In this installation, we explore the history of a famous pottery, one that housed portions of several potters’ careers. Some of these men are easily recognized, others not. Often, the histories of potworks are sketchy and any additional information is always welcomed.
Churchyard Works, Burslem
The house on the south-east side of St. John’s churchyard in Burslem was originally owned by the Shaw family; Thomas Wedgwood acquired the site when he married John Shaw’s daughter and heiress, Margaret, in 1656. To replace an earlier pottery, he built the Churchyard Works shortly before his death in 1679. Son Thomas II (1660-1716) and grandson Thomas III (1685-1739) are both listed as “Master Potters of Churchyard.”1 His great-grandson Josiah Wedgwood, the youngest of thirteen children of Thomas III and Mary Wedgwood, was born in the churchyard house and, on July 12, 1730, was baptized in St. John’s Church.
At the young age of nine when his father died in 17392, Josiah went to work in the potworks and, in 1744, became apprentice to his elder brother Thomas (1717-1773). Thomas Green is reported to have purchased the works in 1795 for the manufacture of earthenware. In his book, Staffordshire Potters 1781-1900, Dick Henrywood reports Green at this location until 1811.
This drawing of Churchyard Works was done, from memory, for the book, Life of Josiah Wedgwood (1866), by Eliza Meteyard. The scale is not entirely correct. Steve Birks (thepotteries.org) advises “it should be treated with caution; the relationship between the lane, the house and the church is not quite in line with the 1740 map.” The following information is sketchy. For many years of the pottery’s existence, no information can be found; the best current knowledge this author can uncover tells us the Churchyard Works occupants were:
1811-1831 − no information available1831-1835 − Job & John Jackson(Little says “out of business before 1842”3)1836-1838 − no information available1838-1848 − William Ridgway, Son & Co.1848-1857 − no information available1857-1862 or 1864 − Bridgwood & Clarke1864-1873 − no information available1873-1878 − W. E. Withinshaw(F. J. Emery “formerly W. E. Withinshaw 1873-1878”4)1878-1880 − F. J. Emery“occupied the famous Churchyard Works.”5 (“1878-1878”6)1878-1887 − Edward Clarke & Co. (Kowalsky says “1880-18877)(If anyone has more pertinent information, please contact us. We’d love to know more!)
Churchyard Works was named thusly because of its proximity to the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist − as shown in the drawing − which was built in 1536. A serious fire destroyed much of the nave and the thatched roof of the church. In 1717, the church itself was rebuilt in brick and tile. The massive stone Norman tower was retained, with a chancel added in 1788. The photograph shows St. John’s Church as it appears today, taken from the “approximate location of the grounds of the Churchyard Works.”8
1 Wedgwood, Josiah C. (1872-) Staffordshire Pottery and its History (87)
2 According to Josiah C. Wedgwood, Staffordshire Pottery and its History, (54) the father of Josiah I, Thomas, died in 1737. On page 87 of the same volume, the chart of the Wedgwood potters, he says “1739.”
in 1737. On page 87 of the same volume, the chart of the Wedgwood potters, he says “1739.”
3 Little, W. L., Staffordshire Blue, 1969 (74)
4 Kowalsky, 1999, Encyclopedia of Marks (190)
6 Kowalsky, 1999 (190)
7 Kowalsky, 1999 (147)
8 Photograph courtesy of Steve Birks, www.thepotteries.org