Famous Potters of Stoke-on-Trent


Thomas Whieldon 1719 - 95
the father of potting in the
North Staffordshire Potteries

Thomas Whieldon of Fenton Low (or Little Fenton), Stoke-on-Trent, was probably the leading potter of his day and he had great influence on other famous potters.

He commenced potting in 1740. From 1754 until 1759 Josiah Wedgwood I was a partner with him. Whieldon built up an extensive business and made a fortune estimated at £10,000 from his trade.

He stopped manufacturing around 1780 and became High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1786.

"In 1740, Mr. Thomas Whieldon’s manufactory at Little Fenton, consisted of a small range of low buildings, all thatched. His early productions, were knife hafts, for the Sheffield Cutlers; and Snuff Boxes, for the Birmingham Hardwaremen, to finish with hoops, hinges, and springs; which himself usually carried in a basket to the tradesmen; and being much like agate, they were greatly in request. He also made toys and chimney ornaments, coloured in either the clay state, or bisquet, by zaifre, manganese, copper, &c. and glazed with black, red, or white lead. He he also made black glazed tea and coffee pots, Tortoiseshell and melon table plates, (with ornamented edge, and six scallops, as in the specimens kept by Andrew Boon, of the Honeywall, Stoke;) and other useful articles....." 

Simeon Shaw: 'History of the Staffordshire Potteries' (1829)

Potters influenced by Whieldon

Whieldon, one of the best-known of English potters had a strong and lasting influence on the tastes of the time and on the work of the craftsmen to follow him. He had many apprentices including Josiah Spode, Aaron Wood the block cutter, Ralph Wood, Robert Garner, William Greatbatch, J Barker and Uriah Sutton.

Josiah Wedgwood was from 1754 to 1759 in partnership with Thomas Whieldon. This became a fruitful partnership, enabling Wedgwood to become a master of current pottery techniques.
Wedgwood then began what he called his "experiment book," an invaluable source on Staffordshire pottery. Wedgwood was responsible for many of the developments and improvements which helped Whieldon achieve his leading place.

Josiah Spode I was an apprentice to Thomas Whieldon.

In 1730, Ralph Wood was apprenticed to John Astbury, and he subsequently worked with Thomas Whieldon at Fenton Low, there learning the manufacture of coloured glazes.

Whieldon produced tortoiseshell ware which was a type of earthenware with variegated, surface colour and also agateware-that is, ware made by combining differently coloured clays or by combing together different colours of slip - he greatly improved agateware in the 1740s by using white clays stained with metallic oxides.

Astbury-Whieldon ware, was produced from about 1730 to 1745 by the two Staffordshire potters, John Astbury and Thomas Whieldon. Instead of the more common stamped relief decoration, the ornament was achieved by applying pre-molded relief motifs to the surface of the pottery object and connecting them by curled stems formed of threads of thinly rolled clay. The process was known as sprigging.

a short biography of Thomas Whieldon

article on 'Whieldon's Grove


questions/comments/contributions? email: Steve Birks

updated: Dec 2007