John Davenport


DAVENPORT, John (1765-1848), pottery manufacturer and Member of Parliament, Stoke upon Trent.

John Davenport was born in Derby Street, Leek, Staffs., on 29 September 1765, the son of Jonathan and Ellin Davenport. His father died when he was six years old, and he was sent to work soon after. Later he moved to Newcastle under Lyme where he was employed at Kinnersley's bank until 1785. He then joined Thomas Wolfe in Stoke upon Trent, and became Wolfe's partner at a china works in Liverpool. In 1794 he bought his own business, Brindley's Longport Pottery, and the partnership with Wolfe ended.

By the 1840s his four works in Longport employed over 1,500 people. He produced earthenware, porcelain and flint glass and in 1806 patented a method of ornamenting glass in imitation of engraving or etching. He bought Cliff Bank Pottery from John Harrison in 1804, and also acquired a large earthenware factory in Newport, Shropshire.

John Davenport's sons joined him in the business in the 1820s and he became increasingly absorbed in political affairs. He stood as a Conservative candidate in the parliamentary election for Stoke upon Trent in 1832 and was returned, together with Josiah Wedgwood II. He was returned again in 1835 at the uncontested election of that year.

See article for account of Davenport and the 1832 elections.

In 1813 John Davenport bought Westwood Hall, Leek. He retired from public life in 1838, having served as a magistrate and deputy lieutenant for Staffordshire.

He married Diana Ward in 1795 and by her had two daughters and three sons. John Davenport junior became a lawyer, Henry died in 1835 and William  took over effective control of the business. The family interest was maintained until about 1887 when the last of the Davenport factories was sold to Thomas Hughes. Most of the surviving factory buildings were demolished in 1961.

John Davenport has been described as a 'hard, gritty capitalist'. He participated in the victory parade of 1815 from Longport to Burslem, heading the procession with his works manager James Mawdesley, both wearing glass hats and carrying glass walking sticks specially made for the occasion.
Davenport sacked Charles Shaw's father for going on strike - the result was that Shaw's family ended up in the work house.

Shaw "When I was a child" CHAPTER XII  A strike and its consequences

"My father, as I have stated, was "a painter and guilder."  He worked at Davenport's. A new manager there introduced new methods of conducting the business. For one thing he introduced female labour in a department which had hitherto belonged almost exclusively to the men. This new competition was resisted, partly as an innovation and partly because of the serious reduction in wages it involved.

The men resented and resisted the change. They struck with the winter before them....

I suppose my father must have been a sort of ringleader in this strike, for many years after I saw a letter from his brother-in-law, who was one of the managers of the works, to say that if he did not give up his support of the strike, Mr Davenport had told him that he would ruin him, and force him and his family into the workhouse. This bitter prophesy became bitterly true.


John Davenport died at Westwood, Leek, on 12 December 1848 and was buried in Leek parish church graveyard.

Sources: Anderton; T. A. Lockett, Davenport's Pottery and Porcelain 1794-1887; V and S; VCH ii and viii.