Monday, 30 March 2009

WEDGWOOD FAMILY PRESS RELEASE: - Wedgwood Family reject CEO claim

Issued by Alison Wedgwood

The Head of the Wedgwood Family has expressed his anger at the
comments made by the new CEO of Waterford Wedgwood Pierre de
Villeméjane who was reported in national newspapers as saying " that
the deal even had the blessing of the Wedgwood family, who had told
him that they were thankful that the brand would continue. "

The new CEO of Wedgwood has not spoken to Tom R (former Director of
Asia Pacific), Tom D Wedgwood, Sir Martin Wedgwood or Alison Wedgwood
who have been instrumental in fighting to keep the Brand's key
manufacturing base in the UK. He also has not spoken to Dr Alan
Wedgwood, a former non-executive Director of Waterford Wedgwood and
the Head of the Wedgwood Family, or his wife Janet Wedgwood.

Tom D Wedgwood said today: 'The Wedgwood family would like to make it
very clear that it does not support any plan that moves manufacturing
of Wedgwood from Barlaston to Indonesia. We are particularly hurt by
KPS's claim that their bid has "our blessing". This is fundamentally
untrue and is directly against everything we have been fighting for in
the last three months.'

Dr Alan Wedgwood said: 'The Wedgwood family would be happy to offer
support only if they could be assured that production and jobs are
secured in Barlaston and the brand remains true to the spirit and core
values of Josiah Wedgwood.'

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Wedgwood Company Future

KPS Capital have succeeded in buying Wedgwood, all links with the
founding family have now been completely severed. Alison Wedgwood,
wife of Thomas D. Wedgwood who, with his cousin Thomas R. Wedgwood led
the Family Consortium which attempted to "Save Wedgwood", has asked me
to forward this message to you all with their THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT.

"Our Fight, Hopes and Fears for Wedgwood"
A Personal View by Alison Wedgwood – March 27th 2009

I just wanted to share with readers and the numerous employees and
ex-employees that have been in contact me my thoughts on what has
happened with regard to the Wedgwood family bidding for Waterford
Wedgwood. We made a non-binding indicative bid on 13th February. This
was co-ordinated by Wedgwood Partners Ltd, a consortium comprising the
Wedgwood family and a number of talented ex-employees, supporters and
professionals plus one regulated firm of professional advisors and one
FSA regulated fund management and corporate finance firm.

Due diligence had been taking place since the end of January, and was
ramped up in February when over a dozen legal, financial and corporate
specialists were in process of analysing all aspects of the potential
purchase. Rob Flello, MP and the union Unite have been very helpful
throughout this process.  The investors were gathered, but there were
barriers to finding all the information because certain aspects of
Waterford Wedgwood were NOT in administration and so data about these
firms, their role and their contracts with the rest of the group was
not available.

We spoke to staff in Peter Mandelson's Ministry, the Department for
Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform but they were unable to
assist in accessing this information because most of it was offshore.
The investors therefore could not proceed and make a binding offer on
large portions of the business they had not analysed and we could not
produce contracts and discuss heads of terms with the investors. I
cannot discuss any details of the contents of the bid because
non-disclosure agreements between Deloittes and bidders ensure that
everything that happens with regard to bidding stays out of the public

KPS announced they had come to a deal with Deloittes on Friday 27th
February due to "completion of overseas transactions". This has now
taken place and just as we feared it looks like KPS will move most of
the production, except prestige, to Indonesia.

Tom and Tom, the professional advisers, ex-employees, legal experts
and financiers worked weekends and through nights to try and secure a
deal that would ensure Wedgwood stayed in Stoke, producing outstanding
pottery for export around the world. We still believe passionately in
this goal and like the rest of Stoke, wait and see what an American
private equity firm working with many of the original senior managers
and Board of Waterford Wedgwood that brought Wedgwood to it's knees
can possibly do now.

For the real people in Stoke, the suppliers and sub-contractors owed
money, and the workers who signed legal contracts for enhanced
redundancy packages with the management in November last year, I feel
angry. They will be at the back of the queue when it comes to dishing
out any cash from the sale. I can only hope that we don't have even
more redundancies and, God forbid, if there are please can they be
done with dignity, not just a line of people left standing in the rain
waiting to be lead to the chamber/room.

It would seem that, just as in banking, reward for failure, a culture
of entitlement and managers who never accept responsibility is the way
of business and proves again the distorted global capitalist model
that has grown like an out of control monster these last 10 years. The
tragedy is that it's the workers who've put in 30 years of hard work,
growing a business, actually making real things out of the minerals
and clays of the area that really suffer.

The KPS business model will see many businessmen nodding their heads
in agreement: cut costs, streamlining, labour that is 85% cheaper in
Indonesia. Ironic when you consider that Deloittes admin staff are
charged out at £220 an hour and partners at £745 an hour and they've
earned over £3 million in fees over 3 months.

