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The area designated as Hartshill Park has a varied history of land use. During the Domesday period it formed part of a vast deer park, Cliff Hay, mentioned in 1204. Hart is the name of a male deer and these were bred for the King to hunt in mediaeval times. Hartshill as a place name is recorded in the 16th century.

The park was also known as Castle Cliff because it was part of the royal manor of Newcastle and its oak trees were used to repair the castle there. It still exsted in the 15th century because the hedges and posts which enclosed it were repaired then. The area the present park occupies is formed from the remains of two estates - Cliff Vale and Hartshill Farm.

The mansion known as Cliffe Ville was built by John Tomlinson, a solicitor, in 1808. The surviving pools in the park once formed part of the gardens of the house. Before the house became St. Dominic's High School in 1922, it was the house of Frederick Geen, accountant and Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent. In 1913, he entertained King George V and Queen Mary to lunch at Cliffe Ville prior to the opening of the King's Hall in Stoke. The house was demolished in 1988.

The remainder of the land which forms the present park formed part of the Hartshill Farm estate. In 1827, it belonged to Mary Chatterley, the widow of Ephraim of Shelton Hall, and was tenanted by William Baddeley. The boundary of this estate and the Cliffe Ville estate ran from the south-east garden wall of the Jolly Potters public house, between Big Banky Field and Reservoir Cliffs Field and is still marked by a brook and a hedgerow. The latter field was known as Mayer's Field from its use by Joshua Mayer and Sons, the butchers in Hanley, for sheep grazing up to the Second World War.

Hartshill Farmhouse, which stood in Cummings Street opposite Trafalgar Road and was demolished in 1913, had latterly been tenanted by the Grice family who continued to rent the former stables until after the land was bought by the City Council in 1930 in order to build a road. This road was intended to replace the ancient "priests' path" from Hartshill to Lower Hartshill, passing through the middle of the Brick and Tile Works. The road was never built, but the path from Cummings Street to Stoke Old Road at the western entrance to the park follows the proposed line. The remaining fields of the farm were then used by George Barnett, a Cliff Vale haulier, to graze horses and keep pigs and chickens. His son, George junior, continued to rent the fields to graze horses until the 1970s.

The dairy of the former Cliffe Ville Farm was used by the Mountford family to produce milk for their round until the 1940s. John Henry Mountford of the Penkhull Dairy in West Street and his son, Samual of North Street, grazed cows on the lower part of the House Cliffs Field and used the upper part for haymaking to provide fodder for their horses. The dairy buildings were given up in 1953 and the equipment stored there was moved to a set of former piggeries which had been built by a Penkhull butcher, Edgar Berrisford, in the 1940s. The top fields were lost in the late 1960s through encroachment of the High School. By this time the lower field was used for grazing ponies, with haymaking restricted to the Reservoir Cliffs Field. This arrangement continued until 1975 when the City Council, having bought the land, finally ended agriculture in the area through a combination of construction works for the A500 and a decision to reclaim the area as an official open space. However, it had always been used by children as a playground, in particular Big Banky Field (the Daisy Bank) as a sledge run and Mayer's Field for mass kick-abouts for all ages.

The landscape of the fields was changed from the mid-1960s by tipping, which created a steeper slope than had formerly existed and filled in the old brickworks marlhole. The Etruria Valley Reclaimation Scheme (Phase I) of 20 acres was unveiled in December 1974. This would cover the area of the former House Cliffs and Reservoir Cliffs Fields. Phase II of 18.5 acres included Big Banky Field and the remains of Lower Field after North Street had been diverted and the A500 spur road built. This scheme was scheduled for 1976. St Thomas' School was built on the lower part of Reservoir Cliffs Field in 1977.

After the initial reclaimation work in the 1970s, the Park received little maintenance. In 1999, the Friends of Hartshill Park came together to help the City Council manage and improve the Park on behalf of the people of Hartshill, Cliff Vale and Penkhull.