaster vastly outpaced the dwindling alabaster requirements.
Finally, in the second half of the twentieth century, modern methods of mining and manufacture have further increased the tonnage of plaster and crushed gypsum to a manly five times the amount registered in the first half of the century.
The history of Statons roughly coincides with the second stage and, as befits a family firm, much of the story on the following pages deals with persons and personalities.
Progress is much swifter today and with applied technology will advance much quicker.
The Tutbury mill was closed down for the manufacture of plaster in October 1968 after 78 years of useful service to the industry. Today it serves as a bag store, and the sidings provide a receiving area for about 2,000 tons of crushed gypsum sent by rail to the Portland cement manufacturers each week.
However, the less sophisticated days played a great part in the history of a mineral that has been used by mankind for thousands of years, and it is well that some of its story should be recorded.
When writing a local history the compiler must rely very much on written accounts and personnel recollections. In addition to the extractions already acknowledged the author would like to express thanks and appreciation to many people especially the following for help and/or encouragement:-
Miss A.M. Newton
Major H. Leigh Newton D.S.O.
Mr Marcus N. Staton
The late Mr. G.W. Allen, B.A., B.Sc.
The late Miss M. Astle
The late Mrs E. Brown
Mr. A.H. Brown
Mr. C.W. Balance
The late Mr. G. Cooper
Mr. R.G. Hughes (Derby Museum)
Mr G.H. Newton
Mr. L. Smith
Mr. A.J. Tipper
Mr. C.H. Underhill
The late Mr. A. Wilkins
The late Mr. J. Foster
J.C. STATON & CO. LTD.
When John Clarke Staton started to manufacture, and sell gypsum plaster in 1838, little did he realise that prior to the firm losing its identity a century and a quarter later, it would be the oldest surviving name in plaster in this country.
The beginnings were small, and activities probably restricted to manufacturing a little plaster of paris, and floor plaster, and selling building materials. William White’s “History and Directory of Staffordshire” of 1851 lists the firm as:-
“Staton, John Clarke, Co., plaster of paris, gypsum etc. manufacturers. Union Mill, BURTON ON TRENT”
This building at one time known as the Steam Mill in Pinfold Lane (now Park Street) near to the present Orchard Street. Pinfold Lane was also where John Staton lived in 1846, and noted in the birth certificate of his second son, William Newton Staton.
By the early 1860’s, the works had moved to Shobnall. The following advertisement appeared in “The Burton on Trent Times and General Advertiser” on May 31st, 1862:-
J.C. STATON & CO.
Manufacturers and deals in Roman, Portland, and Parian Cements, Plaster of Paris, and floor plaster. Grottostone, gypsum for manures, Blue Lias Lime & C. Drain pipes, Chimney Tops and firebricks.
Stores: Station Street Works: Burton on Trent, Shobnall Mills
It is probable that there had been a previous store in Moor Street.
The Shobnall works were situated hard by the canal by which gypsum stone at first came from Chellaston twice a week. The barges unloading over the towpath directly into a receiving shed. There were many sources of supply at Chellaston, which had been a centre for alabaster and plaster for several centuries, but it is quite probable it came from land owned by a member of the Newton family. “Glover”, volume 2, part 1 of 1829 on Chellaston states that George Newton owned 28 acres of land from which gypsum was extracted. In the middle of the century Henry Newton was the owner of gypsum mines at Chellaston, and a small plaster business at Rugeley (Colton Mill).
Very little is known about John Clarke Staton. It is probable he was tall and well built – cricket and cockfighting were his main interests, for which he travelled many miles by pony and trap. The name of Staton was not an old Burton one, but Clarke was, this may have been his mother’s maiden name. This kind of association was carried on by John Staton himself. About 1840 he married Miss Catherine Newton, and, of his children several had Newton for a Christian name. This practice was carried on for another two generations in the Staton family.
The link of the two families was strengthened when William Newton left the family business at Rugeley in the hands of a Mr. Cox and joined his brother in law at Burton. In 1858 J.C. Staton, and William Newton were partners trading as J.C. Staton & Co., sharing profits equally.
With the coming of the North Staffordshire Railway in 1848, it became easier to procure gypsum stone from Fauld. Horses and carts were used to convey the stone from the quarry the 3 miles to Sudbury station, and thence by rail a further eight miles to Shobnall. Expansion no doubt followed. More grades of plaster including Potters, and Keenes Cement were manufactured, the former on open hearths, the stirring done by hand. Keenes cement was made by the original formula, today known as the “Double Burnt” method. Dental plaster was also produced by baking the lumps of raw stone in flat bottomed ovens and named by the firm “Italian Fine Plaster” in acknowledgement of the formula.
In 1870 there was an alteration in partnership when William Newton Staton, son of J.C. Staton, joined his father as co-partner, and upon the latters death, assumed full partnership.
On coming to Shobnall William Newton gathered about him some several key men – Herbert Wright from Chellaston, and a local man, Arthur Newton became identified with the Statons. From Rugeley and Chellaston came plaster boilers and a miller, who all served the firm for many years. The miller, William Cooper with this white “Captain Kettle” type of beard, gave over 50 years service as did two of his sons who also were millers. Tom Keen, many years Foreman Boiler came from Chellaston, the Hodsons and Jack Taylor from Rugeley.
Henry Newton, also owned a plaster business at Gnosall, and from here his son, Henry, born 1855, moved to Shobnall to act as agent.
On 3rd March 1883, William Newton leased Shobnall Mill for 21 years to his two nephews, William Newton Staton, and Henry Newton, the younger, partners trading as J.C. Staton and Company.