But will the KPS model work? I know that consumers in Japan are
dismayed to find out that the Indonesian factory even exists; I know
of an American who smashed his purchased item in the showroom when he
found out it was made in Indonesia. I know the owner of the only
Indonesian showroom didn't want to stock Wedgwood sourced from the
factory just down the road from her.  I know that Steelite and Dudson
produce outstanding ware in Stoke competing head on with low cost
producers overseas and winning outright. I know that the real pottery
craftsmen and women and their commitment is only found in Stoke. The
clay and bone ash is sourced around Stoke, and it has to be
transported to Indonesia. The skilled craftsmen are not expensive; the
pound is low. Anyway, the labour costs have not been part of the
problem, the supply chain and distribution networks organised by the
senior management are more to blame.  Tom D spent a month on the
production line in 2005 and knows full well where the wastage and
inefficiencies are.

I'm sure KPS know all this as well, and they are hoping that less
discerning buyers won't care about country of origin, won't care about
the 250 years of heritage, excellence, design and Josiah's legacy as a
marketing pioneer.  They're not proud of the Wedgwood history in
Staffordshire how it is intertwined with the Darwin's, the industrial
revolution, the Lunar Society, the strong Wedgwood women who were
instrumental in the abolitionist fight and the daughter of Josiah who
gave birth to one of the world's greatest scientists Charles Darwin.
But they should care, because they may find out that the Wedgwood
Collectors Societies and all the discerning consumers who aspire to
purchase exquisite china that represents 250 year of this heritage -
they really do care. Then what happens to global sales?"

-------- End-----

REMEMBER to continue to support the Wedgwood Museum, managed by an
independent trust. They have just re-opened a state-of-the art museum
at Barlaston. It contains one of the finest collections of Wedgwood in
the world, new research facilities and 85,000 archival items -the
Wedgwood Manuscript collection dating from the sixteenth century.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Wedg(e)wood Genealogy Mailing List

A reminder about the Wedg(e)wood Genealogy Mailing List, this has been operating for many years, so do check the archives for past queries and submitted information.


Surname and Family Lists



Topic: the WEDGWOOD surname and variations (e.g., Wedgewood)

For questions about this list, contact the list administrator at

If you have any problems, e-mail me:

Friday, 27 March 2009

The End of a 350 year Family Tradition

Despite the efforts of Thomas D. and Thomas R. Wedgwood to save Wedgwood as a Staffordshire based Pottery, Private Equity concern KPS Capital have succeeded in purchasing certain principal Waterford Wedgwood assets from the bankrupt group. The Wedgwood cousins had pledged to save local jobs – now many Wedgwood employees face a very uncertain futuire. The whole region's future is bleak – most ceramic production has now moved overseas. Only a handful of Staffordshire firms remain.

This marks a sad end to a venerable family tradition. Josiah Wedgwood & Sons was founded in 1759, however the potting tradition stretches back to Josiah Wedgwood's great-great-grandfather, Gilbert Wedgwood (1588-1678) who moved from Biddulph to Burslem upon his marriage to heiress Margaret Burslem, and took up the trade. Since that time, from father-to-son, in an unbroken line – until the resignations of Dr Alan Wedgwood and Thomas R Wedgwood from the firm; "No other family business is recorded as surviving in unbroken succession for so long"

Now, according to reports: "KPS will expand Waterford Wedgwood into emerging markets, transfer production overseas and cut costs" – oh dear, what would Josiah have said? I suspect his would have exclaimed his oft spoken retort "This will not do for Josiah Wedgwood". Your family agreed and they tried, there is no dishonour in that.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Charles Wedgwood (b.1872) Yorkshire

Hello there, thanks for getting in touch.

I think I have found him - Charles is from the Yorkshire branch.
Philip Richards, a member of this forum has done a huge amount of work
correcting errors in "The Wedgwood Pedigrees", details of Charles'
descent can be found here: This material is from
Philip Richards' database.

I hope this is of interest to you - do get in touch if you have any
further questions or would like to update us of what your branch of
the family has been doing since the 1920s!

Kind regards,


2009/3/25 Merv & Helene Wedgwood <>:
> Is there anyone out there that knows anything about Charles Wedgwood born 1872 . He had sons named Albert,Charles, William,John,and Athur.I am the son of Albert in Blind River, Ont, Canada.
> -------------------------------
> To unsubscribe from the list, please send an email to with the word 'unsubscribe' without the quotes in the subject and the body of the message

Monday, 23 March 2009

Wedgwood 250

I know that members of the Wedgwood family associated with the recent bid for the old family firm have plans for a commemoration of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons' 250th Anniversary. In America advance plans are already in pace, Lord Wedgwood - a US resident and Brand Ambassador - is associated with the Commemorative Exhibition planned for Washington D.C. in the Autumn (or should I say "Fall"). The following information is from:

The year 2009 marks the 250th anniversary of Josiah Wedgwood’s company founding in 1759. The Wedgwood-250 Exhibition USA Committee is pleased to announce its commemoration plans for a major exhibit and ceremony to take place in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. The Wedgwood collecting community and the Wedgwood company are collaborating with the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Museum and Society in staging “Wedgwood: 250 Years of Innovation and Artistry”. 

