|Shaw's - History of the Staffordshire Potteries - originally published in 1829|
Chapter 6 - continuation..... Progress of the manufacture from 1700 to Mr. Wedgwood's commencement in 1760.
next: Chapter 7 Introduction of Fluid Glaze..
previous: Chapter 6 - progress of manufacture from 1700 to 1760
contents: index of Shaw's book
[these headings are not in the original - they are added for ease of reading]
|Thomas Astbury of Lane Delph|
|Use of flint|
|Wet grinding of flint|
|Mr. Parkes Chemical Catechism|
|Use of moulds|
|Ralph Shaw's patent & litigation|
|White stone pottery|
|Dr. T. Wedgwood's manufacture|
|Aaron Wood's apprenticeship to Dr. T. Wedgwood|
|Aaron Wood II's apprenticeship to John Mitchell|
|Mr. Mitchell's travellers|
|Mr. Thomas Whieldon of Little Fenton|
|Whieldon's four apprentices|
|Daniel Bird at Cliff Bank|
|Thomas and John Wedgwood|
|Additions to the clay|
|Plaster of Paris moulds|
About 1725, Mr. Thomas Astbury, a son of the person already mentioned, commenced business at Lane Delph; first using a different kind of marl with the flint, which so varied the teint of this improved pottery, that he named it Cream-coloured stone ware; and this was further improved by using only the whitest native clay, and flint ground at Mothersall mill. The specimens seem merely thrown on the wheel, and finished to a polish by the dexterity of the workman.
Some are of a red body, with white ornaments, and glazed with lead ore; and a flour mug, dated 1730, has on it a tulip, rose, and auricula, fairly designed and executed.
The information we have received is, that, the first factory was where the Lane Delph Market-Place now is.— The old hovel, whose outside was almost covered with grass, was removed in 1823. It is also stated that the younger Mr. Astbury erected part of the premises now the property of Mr. S. Ginders.
The Flint employed is the kind common on the south-east coasts of England, as Brighton, &c. It contains much pure silex, with a large proportion of oxygen in a most condensed state; and so readily does it unite with alumina when both
are in a fluid state, that it is employed in various proportions; even to the amount of one fourth of the mass of the body of
Porcelain and earthenware. When first it was introduced, the potters put it to calcine in their ovens when fired; after which it was pulverized in large iron mortars, by men, and then passed thro' a fine hair sieve. These processes were, however exceedingly laborious, and extremely deleterious; every possible precaution
employed being ineffectual to prevent great quantities of the finest particles of the silex floating in the air of the apartment, and being inhated by the workmen,
producing the most disastrous effects, by remaining on the lungs in spite of every expectorant, causing asthma, and often premature death.
Considerable difficulty attaches to most inventions at first; and we find great incertitude concerning the several persons, who were at this period endeavouring to discover a more eligible method than mere manual labour to reduce the calcined flints into a powder proper for potters to use. We find Stampers first used instead of mortars, at what was then called Machin's Mill, Burslem, by a person whose name we have not been able to learn.
The merit of inventing the method of grinding Flint in water, as far as we have been able to ascertain, must be shared by John Gallemore, of Millfield gate, Lane End; Joseph Bourne, of Beamhurstley or Bemersley; James Brindley, the celebrated engineer; and Edward Bedson, a glazier, from London.—
Among the papers left by Mr. Thomas Daniel, we find
mention that Mr. Gallimore erected the first mill for this purpose, at Cookshut Green, only about two miles from Bemersley; afterwards a second at the Meir, near the Furnace; and another at the Ivy House, near Hanley, the property of Mr. Astbury; and
subsequently of those who have since become proprietors of the manufactory in Shelton, once owned by
Mr. Joseph Bourne died in June. 1825. Frequently has the conversation with him and the author turned upon his share of the merits of this invention, and subsequently with his Sons. He constructed the mill-work for grinding the flints, at both Cookshut Green, and the Ivy House mills; but be also stated, that Mr. James Brindley, his neighbour, with whom he was intimate, suggested very important improvements, constantly adopted in all the mills since erected. It is to be regretted that opportunity was not sought, to prevail on the old gentleman to walk to a mill, and give a detail of the particulars.
