J and G Meakin, Eagle and Eastwood Potteries, Hanley
NOTE: This article which follows originally appeared in a 1956 book 'British Potters and Pottery Today', is based mainly upon accounts provided mainly by the firms themselves.
Every firm in the pottery trade has its own particular characteristic, the result of a policy very often determined upon at the outset of its history. The business of J. and G. Meakin of Hanley is no exception for, from the very first, we are told it was planned for production in quantity. As Bernard Hollowood tells us in his entertaining little book The Story of J. and G. Meakin: 'Their aim was to sell reliable, serviceable and good looking pottery to the peoples of the Americas, the Dominions and the Colonies and their factory in Hanley was planned and organised accordingly.'
So, looking back over more than a century to the time when, in 1851, the two brothers James and George joined in partnership, we realise that such settled policy must have been born of past experience. We are not surprised, therefore, to find that their father already had a pottery at Lane End (Longton) in Cannon Street, whither he had migrated from other works in 1850. He died two years later but not before the two sons had joined forces.
They kept on the Cannon Street works for a short time, but soon took over another pottery in Market Street, where, during a period of seven years they built up a profitable business. James was the technical man, the potter, his brother being the 'salesman', publicity manager and traveller, whose personal contacts worthily seconded the practical accomplishments of the other.
Success made them turn to the project of building an up-to-date works and the Eagle factory, completed in 1859 was the result. Here they concentrated upon producing dinner and tea wares in 'White Granite' which, from its strength and durability, became popular both in North and South America. So far did demand exceed production in the 1860's that other manufacturers had to help them fulfill their orders. Much of this great success in the Americas must be credited to the indefatigable 'ambassadorship' of George, whose sojourn in America, particularly in Boston, was rich in fruitful results.
Eastwood Pottery, which had been established by their brother Charles, was absorbed in the larger company in 1887. It was a well-planned factory with three biscuit and four glost ovens, the whole lay-out being designed to ensure effective labour-saving production. Throughout the trying and sometimes critical years of the 1890's and 1900's the firm owed much of its stability and resilience to the abilities of George Elliot Meakin, son of George the elder. After serving an apprenticeship at the Eagle Pottery he was well equipped to step into his father's position when the latter died in 1891. Thereafter for thirty-six years he piloted the now limited liability company, being assisted by his brother James and his cousin Kenneth.
Under his guidance the firm began to produce a semi-porcelain, suitable for transfer decoration, first in plain transfers but later, in response to demand, in hand coloured ornament. Still later they passed to the lithographic technique, which became (and still is) their chief decorative process.
Meanwhile another generation had grown to adult age and, in due course – almost as a matter of inheritance – the direction passed to Bernard Meakin, now President, and James F. Meakin, Chairman, who, assisted by Rodney Meakin, Vice-Chairman, T. H. Breeze, H. Lloyd, G. Mountford, and F. Pedley have sustained the reputation of this family business. Thus the grandsons of the founder are today upholding the tradition and following the policy laid down over a hundred years ago, and with conspicuous success.
They have been materially helped by the fact that, at the present day, both the Eagle and Eastwood Potteries are among the most modern and well planned of factories, capable of producing anything which is likely to be demanded of them. Ever since 1936, when an extensive scheme of rebuilding was commenced, to the present day (except for the war years) reconstruction has proceeded apace. No part of the system has been allowed to lag behind the times. Even the picturesque bottle-shaped ovens at the Eagle Pottery have been sacrificed to efficiency and progress.
The latest plant and machinery, electrification and streamlining of production lines are operating to ensure success' in the future in the pursuit of the firm's steadfast aim – to produce, mainly (but not entirely) for the overseas' markets, the best possible products, at prices consistent with maximum efficiency.
NOTE: This article which originally appeared in a 1956 book 'British Potters and Pottery Today', is based mainly upon accounts provided mainly by the firms themselves.
Questions, comments, contributions? email: Steve Birks