Wood and Sons Ltd., Burslem

 

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.

 For considerably over two centuries the Wood family of Burslem has been in the forefront of those who are memorable in ceramic history. Early in the eighteenth century, as every collectors manual informs us, there were three brothers, Ralph, Aaron and Moses Wood. Ralph, the eldest, born in 1715, achieved renown round about 1750 with his famous and now rare Staffordshire figures and especially his delightful Toby Jugs, genuine examples of which are now 'museum pieces', but which started a vogue which has never died out. Aaron, born in 1717, was the finest mould maker in the Potteries. His claim upon our notice is twofold.

He was the father of the even more celebrated Enoch Wood, whose fame rests not only upon his great skill as a modeller, but on his ability as a practical potter and his keenness and enthusiasm as a collector of pottery. Enoch was a man of great enterprise, with a flair for invention, whose masterly craftsmanship served to build up the considerable business of Wood and Caldwell, a partnership which endured from 1790 to 1818. In the latter year he bought out his partner and took into the business his three sons, when the firm became known as Enoch Wood and Sons. Under this regime the firm achieved a great reputation, especially in America, for which profitable market Enoch designed his 'admirable and extensive range of the most artistic blue and white plates with rich and finely disposed borders encircling views of England, of which there are known 71 centers.'

In this connection it is interesting to note that during the last fifty years the firm of Wood and Sons has revived for the modern market the 'English Scenery', 'English Castles' and 'Woodland' designs of Enoch Wood. Enoch lived into his eighty-third year and died in 1840.

To Moses, the third of the three brothers, can be traced the beginning of an unbroken succession of seven generations of Master Potters, a tradition covering more than two centuries, to which the members of the firm of today can look back with pride and satisfaction.

It was in 1865 that Absolom Wood and his son, T. F. Wood together founded the present company; and the sixth and seventh generations from Moses Wood are represented by the present Chairman, Harry F. Wood and his four sons.

T. F. Wood, son of Absolom, was a well-known figure in the local life of Burslem, in turn Councillor, Alderman and Mayor. His mayorial mace is, to this day, carried as the Civic Mace of Stoke-on-Trent. He lived to the ripe age of eighty and saw the firm he had helped to found, develop into one of the most prosperous and progressive in the Potteries.

Under his successor, the present Chairman of the Company, this progress has continued and the business has benefited by the introduction of new methods of handling and up-to-date machinery. Thus Wood and Sons were pioneers in the introduction of the continuous tunnel system of firing. As long ago as 1919 one of the original Dressler type tunnel kilns was put down at one of their factories. Again in 1929 they installed one of the first electric enamel kilns to go into production. Since 1945 an extensive programme of modernisation has been carried through at the Stanley Pottery, where hotel ware is a specialty. This factory has been entirely rebuilt and now uses tunnel biscuit and glost ovens.

A considerable part of the firm's reputation is due to a virile design side. From 1917 to 1929 F. A. Rhead (of the famous Staffordshire family of artists) was Art Director. He was greatly responsible for carrying out the details which resulted in the revival of the Enoch Wood styles, as well as for many new designs. His successor, E. Sambrook, jun. favours a more modern trend in design, in which the characteristic Wood style is wedded to the simplified forms of the present day.

The long history of the firm of Wood and Sons, Ltd. has been marked throughout by a policy of progressive development, the adaption of new ideas, methods and techniques. Yet, throughout the seven generations, from old Moses Wood to the present day, the standard of craftsmanship has been ever the backbone of their success story.

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? email: Steve Birks