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Buffalo Bill

House named 'Woodlands' (7 Oct 97)

Hello. Does anyone know if there's still a house named Woodlands in Alsager? I ask for family history reasons. My great grandfather was U.S. consul in Alsager in the early 1890's (he was in the pottery business and his function in England was basically to keep an eye on the English pottery industry) and lived in a house there by that name. I'm going to be spending a few months in London later this year and was giving thought to visiting the village....

John Burgess
Washington, D.C.
Following is from unpublished memories of John Stewart Burgess (1883-1949), an American China scholar and professor of sociology. Copyright Princeton University.
He lived in Alsager as a child for several years starting in 1890, after his father, William Burgess, was appointed U.S. Consul in Stoke on Trent.

Our place was called "Woodlands." The curving driveway that led up to the front door was full of trees and bushes, nice places to hide in. The house was ample, with a cement enclosed court yard behind and the stables across from the kitchen door. In front of the house was a tennis court, a grass one of course, surrounded on three sides by bushes and trees. Out beyond the tennis court was a wall. It seemed a very high wall to us then and we used to like to crawl to the top of it. Beyond the wall was a vegetable garden.

We were soon at home. To be sure, the first days were marked by international disputes. We had small scale wars with some of the village boys who called us "Yankees" and we used for them the epithet "cheeseheads."...But those little troubles soon ended and we had many close friends among the people of the village and of the large estates in the nearby countryside. Many of the boys we knew now have their names on the war memorial monument in the town green and many of the girls never married.

A big event that is particularly vivid in my recollection is the visit to our home of Buffalo Bill. He was to give a show in the nearby town. The American consul was the one to entertain him. To do this properly, Indian clothes were prepared for the three children. They were to hide in the shrubbery along the front drive and with hair-raising yells appear as the carriage containing Colonel Cody ("Buffalo Bill") drove in. But the young Indians somehow lost their nerve, much to the displeasure of father.

The great day of the big show followed close after Buffalo Bill's visit to us. We proceeded to a nearby city and took our place on the large open stands...I remember the wonderful shooting of Ann Oakley, who rode about in cowboy costume and disposed nearly, by skilled rifle fire, of innumerable glittering balls thrown in the air. [It goes on the explain how William Burgess and his wife played the part of passengers in a stage coach that was "attacked" by Indians, then "rescued" by the cavalry and how the Mrs. found it a bit upsetting being so close to the shooting.]

...After the performance, we were conducted to the tents of the Indians. They were prisoners of the U.S. government under the custody of Buffalo Bill. This group had been in the battle of Wounded Knee and had taken part in the activities of Custer and his men. The chief, "Sitting Bull," was there, seated in his tent. He shook hands with us and grunted. We were profoundly impressed by this taciturn, powerfully build red-skin.

Update ( Jan 99 )

See also the 1873 map in the History Tour Guide
The original house was rebuilt about 1938, most of the building being lost apart from one room which was preserved because of its oak panelling.
The whole site was bulldozed around 1990 to make way for the Cranford Park Housing estate. All that remains is a couple of the trees near the Crewe Road entrance which is marked by a patch of fresher tarmac.

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