“Originally the small settlement of Stoke was little more than the place where the parish church was located. In the mid18th century the village comprised the church, rectory and three pottery works, one of which, ‘Spode’ survives on the same site today. By the mid-19th century the town had developed to take advantage of both the canal and road transport. When Charles Dickens visited the area, he commented on the character of the area and the valley setting.
Today, both the dominant elements of canal and river have been removed or altered. Transport is now primarily served by the A500 which cuts a swathe through the town, altering the character and orientation of the historic core. The conservation area concentrates on the historic core, the key civic buildings of church and state, together with the original surviving Spode pottery. Although Stoke has lost the picturesque collection of houses and industry, originally clustered around the river, the commercial development along the church street spine survives and contains several high quality buildings showing the influence and patronage of the Spode, Copeland and Minton families.”
These are not my words but the description of the town centre from the Conservation Area Appraisal of July 2014.