This exhibition will run from 3 October 2009 through 27 February 2010 at the DAR Museum and will showcase a broad range of select items illustrating the company's unique history and manufacturing. All eras from 1759 to 2009, the wide variety of clay bodies and designs, and the numerous categories of items produced will be represented, with the objects being drawn from North American private, museum, and celebrity collections. The program will also offer a monthly lecture series, presented by noted Wedgwood authorities, over the period of the exhibition. And there will be special prestige ware and commemorative objects for sale. 

In addition, a full-color catalogue, featuring all the objects in the exhibit, a Wedgwood historical introduction written by a famed author, underwriter advertisements, sponsor, benefactor and lender listings, and more, will be produced. This catalogue will be funded by sponsors and benefactors who will be duly recognized in both the catalogue and onsite acknowledgement board during this five-month exhibition. Donations starting at $100 are being accepted now. Those making a contribution of $1000 or higher will be invited to join lenders, celebrities, and dignitaries at the opening ceremony – an afternoon tea and private viewing – on October 2, 2009 at the DAR Memorial Continental Hall and Museum. The planned highlight will be the British Ambassador presenting a specially commissioned Wedgwood gift to the White House.

For more information on the event and how you may become a benefactor, call 703.437.7997 or email We welcome your participation in this once-in-a-lifetime milestone event.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Family Records Centre

The UK Government's Genealogy Portal -, which I have only just come across, features our very own Charles Darwin in this anniversary year. The Darwin microsite contains a PDF Family Tree showing the complex Wedgwood-Darwin inter-relationship, information on his Darwin ancestors.

There do, at present seem to be some technical difficulties with the page – some links point, inexplicably, to Lewis Carroll related information. I will alert them!

Swiss Family Wedgwood

Robert Wedgwood, like me, is descended from Thomas Wedgwood IV (1716-1773). He lives with his family in Switzerland and maintains his own Family Homepage .

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Sampson Erdeswicke

The noted sixteenth century Staffordshire Antiquary Sampson Erdeswicke (d. 1603) is related to the Wedgwoods of Harracles, Biddulph and Burslem, theses branches share Erdeswicke descent through the Bowyer Family. The Pedigree of the Bowyer family in A History of the Wedgwood Family [1908] omits the generation with the Erdeswicke marriage this is however accepted and restored in the Bowyer Pedigree's for Lord Denham presented in subsequent editions of Burkes Peerage and Baronetage.

Erdeswicke's most famous work, his Survey of Staffordshire, [E-Edition, Google Books] makes reference to members of the Wedgwood family known to him at the time.




Wedgwood Books

I am a hopeless bibliophile, my wife despairs at my clutter of books.

I am going to start a series of Blog Posts on family related books, both by members of the extended family, and books on our shared family history of biographies of individuals. There are many biographies on Josiah Wedgwood of course, and also on Charles Darwin, especially in this anniversary year. There family has also produced many authors, the celebrated historian Dame Cicely Veronica Wedgwood OM, the noted American Constitutional Scholar Dr William Wedgwood and more recently the poetess Ruth Padel and Emma Darwin.

I have also set up an Amazon Associates Store to showcase these and other books.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Josiah Wedgwood, FRS (1730-1795)

Free access biography from Dictionary of National Biography


Josiah Wedgwood (1730–1795), master potter, was born in Burslem, Staffordshire, probably on 12 July 1730, the date on which his baptism was registered at St John's Church in that parish. He was the thirteenth and youngest child of Thomas Wedgwood (1687–1739) and his wife, Mary,née Stringer (d. 1766), of Churchyard Pottery. The Wedgwood family had a long connection with Staffordshire pottery, starting with Josiah's great-great-grandfather, Gilbert Wedgwood, who is recorded as working a small pottery in Burslem towards the end of the seventeenth century. No trace has been found of any wares made by Thomas Wedgwood and it is probable that, like other potters, he supplemented his small income from it by farming a smallholding on the same land.

Early years

Scarcely anything is known of Josiah's childhood. He was brought up in the thatched Churchyard house and pottery, which Thomas Wedgwood had inherited from his father, and began his education at about the age of six, walking the 7 miles round trip to attend a small school in Newcastle under Lyme. His mother was the daughter of the Unitarian minister at Newcastle under Lyme, and she brought up her children in the same faith. Josiah's father died in 1739, bequeathing the small family business to his eldest son, Thomas, and on 11 November 1744 Josiah was apprenticed for five years to his brother at the Churchyard works to learn the 'Art of Throwing and Handleing' (Reilly, Wedgwood, 1.26–7). The terms of the contract are significant because the difficult art of throwing was the most highly rated of all the potter's skills and only those expected to become master potters served such an apprenticeship.

At an early stage of his indenture, probably about 1745 or 1746, Josiah suffered a severe attack of smallpox which left his right knee permanently weakened, and he was unable without assistance to work the 'kick-wheel' that provided the motive power of the thrower's wheel.

