Stoke-on-Trent will this year name its Citizen of the Century as part of its federation centenary celebrations.
A shortlist of ten nominations has been decided on by a panel of judges, to commemorate the best Stoke-on-Trent has had to offer over the last 100 years.
The announcement will be made at a special Federation Dinner to be held on 31 March at the Kings Hall.
The nominees are:
Also known as Baron Ashley of Stoke is a Labour member of the House of Lords. He was the MP for Stoke-on-Trent South for 26 years, from 1966 to 1992. In December 1967, aged 45, complications during an ear operation lead to him becoming profoundly deaf. He was the United Kingdom’s first totally deaf MP. He since become a noted campaigner for the disabled, especially the deaf and blind, and won cross-party sympathy, support and respect in parliament for his approach.
Born in Hanley in 1867, Arnold Bennett is credited with being one of the most famous literary figures in Stoke-on-Trent’s history. His most famous works are the “Clayhanger” trilogy and “The Old Wives’ Tale”. These books draw on his experience of life in the Potteries, as did most of his best work. In his novels the Potteries are referred to as “the Five Towns”; Bennett felt that the name was more suitable than “the Six Towns” so Fenton was omitted. Despite being criticised by his peers at the time, he was later credited with being a major influence on later writers.
Born in 1922, Doug Brown twice served as Lord Mayor for the city in 1983/84 and 1997/98. Doug also served as Stoke City’s physiotherapist and was the founder of the long running “Lads’n’Dads” programme in 1967. President of the North Staffordshire Chinese Community, Doug was also an honorary member of the Grenadier Guards.
Born in Tunstall in 1899, Clarice Cliff is one of the most famous ceramics artists of the last century. She started work in the pottery industry when she was 13 years old, and became famous for her colourful freehand designs. She started her own studio, and launched her famous “Bizarre” ware in 1927. In September 2009 the Victoria and Albert Museum in London opened its ‘New Ceramics Galleries’ and Clarice’s work was chosen to be included.
Sir Oliver Lodge
A physicist and inventor, Sir Oliver Lodge was born in Penkhull in 1851, and was a pioneer in radio technology. Recognised by the Royal Society in 1898 for his work in the field, he was knighted in 1902 and given the freedom of the Stoke-on-Trent in 1928. He also experimented with electrical engineering, greeting the first spark ignition for an internal combustion engine, which was called the “Lodge Lighter”.
Sir Stanley Matthews
The only player to have been knighted while still playing, as well as being the first winner of both the European Footballer of the Year and the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year awards, Sir Stanley Matthews’ name is synonymous with Stoke-on-Trent. He played at the top level until he was 50 years old, the oldest player ever to play in England’s top division. He played over 300 times for Stoke City, over 50 times for England and was inducted into the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sporting Hall of Fame in 2010.
The creator of the Spitfire, Reginald Mitchell was voted the “Greatest Midlander of all time”. The votes in this poll for BBC Midlands Today in 2003 were 25% in favour, 8% ahead of William Shakespeare. Mitchell was awarded the Silver Medal of the Royal Aeronautical Society and made an Associate Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1929, as well being awarded the CBE in that year. Among his legacies include his statue and the Mitchell Memorial Theatre, both in Broad Street in the city centre. The theatre was opened in 1957 by Spitfire pilot Group Captain Douglas Bader
Millicent Duchess of Sutherland
Millicent Fanny St. Clair Erskine was born in 1867 in Fife. Millicent became the Duchess of Sutherland in 1892 after marrying Cromartie Sutherland-Leveson-Gower (1851-1913) who became the fourth Duke of Sutherland in 1892. Known to her many friends and correspondents as Millie, Duchess Millicent was a serious activist for social reform. She started the North Staffordshire Cripples Aid Society, and when the First World War broke out in 1914, Duchess Millicent was among the first to establish a Red Cross Ambulance Unit in Belgium. Her unit developed into a British Red Cross Hospital Unit in France. She was awarded the Belgian Royal Red Cross, the French Croix de Guerre and the British Red Cross for her efforts during the conflict.
Widely recognised as perhaps the greatest darts player ever, Phil Taylor is a record fifteen time World Champion. He has won 130 professional tournaments, more than twice as many as any other player. Phil had previously worked in the ceramics industry before qualifying for his first World Championship in 1990, and winning at the first attempt. Phil was also one of the first inductees into the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sporting Hall of Fame in January 2010.
Selling over 55 million albums worldwide in 2008, Robbie Williams is one of the UK’s biggest recording artists and has had 7 studio albums reach the UK number 1 position. Born in Tunstall, Robbie first achieved international acclaim as a member of Take That, before starting his solo career in 1995. He is also the majority shareholder in Port Vale FC.
The city will also be inviting people to nominate their own “Citizen of the Century” via their website at www.stoke.gov.uk later this month. That person should have lived, worked or been educated in Stoke-on-Trent between the years 1910 and 2010 and made a significant and recognisable contribution in their chosen field.
The panel of judges is made up of City Council Leader Ross Irving, Managing Editor of BBC Radio Stoke Sue Owen, Assistant Editor of The Sentinel Martin Tideswell, local historian Fred Hughes and Vice Chancellor of Staff University Christine King.
Councillor Irving said, ‘We feel that the shortlist accurately reflects the best of Stoke-on-Trent, both past and present. The Citizen of the Century Award is obviously a huge accolade, so we had to think long and hard about prospective candidates. We also want to hear about unsung heroes, the people who have made differences to people’s everyday lives and have given so much to their communities and the city as a whole. The award will be a lasting legacy to whoever is chosen, and will be remembered as one of the most important figures in the entire history of Stoke-on-Trent.’