The Churchyard House and Pot Works play an important role in Wedgwood Pottery History. Thomas Wedgwood I (c. 1617-1679) acquired the House in 1653 upon his marriage to Margaret, daughter of John Shaw, the Rector. The issue of legitimate title was pressed through two court cases – eventually it was ruled that the House was not part of the Glebe and the property descended through the Wedgwood Family. Thomas I built the adjoining Potbank, and he carried on two manufactories – the other being at the Overhouse, of which more in a later post.
The seminal Victoria County History gives an excellent account of both the house and works. These are reproduced below.
"A house and lands to the south-east of Burslem church, the later Churchyard estate, were granted by one of the Audley barons to Thomas Crockett and his heirs apparently in the later 15th century. The rent of 20s. was to be paid to Burslem church to secure prayers 'for ever'. (fn. 297) By the early 16th century the estate had come into the hands of John Asbury whose son Thomas was curate of Burslem c. 1540– 55 and lived in 'the priest's chamber' in the house. (fn. 298) The estate passed to John's daughter Elizabeth and John Shaw her husband. (fn. 299) John Shaw died in 1599, (fn. 300) and in 1639 his son John, sexton of Burslem (d. 1640), being childless, sold the estate to John Shaw, son of his brother Thomas. (fn. 301) In 1640 the Rector of Stoke made an unsuccessful attempt to secure the estate as glebe; the 20s. rent was still being paid at this time. (fn. 302) John Shaw conveyed half the house and 50 acre estate, with the reversion of the other half, to his daughter Margaret and Thomas, son of Gilbert Wedgwood, on their marriage in 1653. (fn. 303) Thomas, who built the potworks attached to the estate, (fn. 304) died in 1679, and in fulfilment of the terms of his will his widow and his father-in-law conveyed the house and lands to his son John Wedgwood. (fn. 305) A further unsuccessful attempt was made in 1679 to secure the estate for the church, this time by the curate of Burslem, (fn. 306) who, however, married Thomas's eldest daughter in 1681. (fn. 307) The estate passed to John Wedgwood's younger brother Thomas in 1680 when their mother remarried and John moved to the Overhouse. (fn. 308) Thomas was succeeded in the Churchyard estate in 1716 by his second son Thomas (fn. 309) and he in 1739 by his son Thomas who later inherited the Overhouse and moved there. (fn. 310) The Churchyard estate, still of 50 acres, passed to Thomas's son Thomas in 1773. (fn. 311) In 1780 it was sold to Josiah Wedgwood of Etruria, who was uncle of this last Thomas. (fn. 312) Josiah had himself been born at the Churchyard House in 1730 and had served his apprenticeship to his eldest brother at the adjoining works from 1744 to 1749. (fn. 313) Thomas may have retained a lease of it, for in 1788, the year after his death, it was let to Joseph Wedgwood, a distant relative of Josiah and husband of his niece Mary. When Josiah died in 1795 the estate was sold to Thomas Green, (fn. 314) and the house was probably demolished at this time to allow for the extension of the factory buildings. (fn. 315)
Eliza Meteyard, writing c. 1865, gives an engraving of the building (Shown above) and a detailed description of its internal arrangements. (fn. 316) Much of her information is evidently based on memories handed down from a previous generation. It appears to have been a typical small farmhouse of the late 16th or early 17th century, timber-framed and with a thatched roof."
The Churchyard Works on the south-east side of St. John's churchyard was built shortly before 1679 by Thomas Wedgwood of the adjoining Churchyard House, evidently as a replacement for an earlier pottery which he had been working by 1657. He also had a horse-driven mill at his new works, presumably for pugging the clay. (fn. 230) The works then descended in this branch of the Wedgwood family and in 1780 was bought by a younger son, Josiah Wedgwood of Etruria. (fn. 231) By 1773, when Josiah's eldest brother died, the works had been mortgaged, and Josiah established his brother's son and heir Thomas in business there. Thomas died in 1787, and Josiah let the whole Churchyard estate including the works from 1788 to 1793 to Joseph Wedgwood, the husband of his niece Mary and a distant relative. (fn. 232) On Josiah's death in 1795 the property passed to five of his children and was sold to Thomas Green. (fn. 233) On Green's bankruptcy in 1811 the works passed to a Mr. Joynson (probably P. J. Joynson) and in 1812 to John Mosley who subsequently leased it out 'in small holdings to different potters'. (fn. 234) In the 1850's the whole works was taken over by Jesse Bridgwood of Tunstall who by 1860 had been joined by Edward Clarke, and under this partnership the buildings were greatly improved and extended. (fn. 235) For most of the period between Bridgwood's death in 1864 and 1880 Clarke let the works, but from 1880 until at least 1889 he was again at the Churchyard Works producing mainly for the American market. His wares included white granite and a fine white earthenware called 'royal semi-porcelain'. (fn. 236) The works had been demolished by 1896 when St. John's School was rebuilt on the site. (fn. 237)