Famous Potters of Stoke-on-Trent

Adams Index Page

The Adams family of Potters
The Adams family had potteries in Staffordshire as early as 1650.
At that date two brothers, William and Thomas
had separate ventures in Burslem. 

Such family activity continued for many years. William Adams and Company, with large potteries in Tunstall was managed by members who were the 11th and 12th generations in direct descent from the original 17th century Adams of Burslem.

Whilst there is no longer an Adams pottery, some of their designs are still produced with their backstamp under the Wedgwood Group name. Adams joined the Wedgwood Group in 1966.

Attributing examples of china marked Adams to a particular man can be complicated and confusing because so many of them bore the same given name, William.

This is particularly true with collectible Adams china. In the latter part of the 18th-century and continuing into the 19th, there were three William Adams.

All were cousins and operated their own large potteries independent of the others. Further, with one exception, they were succeeded by sons of the same given name who, in the main, continued making the same kinds of wares. They were:

1) William Adams  1745-1805, of Greengate, Tunstall.

2) William Adams  1748-1831, of Brickhouse, Burslem and later Cobridge Hall, Cobridge.

3) William Adams  1772-1829, of Stoke-on-Trent.

Important also was:

4) William Adams  1798-1865, of Greenfield.

 The three cousins made the standard kinds of Staffordshire pottery from Queensware to ordinary earthenware, transfer decorated in blue and other colours. William Adams (1) of Greengate and William Adams (4) are a special interest to collectors. The former made jasperware that equalled that of Wedgwood. William Adams (4) produced 30 different designs of American scenic and history china.

1) William Adams  1745-1805, of Greengate, Tunstall.
He outshone his cousins in artistic ability and was reputed to be Josiah Wedgwood's favorite pupil. He established his own pottery in 1789 where he made Queensware, "painted china glaze ware," transfer, basalt and Jasper until his death in 1805. 

Under his control Jasper ware was made in quantity, included table sets, plaques for furniture and mantlepiece mounts, cylinders for candlestick bases and jewelry medallions. 

He also perfected a special shade for his ware, known as "Adams blue" for its distinctive colour which approached violet.

William (1) was succeeded by his son Benjamin who was not too successful commercially. Benjamin sold the Greengate pottery in 1820. It then passed from family control until repurchased by William Adams (4) to expand his production. It became a unit of William Adams and Company, Tunstall.

a print of the Greengates Works in the 1780's 
a print of the Greengates Works in the 1780's 

more on Greengates

2) William Adams  1748-1831, of Brickhouse, Burslem and later Cobridge Hall, Cobridge.
His father, John Adams was also a potter, and died when his son was seven. 

During William's minority Brickhouse pottery, established in 1657 by an earlier John Adams, was leased to Josiah Wedgwood. 

This continued until about 1772 when Wedgwood moved to his newly built Etruria pottery and William Adams (2) established his own business at Brickhouse. He was so successful with the usual Queensware and other Staffordshire wares that in a few years he moved to Cobridge Hall which he had built in nearby Cobridge.

His important in achievement was the introduction to Staffordshire of the transfer printed method of decoration. During his latter years, his specialties were spatterware and Red Rose, a cottage tableware so named for its bold painted decoration of roses and foliage.

The Brick House Works, Burslem
The Brick House Works, Burslem

more on the Brickhouse Works

3) William Adams  1772-1829, of Stoke-on-Trent

Was the son of Richard Adams, maker of unmarked salt glaze and white stoneware. 

Toward the close of the 18th-century, William (3) was operating four potteries in Stoke-on-Trent including one at at Cliffbank. He produced Queensware and transfer decorated earthenware, including one of the early American scenic designs, brought out about 1827. It appeared on dark blue plates in two sizes titled on the reverse "Mitchell & Freeman China and Glass Warehouse, Chatham Street, Boston." Obviously the plates with this view were ordered by the partners for business promotion.

 In 1819 his son, William Adams (4), became a partner and the company name was changed to William Adams & Son. Later three other sons were made partners, the firm name then becoming William Adams & Sons.

Thomas Wolfe had occupied the Big Works by 1781 it was on the north-east side of the Newcastle canal - opposite  Spode's pottery works. 

In 1818 Thomas Wolfe's widow Rachel let the two works to William Adams. The famous Adams family continued to work the old Wolfe factories until c.1862.

Stoke-upon-Trent c.1819 - The view is along Church Street, London Road to the right
Stoke-upon-Trent c.1819 - The view is along Church Street, London Road to the right

The railings in front of the works is the Newcastle Canal - the canal went underneath
Church Street and the Wheatsheaf Inn and then ran alongside Spode's and Wolfe's works.

To the immediate left is the Wheatsheaf Public House (a coaching inn).
Next the Wheatsheaf is Wolfe's "Big Works"
To the right of the picture is Wolfe's china factory - the Bridge Bank works

picture: "Ten Generations of a Potting Family"

More on the Big Works

More on the Cliff Bank Works

4) William Adams  1798-1865, of Greenfield, Tunstall

This son and first partner of William Adams (3) was a prolific producer of American scenic and historic china. On his father's death he became managing director of the family business. About 1834 he built the Greenfield pottery in Tunstall, the first important one there, to which the firms offices, styled Adams & Sons, were moved.

Active in the American trade, he visited the United States in 1821 and in 1825. Then or later, he secured prints of American scenes done after paintings by Thomas Cole, W. G. Wall and others. From the prints he copied his 15 scenic designs. There was also the Log Cabin plate for William Henry Harrison's presidential election in 1840. All the patterns were transfer printed in the, brown, light blue and black but no dark blue. Each piece in these patterns has on the reverse, title of the particular view in the same colour and the mark of W. Adams & Sons, impressed.

About 1830 Adams & Sons also produced its Columbus series of 14 designs based on events in the discoverer's career. Transfer printing for these was in light colours, ranging through pink, brown, green and purple as well as black. A special printed mark was used. An anchor and a shield lettered Columbus and, on a scarf below, W. A.& S.

After William (4) died in 1865, the potteries in Stoke-on-Trent were sold and everything moved Tunstall where the business was conducted by his sons, William and Percy W. L. Adams. They added porcelain tablewares to their other products. In turn they were succeeded by their sons and grandsons who came to direct their potteries.


Adams Index Page

questions/comments/contributions? email: Steve Birks

updated: March 2008