Wedgwood's business partners and marriage

Josiah nevertheless acquired considerable skill as a thrower and completed his apprenticeship. He continued to work for his brother until 1752, when he formed a partnership with John Harrison and Thomas Alders of Cliff Bank, Stoke-on-Trent. Two years later he was taken into partnership by Thomas Whieldon, one of the most respected potters in England, at his factory at Fenton Vivian, near Stoke. According to his experiment book, Wedgwood's work with Whieldon was largely concerned with the improvement of ceramic bodies, glazes, colours, and shapes, and it is clear that his efforts were directed principally towards the development of lead-glazed, cream-coloured earthenware ('creamware') and the creation and improvement of coloured glazes. He wrote later of this period: 'I saw the field was spacious, and the soil so good, as to promise an ample recompence to any one who should labour diligently in its cultivation' (Wedgwood MS 29–19121).

In 1759 Wedgwood left Whieldon to become an independent potter, renting the Ivy House works for £15 a year and hiring his cousin, Thomas Wedgwood, as journeyman. By 1765 Thomas was Josiah's principal assistant and a year later he was taken into partnership with a one-eighth share of the profits. This partnership, which was limited to the production of 'useful' wares (generally, tablewares), lasted until 1788.

Little evidence exists of the wares produced at the Ivy House works, but they almost certainly included typical Staffordshire pottery of the period for which there was an established market: salt-glazed stoneware, redware, and earthenware decorated with glazes in imitation of agate, marbling, and tortoiseshell. To these Wedgwood would have been anxious to add ware decorated with his fine green and yellow glazes, perfected in March 1759 and 1760, and his first cauliflower and pineapple shapes probably date from this period. His most important development, however, was the further improvement of his creamware body and in September 1761 a small quantity of this was bought from him by John Sadler of Liverpool, probably for experiments in transfer-printed decoration. The first delivery of Sadler's printed decoration on Wedgwood's creamware was made in March 1762. From 1762 Sadler and his partner Guy Green decorated increasingly large quantities of Wedgwood's creamware, which was sent to Liverpool for the purpose, and this valuable business, which grew rapidly in worth from £30 a month in 1763 to £650 a month in 1771, continued at least until 1795.

Wedgwood's success with these early wares enabled him, by the beginning of 1763, to move to the larger Brick House ('Bell') works. The change coincided with his decision to commission supplies of salt-glazed wares (which he ceased to produce in his own factory), moulded shapes, and large quantities of biscuit (unglazed) wares from William Greatbatch, a former employee of Whieldon's, who had set up his own pottery.

In the spring of 1762, while on a visit to Liverpool, Wedgwood fell and damaged his vulnerable right knee. Confined to his bed he was attended by Dr Matthew Turner, who introduced his patient to Thomas Bentley, a cultivated man, already experienced in commerce, who had acquired both classical learning and a knowledge of French and Italian. The two men found that their personalities were both compatible and complementary, and they began a friendship which was the foundation of one of the foremost manufacturing partnerships in industrial history. In Wedgwood's letters to Bentley, more than 1000 of which have been preserved, there has survived a remarkably full and lively account of their intimate association, which was to last for more than eighteen years. Bentley's replies, all but a few of them now lost, were described by Wedgwood as 'my Magazines, Reviews, Chronicles, & I had allmost said my Bible' (Wedgwood MS 25–18256, September 1769).

From the start Wedgwood demonstrated an initiative unique among potters of his time, and he was usually the first to adopt or adapt innovative aids and techniques. An important example was the engine-turning lathe, primarily a metalworking tool, the use of which he introduced to pottery in 1763.

On 25 January 1764 Wedgwood married Sarah (1734–1815), the daughter of his kinsman Richard Wedgwood, a prosperous merchant and the eldest brother of Thomas and John Wedgwood of the Big House, Burslem, from whom Josiah had rented the Ivy House works five years earlier. Sarah was a substantial heiress and brought with her a considerable dowry, said to have been £4000, which came under Wedgwood's control. It was a love match, successfully negotiated in spite of initial opposition from her father, and there is ample evidence that the marriage was a happy one. Sarah was intelligent, shrewd, and well educated—better, in fact, than her husband—and they shared a broad sense of humour and a strong sense of family duty. In the first years of their marriage, she helped Josiah with his work, learning the codes and formulae in which he recorded his experiments, keeping accounts, and giving practical advice on shapes and decoration.

In 1765 Wedgwood opened his first London showrooms in Charles Street, off Grosvenor Square, and in June he received a commission to make an elaborate tea service in green and gold creamware for Queen Charlotte. In the following year he was officially appointed potter to her majesty and his creamware was renamed 'Queen's ware'.

The Etruria factory

In 1766 Wedgwood bought for £3000 the Ridgehouse estate of some 350 acres, situated between Burslem, Hanley, and Newcastle under Lyme, and built there a factory which he named Etruria. A crucial advantage of the location of the factory was its position in the path of the projected Trent and Mersey Canal, in the promotion of which Wedgwood played an active part. He was also a leader in the fight for turnpike roads to improve communications between the Staffordshire potteries, London, and Liverpool.

