Stoke-on-Trent or Stoke
as it is often abbreviated, is a vibrant city with so much going on. It is the largest city in Staffordshire with a population of approximately 250,000 inhabitants.
Stoke-on-Trent is situated approximately half way between Manchester and Birmingham and forms part of a conurbation in the heart of the North Midlands which includes the neighbouring towns of Newcastle-under-Lyme and Kidsgrove, collectively known as The Potteries Urban Area.
Stoke is famous for its status as the home of the English pottery industry, hence its nick-name The Potteries. The skilled local pottery industry, which includes such household names as Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Portmeirion, Moorcroft, Dudson, Spode and Steelite has earned an international reputation for creative excellence with fine ceramics exported to every corner of the globe since the 12th century.
Historically Stoke also had a substantial coal mining industry with major collieries such as Hanley Deep Pit, Trentham Superpit, Fenton Glebe, Chatterley Whitfield and Wolstanton. In fact Wolstanton Colliery had deepest mining shafts in Europe. However as with the rest of the UK, the industry went into decline and the last pit Trentham Superpit closed its doors in 1994. Stoke also had a sizeable iron and steel production industry located in the valley at Goldendale and Shelton.
Stoke-on-Trent is sometimes called "the city of five towns", a phrase coined by local novelist Arnold Bennett, though in fact the city was created as a federation of six towns and many villages. These six towns - Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton - run in line from north to south along the A50. There are numerous surrounding suburbs including Abbey Hulton, Baddeley Green, Blurton, Bentilee, Birches Head, Bucknall, Cliffe Vale, Etruria, Hartshill, Heron Cross, Meir, Meir Park, Meir Hay, Middleport, Milton, Penkhull, Shelton, Smallthorne, Sneyd Green, Trentham and Trent Vale.
Stoke's main shopping district and commercial city centre is in Hanley and centred around the Potteries Shopping Centre. The shopping centre attracts hundreds of thousands of shoppers from all over North Staffordshire, South Cheshire, and eastern Shropshire, and features many high street names and national brands such as Debenhams, Next, Monsoon, HMV, La Senza, River Island, Primark and New Look. There are also a number of designer clothing shops as well as independent retailers in the area and large indoor markets.
On the outskirts of the city there is another large shopping centre, home to discount designer outlets, called The Freeport Outlet Shopping Mall.