It is now the city's main shopping centre, the Potteries Shopping Centre containing many high street chain stores.
The name Hanley comes from either "haer lea", meaning "high meadow”, or "heah lea" meaning "rock meadow".
At one time, there were many coal mines in North Staffordshire. Hanley Deep Pit was opened in 1854. It was the deepest pit in the North Staffordshire coalfield, reaching a depth of 1500 feet. At its peak in the 1930s it employed some 2000 men and boys often producing 9000 tons of coal a week. The pit was closed in 1962 but much of the headgear and spoilheaps were left in situ. Then, in the 1980s, the original site was cleared, landscaped and converted into Hanley Forest Park. Coal miners in the Hanley and Longton area ignited the 1842 General Strike and associated Pottery Riots. The College Road drill hall was completed in 1903.
The 1986 Stoke-on-Trent Garden Festival led to the reclamation of large areas of land west of the city centre area – including the former Shelton steelworks, which had been derelict since 1978. Ironically, when the Garden Festival closed, the land remained derelict for some time, before being re-developed partly into public parkland and partly for retail and leisure.
In 2013, a brand new and modern bus station opened in Hanley. This replaced the former bus station, on Lichfield Street. The new bus station is the first stage in the regeneration project which will see the previous bus station demolished, and replaced with a new centre consisting of shops, restaurants and a cinema. The new bus station is smaller than its predecessor, and has seen various routes in and out of the city changed to accommodate the location of the new bus station. The bus station features a sheltered waiting area, Spar shop, cafe and toilets, is covered by CCTV, and has digital timetables showing information on travel times for the day, as well as Now/Next above the entrance to each bay. Access to the station is controlled by automatic doors, at both the pedestrian entrance and coach bays.