Bentley, meanwhile, had formed a partnership in Liverpool with Samuel Boardman and, starting in 1764, had built up a solid and expanding trade in Wedgwood wares, much of which he shipped to America and the West Indies. In February 1767, after fourteen months of persuasion and discussion, Bentley agreed to become Wedgwood's partner in the manufacture of ornamental wares, for which the Etruria factory was to be designed. This project was threatened when, in April 1768, Wedgwood 'over walk'd & over work'd' his right knee (Wedgwood MS 17760, 30 April 1768); four weeks later, his leg was amputated, without anaesthetic, in his own house, by a local surgeon. By the third week of June, Wedgwood was sufficiently recovered to visit his Burslem factory and the Etruria site, and shortly afterwards he was fitted with the first of the wooden legs which he wore for the rest of his life.

The Wedgwood and Bentley partnership books were opened in November 1768, and the Etruria factory was officially inaugurated on 13 June 1769, a date commemorated by the production of six 'First Day's Vases' thrown by Wedgwood on a wheel turned by Bentley. Products of the new partnership included cameos, medallions, tablets for chimney pieces, and library busts in Wedgwood's refined black stoneware which he called black basaltes. Far more important were the ornamental vases, an innovation in English pottery, formerly thought fine enough only for tableware. By the end of 1768 Wedgwood had three types of vases in production: creamware, often enriched with gilding; 'variegated', in imitation of natural stones such as agate, marble, porphyry, and lapis lazuli; and black basaltes, ornamented in bas-relief or, from 1769, painted in imitation of Greek and Roman red-figure vases. He told Bentley that it was his modest intention to become 'Vase Maker General to the Universe' (Wedgwood MS 25–18240, 1 May 1769). By August 1772 he already had 'upwards of 100 Good Forms of Vases' (Wedgwood MS 25–18392, 23 Aug 1772), most of them copied or adapted from shapes illustrated in books of engravings but disguised by altered ornament or added decoration.

The display of Wedgwood's vases in the Wedgwood and Bentley London showrooms, which moved in 1768 to larger premises in Great Newport Street, created a new fashion—a 'violent Vase Madness' (Wedgwood MS 25–18314, 2 Aug 1770), which, by its sudden success, revealed serious flaws in the management of the partnership. Wedgwood was heavily in debt. Although profits for both partnerships were satisfactory, failure to regulate production had led to a vast accumulation of stock and a serious lack of ready cash, classic symptoms of uncontrolled expansion with insufficient capital resources. The pricing of ornamental wares was haphazard, production runs were often too short to be economical, and the lack of a costing system had allowed the wasteful use of labour and materials to go unnoticed. Wedgwood responded to the threat to the business by planning production and creating a 'price book of workmanship', one of the first essays in cost accounting in the history of manufacturing (Reilly, Josiah Wedgwood, 112–14).

It was not only the products of the Etruria factory that were innovative: the layout of the factory and the management techniques employed there were exceptionally advanced, and the finished estate included an elegant house, Etruria Hall, for the Wedgwood family, and housing for many of the workers. Wedgwood insisted on strict factory discipline but he subsidized an early form of sick-benefit scheme, and conditions for work at Etruria compared favourably with those to be found anywhere in Europe. Originally intended for the production of ornamental wares only, the plan of the factory was extended in 1767 to embrace the Queen's ware 'useful' wares, the production of which was moved from the Brick House works in 1772.

The Queen's ware revolution

Queen Charlotte's patronage of Wedgwood's creamware was followed by orders for tableware from the king and many of the nobility. In 1770 Wedgwood received his first order from Empress Catherine II of Russia. Three years later she commissioned a large Queen's ware dinner and dessert service of nearly 1000 pieces for the Chesmensky Palace, familiarly known as La Grenouillière (the frog marsh). The 'Frog' service, then the largest ever ordered from a British potter, was decorated with hand-painted landscapes and a frog emblem at Wedgwood's Chelsea decorating studio, supervised by Bentley. Its completion in 1774 marked the removal of the firm's London showrooms from Great Newport Street to even larger premises in Greek Street, where the service was displayed, by invitation, to the public. This great service is now permanently exhibited at the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

Wedgwood's Queen's ware, the most influential development in the history of British pottery, achieved almost a monopoly of the high-quality earthenware tableware market in Europe. It was widely imitated, notably in France (faience-finefaience anglaise), Germany (Steingut), and Italy (terraglia), and by the end of the century the manufacture of the traditional European tin-glazed earthenware had virtually ceased.


From 1772 it was Wedgwood's policy to mark everything made at Etruria. He was the first earthenware potter consistently to mark his goods and the first ever to use his own name, which was impressed in the clay. He and Bentley undertook market research, cultivating influential patrons (several of whom permitted him to copy objects in their private collections), enlisting the help of ambassadors, and taking pains to produce wares suited to specific markets. In 1771–2, in a daring and ultimately successful experiment in inertia selling, unsolicited parcels of ware were sent to many of the noble houses of Germany in the hope of attracting orders and advertising the quality of the goods. Between 1773 and 1787 Wedgwood issued illustrated catalogues of his Queen's ware and ornamental wares, the later editions being published in French, German, and Dutch translations.

