Wedging | Pottery industry Jobs



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"some plate-makers even require their boys to what is called wedge their clay, which is a very laborious process, and consists in lifting large lumps of clays, and throwing them forcibly down on a hard surface, to free it from air and render it more compact. These boys are usually thin and pale, and frequently suffer from pulmonary and digestive diseases. Sickness prevails among them extensively."



"When there were no moulds to be sprinted into the drying-stove, and no moulds to be carried less rapidly out, Darius was engaged in clay-wedging. That is to say, he took a piece of raw clay weighing more than himself, cut it in two with a wire, raised one half above his head and crashed it down with all his force upon the other half, and he repeated the process until the clay was thoroughly soft and even in texture. At a later period it was discovered that hydraulic machinery could perform this operation more easily and more effectually than the brawny arms of a man of seven. At eight o’clock in the evening Darius was told that he had done enough for that day, and that he must arrive at five sharp the next morning to light the fire, before his master the muffin-maker began to work. When he inquired how he was to light the fire his master kicked him jovially on the thigh and suggested that he should ask another mould-runner. His master was not a bad man at heart, it was said, but on Tuesdays, after Sunday, and Saint Monday, masters were apt to be capricious.

Darius reached home at a quarter to nine, having eaten nothing but bread all day. Somehow he had lapsed into the child again. His mother took him on her knee, and wrapped her sacking apron round his ragged clothes, and cried over him and cried into his supper of porridge, and undressed him and put him to bed. But he could not sleep easily because he was afraid of being late the next morning."

Clayhanger - Arnold Bennett


1840 Report:-

In 1840 the House of Commons set up a commission to inquire into the state of children employed in the mines and  manufactories. Samuel Scriven visited the area of Stoke-on-Trent from December 1840 onwards to collect evidence.


this is one of his interviews of a 'wedger' >>> 

Messrs. MADDOCK and SEDDONS' Earthenware Factory, Burslem.
No. 184.-Jos. Wilkinson, aged 11
I run moulds and wedge clay for Wm. Bentley; have been at work five years; I am sure I was but six years old when I began ; cannot read or write ; never went to day school ; go to Sunday school and learn a bab have got a father; he's a collier, but has had no work this good while; my mother is a baller (supplies the thrower with balls of clay); she is out of work ; have three sisters and four brothers; one brother drives donkeys, another works in pit another has got nothing to do ; one sister turns wheel, 'tother two canna work, them is little 'uns. I get 3s 3d. a-week ; come at half-past six to work, go home at nine; work Mondays and every day.
Wm. Bentley licks me sometimes with his fist; he has knocked me the other side the pot-stove for being so long at breakfast; half an hour is allowed, but he makes me work before the half hour is up. I go home to dinner, but only stop half an hour, he won't let me bide an hour; I live a quarter of a mile away, and have to run home and back out of it, and get my dinner to ;
I never get a bit of play, am very tired when I get home at night, get my supper, and am glad to go to bed. I get milk-meat for breakfast, and taters and salt for dinner, sometimes a bit of bacon ; would rather work 10 hours a-day than 15; should not care then if I had less wages a good sight. I should go to school then, and have a bit of time for play. I don't wear shoes and stockings while I am at work; have got a pair at home and better clothes than this, what they gave me at school: my father is very good to me; he is a totaler.


Mr. JOSEPH CLEMENTSON, High-Street, Shelton (Earthenware)
No. 95. Charles Perry, aged 13
I have worked for Mr. Clementson two years, and run moulds for William Trowton all the time. I sometimes wedge clay.
Can't read or write, never been to Sunday-school much ; went to day-school for a little while when I was younger, and left to go to work. William Trowton pays me 4s. a week; we work regular six days in the week; master has always got work for us to do. I come sometimes at half past five, sometimes at six, and begin to light the fire. William Trowton gives me now and then 3d. more than my wages if I am a good boy ; he sometimes scolds if I am a bad boy, he never yet flogged me.
I've got no father, got a mother, her's a painter by trade, but she s getting old. I've got one sister, and four brothers, all working as potters ; we all live at home, and keep mother amongst us. I go home to dinner. and get sometimes bacon and potatoes.
I have very good health, and like my trade, sometimes it is too heavy.


Portrait of a pottery worker known as a clay wedger at work.
 1900 - 1910 (c.)

Portrait of a pottery worker known as a clay wedger at work.

This lantern slide appears to be one of a group used for a presentation or slide show by Blake entitled “Staffordshire Pottery.”

"The Clay Wedger. Plastic clay as removed from the filter is taken in lumps of about a cwt, cut in two, one half raised to arms length and dumped into the other half. This is continued until the mass is kneaded to a consistency fit for pottery making." 

Examples of "wedgers" from the 1881 census for the Potteries area:-


1881 census:
Dwelling: 22 Peel St
Census Place: Trentham, Staffordshire, England


Marr | Age | Sex

  Birthplace Occupation
Michael L. BRIDGWOOD  M 48 M  Head Longton, Staffordshire Potters Placer
George L. BRIDGWOOD  13 M  Son Longton, Staffordshire Potters Clay Wedger


1881 census:
Dwelling: Newcastle St
Census Place: Stoke Upon Trent, Staffordshire, England


Marr | Age | Sex

  Birthplace Occupation
Mary BORROWS  W 50 F Head Leek, Staffordshire  
Matilda HARRISON  M 22 F Daur Leek, Staffordshire Potters Jollier
Ellen BORROWS  U 21 F Daur Hugglecourt, Gloucester Potters Sponger
Fred BORROWS 18 M  Son Cheltenham, Gloucester Clay Wedger