Design played an important part in Wedgwood's success and he owed to Bentley his conversion to the neo-classical style, which he applied to his Queen's ware tablewares as he did to his ornamental wares at a time when all other pottery and porcelain manufacturers were dedicated to the rococo.

Porcelain and jasper

Wedgwood became a master potter at a time when it was the ambition of almost every potter in Europe to make porcelain. His commonplace book shows that he was well informed about porcelain manufacture, but he was also aware of the crippling losses associated with it and the failure of many of the English factories which had made it. In 1775 he led the potters when they successfully contested the renewal of Richard Champion's patent for the exclusive use of Cornish clay and china stone, but he failed in his attempt to establish a 'Public Experimental Work' in co-operation with other leading Staffordshire potters for the manufacture of 'an useful white porcelain body' (Reilly, Josiah Wedgwood, 311–12).

By that time Wedgwood was well advanced with his long and arduous series of more than 5000 recorded experiments which culminated in his invention of jasper, but it was not until November 1777 that he was able to assure Bentley that he could make it 'with as much facility & certainty' as the black basaltes (Wedgwood MS 25–18790, 3 Nov 1777). The most significant ceramic invention since that of porcelain by the Chinese nearly a thousand years earlier, jasper was an original white stoneware body which was capable of being stained by metallic oxides and ornamented in bas-relief to produce the two-colour appearance of cameos. It was perfectly suited to neo-classical decoration, and the colours that Wedgwood chose for his new medallions, plaques, and tablets for chimney pieces were intended to complement those most fashionable in interior decoration. It was no coincidence that they closely matched some of those used by Robert Adam. Wedgwood developed advanced ornamenting techniques to produce in jasper an enormous variety of ornamental wares from buttons to vases, and his cameos were mounted in metal as jewellery or as ornament for boxes, cabinets, and clocks.

The smaller designs for Wedgwood's bas-relief ornaments were cast or copied from antique gems, often borrowed from the collections of such patrons as the duke of Marlborough and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. Portraits of 'Illustrious Moderns', of which Wedgwood produced more than 300 as jasper medallions, and larger reliefs, were modelled for him by professional sculptors and modellers, including the younger John Flaxman and Joachim Smith in London, or by William Hackwood, employed at Etruria for sixty-three years. After Bentley's death in 1780 Wedgwood extended his range of commissioned models, setting up a studio in Rome. There Italian sculptors, supervised by Flaxman and Henry Webber, were employed to adapt subjects from the antique, buying work from London modellers and using designs in the Romantic style from three gifted amateur artists, Lady Diana Beauclerk, Lady Templetown, and Emma Crewe.

From 1781 Wedgwood was able to make jasper vases, for several of which Flaxman also provided bas-relief ornaments, and it was Flaxman who in February 1785 drew Wedgwood's attention to the Portland vase. In 1786 Wedgwood obtained permission to copy it in jasper. Work on the vase continued for more than three years before he was able to send the first perfect copy to his friend, Dr Erasmus Darwin, who later included a description of it in The Botanic Garden (1791), with an illustration engraved by William Blake. Wedgwood's jasper Portland vase was exhibited in London in May 1790 and copies were sold by subscription. Fine 'first edition' vases rank among the greatest technical achievements of European pottery and they provided a triumphant finale to Wedgwood's career.

Arts and sciences

In 1782 Wedgwood had worked on a method for improving the accuracy of firing pottery. His new instrument for measuring heat in the kilns, a form of thermoscope, was called a 'pyrometer', and he read the first of four papers describing his invention to the Royal Society in May of that year. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1783. In March 1786 he was elected fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and in October of the same year fellow of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce.

Wedgwood's interest in the arts was undoubtedly stimulated by his long friendship with Bentley and by his association with patrons whose collections he was invited to visit. In 1780 George Stubbs, at whose request Wedgwood had made some large earthenware tablets for the artist to paint on, was his guest at Etruria. Stubbs stayed for several months, making sketches for a large painting on panel of the Wedgwood family, painting portraits on Wedgwood's ceramic plaques of Josiah and Sarah and on panel of her father, Richard, and modelling two large bas-reliefs for reproduction in jasper and black basaltes. Portraits of both Josiah and Sarah Wedgwood were painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1784, and in 1785 Wedgwood bought three paintings from Joseph Wright of Derby. As the Reynolds portrait shows, Wedgwood's features were undistinguished and his dress unostentatious; but the jaw is firm and the grey-blue eyes show humour as well as resolution. The subject's high colour may be evidence of his fondness for red meat, porter, and fortified wines. Profile portraits of Wedgwood, modelled by Joachim Smith and William Hackwood, were reproduced in jasper.

Wedgwood's geological explorations in search of raw materials, and his chemical experiments in their use, often required the superior scientific knowledge and experience of his friends. After Bentley his closest friend was Dr Erasmus Darwin, Sarah Wedgwood's 'favourite Esculapius' (Wedgwood MS 25–18430, 26 Dec 1772), who attended the family whenever serious illness threatened and who inoculated the Wedgwood children against smallpox. Darwin was a member of the 
Lunar Society of Birmingham. Wedgwood's membership is disputed but it is certain that he attended meetings of the society, where he met Joseph Priestley, James Watt, William Withering, and other members, as well as distinguished visiting speakers. From about 1779 Wedgwood freely supplied Priestley and other scientists with chemical wares for their experiments, and in 1791 he offered Priestley a home at Etruria after the Birmingham riots in which his house and laboratory were destroyed. Matthew Boulton, also a member of the society and famous for his manufacture of metalwork of the highest quality, was for many years a friendly rival whom Wedgwood described as 'very ingenious, philosophical & agreeable' (Wedgwood MS 25–18147, 23 May 1767).

Wedgwood's family

Of the seven children of Josiah and Sarah Wedgwood born between 1765 and 1778, two died young: their second son, Richard, who lived less than a year, and their youngest daughter, Mary Ann, who was retarded and suffered from fits and died at the age of eight. The eldest child, Susannah, Josiah's favourite, was to marry Erasmus Darwin's son, Robert; their fifth child was the naturalist Charles Darwin. The three surviving sons, John, Josiah, and Tom [see Wedgwood, Thomas], were educated privately before going on to Edinburgh University. All received training in the pottery business but in 1779 Wedgwood confided to Bentley that he expected his eldest son to be 'settled as a gentleman farmer' while Josiah (II) and Tom were to be 'potters & partners in trade' (Wedgwood MS 26–18946, 19 Dec 1779). Despite Bentley's warnings Wedgwood indulged his children and was especially patient with his sons. Although privately he hoped that all three might follow him in the firm, he told them that they should 'judge for themselves before they engaged in it' (Wedgwood MS W/M 32, 17 June 1793). Wedgwood's cousin Thomas, his partner in the manufacture of 'useful' wares, left the firm in 1788 and died shortly afterwards, leaving Wedgwood in sole control. Only Wedgwood's nephew, Tom Byerley, to whom he had entrusted the London showrooms after Bentley's death, combined sufficient experience in the business with a genuine desire to share the burden.

In 1790 Wedgwood nevertheless took his three sons and his nephew into partnership and began progressively to retire from active control; but his plan 'to ease myself of increasing care in the decline of life' (Wedgwood MS W/M 32, 17 June 1793) was frustrated by the resignation of both his eldest and his youngest sons from their partnerships in 1793. Tom, the cleverest of the brothers, was later to be known as one of the pioneers of photography.

Last years

Wedgwood's political sympathies were generally whig and towards the end of his life he found more time for activity in this area. He founded the General Chamber of Manufacturers of Great Britain, acting as spokesman for the pottery industry in opposition to Pitt's proposed commercial treaty with Ireland, and as adviser to William Eden in negotiations for the French commercial treaty of 1786. His enthusiasm for the French Revolution was less public and less sustained than his belief in the American cause in 1776; but he was unequivocal in his championship of the campaign for abolition of the slave trade, becoming a committee member of an anti-slavery society, distributing pamphlets, and issuing a jasper cameo depicting a kneeling slave in chains.

In November 1794 Wedgwood's health began to fail and he took several weeks away from the potteries, leaving the management of Etruria in the hands of his second son. Erasmus Darwin was consulted and Wedgwood appeared to recover, but a few weeks later his face swelled and he suffered acute pain in the jaw, attributed to a decayed tooth. The surgeon summoned to extract it discovered 'signs of mortification' and Darwin decided that nothing could be done. Wedgwood's condition deteriorated rapidly and he became unconscious. He died, probably from cancer of the jaw, on 3 January 1795, at Etruria Hall. He was buried on the 6th in the parish church of Stoke-on-Trent. Seven years later a marble memorial tablet commissioned by his sons was installed there. The portrait, carved in high relief by John Flaxman, was considered a good likeness and the inscription bore a suitable tribute, but the tablet is remarkable for the date, 'August 1730', given for Wedgwood's birth, suggesting that the present-day ignorance of his early life was shared by his family. Wedgwood's will was proved on 2 July 1795. He had made substantial gifts to his children during his lifetime but the total value of his estate nevertheless approached £500,000.

Wedgwood's legacy

Josiah Wedgwood belonged to the fourth generation of a family of potters whose traditional occupation continued through another five generations. No other family business is recorded as surviving in unbroken succession for so long. The reason for its survival is plain: the strength of its foundations. Wedgwood was the most innovative of English potters and, in his time, the most enlightened. As he told his young cousin, Ralph Wedgwood, 'Everything gives way to experiment' (Reilly, Josiah Wedgwood, 311). Gladstone paid tribute to him in 1863 as 'the greatest man who ever, in any age or country, applied himself to the important work of uniting art with industry' (Reilly, Wedgwood, 1.16). Wedgwood himself might have preferred the less fulsome appreciation inscribed on his monument: 'He converted a rude and inconsiderable Manufactory into an elegant Art and An important part of the National Commerce'.

Robin Reilly


Oxford DNB: Robin Reilly, 'Wedgwood, Josiah (1730–1795)',Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2007 [, accessed 12 March 2009]





J. Smith, Wedgwood medallion, c.1773, Man. City Gall. · W. Mackwood, Wedgwood medallion, 1779, NPG · G. Stubbs, ceramic colours on ceramic, 1780, Wedgwood Museum, Barlaston [see illus.] · G. Stubbs, group portrait, oils, 1780 (The Wedgwood family), Wedgwood Museum, Barlaston · W. Hackwood, ceramic relief medallion, 1782, Wedgwood Museum, Barlaston · J. Reynolds, oils, 1784, Wedgwood Museum, Barlaston · E. Davis, bronze statue, 1860, Stoke-on-Trent railway station; copy, Wedgwood factory, Barlaston · Chitqua, miniature · J. Flaxman, marble relief on memorial tablet, St Peter ad Vincula, Stoke-on-Trent; copy, Wedgwood Museum, Barlaston · attrib. J. Reynolds, oils, Down House, London · S. W. Reynolds, engraving (after J. Reynolds, 1784) · J. Smith, ceramic relief medallion, Wedgwood Museum, Barlaston · R. Unwin, miniature · J. T. Wedgwood, engraving (after J. Reynolds, 1784)

Wealth at death  


approx. £500,000: will, Wedgwood, History of the Wedgwood family, [1908] 173–5

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

"Postal tribute to pottery icon Wedgwood"

Postal tribute to pottery icon Wedgwood
Stoke & Staffordshire, UK
LEGENDARY potter Josiah Wedgwood has been recognised as an industrial heavyweight on a new issue of stamps.

A full 250 years on from founding Wedgwood, Josiah is among eight men depicted to mark the anniversary of the Industrial Revolution.

Royal Mail's latest range, entitled Pioneers of the Industrial Revolution, will also feature famed Moorlands canal-builder James Brindley.

Experts say it is just rewards for the pair, who played key roles in transforming North Staffordshire into a centre of industry when they worked together on the Trent and Mersey canal.

Historian Fred Hughes said: "I rate Josiah Wedgwood in the top five Britons of all time.


"People forget that as well as being a marvelous potter and a great industrialist, Josiah was also a wonderful salesperson and an expert in marketing."

The new Royal Mail issue is available from today, with Wedgwood featuring on the 50 pence stamp and Brindley on the 72 pence stamp.

Among the others depicted are steam engine trailblazers Matthew Boulton and James Watt, textile visionary Richard Arkwright, machine-maker Henry Maudslay, road-builder John McAdam and railway pioneer George Stephenson.

Julietta Edgar, head of special stamps at Royal Mail, said: "The individuals celebrated on these stamps had a profound affect on the UK and across the globe, making a huge contribution to manufacturing and creating the infrastructure that brought products to their markets."

Josiah Wedgwood has been credited with the industrialisation of pottery manufacturing.

Ceramics carrying his name have been sold around the world and his legacy remains central to the communities of Etruria and Barlaston, where factories were built.

Brindley, who was born Derbyshire but lived in Leek, earned legendary status by building the Trent and Mersey Canal and thereby creating a vital link across the country. Tom Wedgwood, a descendant from Josiah, said: "I am very proud. There was a big network of men who drove the industrial revolution in this area and he was a big part of that."

Mick Hilditch, founder of Penkull-based Penny Red Stamps, said the new range could generate more interest in stamps.

He said: "This will probably revive some interest in stamps locally.

"Whenever they launch these sort of stamps about specific pioneers they tend to sell better.

"With Wedgwood being involved, there is obviously going to be some interest in North Staffordshire."

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Monday, 2 March 2009

The Wedgwood Museum

The Wedgwood Museum, run by the Wedgwood Museum Trust, quite independent of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons since the 1960s is an outstanding museum – following a huge building project the museum was re-opened at the end of 2008. Contained within a contemporary building, it relates the history of the company, now in it's 250th year, and displays one of the finest collections of Wedgwood in the world. It also provides unparalleled research opportunities, bringing together dispersed Wedgwood Manuscript collections containing Wedgwood family documents back to the late thirteenth century and a wealth of information on the history of the company and of pottery in North Staffordshire.


Art Fund Long List


This year's long list of museums and galleries across the UK has been announced for the 2009 Art Fund Prize. Ten projects will bid against one another for the £100,000 grant, which aims to recognize and encourage originality and excellence at arts and heritage sites across Britain. The Wedgwood Museum is amongst the institutions on the list - due to be shortened to just four in May with a winner being selected on June 18th. Although Wedgwood has fallen into difficulties this year, it remains a leading brand in the sphere of home design and deserves recognition for its impact on the ceramics industry.


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