Concerning Mr. Bedson, we have the authority of Mr. William Sherratt, the elder, of Milton, (father of the gentleman, who in 1790, in company with Mr. Bateman, erected the extensive Iron Foundry, in Salford, Manchester,) in a memorandum, that the first attempt at grinding flint, in a slop or wet state, was at the Ivy house, by a small water wheel.
Mr. John Mountford, (already mentioned,) was near 50 years of age when he repaired this mill in 1803; and his account is subjoined. While Mr. Bedson was employed in painting Trentham Hall, some observations he heard, led him to consider the possibility of grinding Flint, in a manner similar to painters' colours.
He first used a large iron vessel, east, for the purpose at Meir Heath furnace; on the bottom of which, as a kind of pavement, two iron balls, sixty pounds each were driven among the flints just covered with water. The abrasion of the iron among the flints, being found injurious to the ware made with it, was soon abandoned.
Mr. John Mountford says, that Rob. Hulme, of Wolstanton, was repairing Holden Lane, and in a certain part he was obstructed by a tremendous Boulder Stone, which was split by gunpowder, and inside which was found a living toad, that was some years preserved in spirits by the Rev. Mr. Middleton, of Hanley. One part of this stone was used by Mr. Bedson as a vat, and it long was a colour pan at the mill. Mr. Sherratt mentions that soon a wooden vat was substituted, and the bottom was paved with flat sided Blue Boulder Stones, on which were driven round Boulders, in place of the iron balls. As these soon become flattened, they suggested, that flat sided stones, as well as a flat pavement, were best adapted for grinding Potter's Materials.
Mr. Bedson, was ruined by his ingenuity, like many others
in this district; he had borrowed sums from Mr. John Baddeley, Shelton, Mr. T. Whieldon, Stoke, and Mr. Bacchus,
Fenton; and tho' he accomplished his designs, yet the benefits accruing from them were never enjoyed by either himself or his connections.
It has often been a cause of wonder that Mr.
Parkes has given such erroneous statements, in his Chemical Catechism, concerning many things connected with the Potteries; for he might have obtained correct information,
had he sought it; having resided several years at Stoke-upon-Trent. He says "the grinding the flint in water was first practised by
the celebrated Brindley;—and the mills now in use were also invented by him."
Brindley applied the Crown wheel to the upright shaft; and Bourne suggested the carriers on that shaft.
Moulds were now made of all the different pieces; for complete Breakfast, Dinner, Dessert, and Supper Services, and much fancy was exercised in forming the Basket-work, Shell-work, Mosaic, Barley-corn, and other patterns, with great diversity of shapes, agreeably to the taste of visitors, and the ingenuity of the workman.
The specimens are glazed with salt; and from the accuracy of the ornaments, and the
extreme lightness, of Tureens, Dishes, and Sauce Boats, they are supposed to have been cast in the moulds, by pouring in a very thin slip, and letting it remain a
few minutes, then pouring it out, and refilling with a thicker slip which instantly assimilates with the former, and more than doubled its thickness; a third, and often a
fourth dose of thick slip was added, until the vessels had the required thickness; when the mould and its contents were placed a while before a fire, and
afterwards they easily separated, and the workman dressed off the seams where the moulds divided, and the spouts, handles, and other appendages were affixed, in the process called
"Handling and Trimming."
In 1732, Mr. Ralph Shaw, of Burslem, availed himself of the method long practised by Mr. Astbury, of using a mixture of flint and clay, to ornament the surfaces of the Pottery; and altho' several other potters were using the same clay as himself, he took out Letters Patent for employing
The secret was, merely washing the inside and forming broad lines on the outside of the articles with very thick slip of flint and pipe-clay. To keep his process more secluded and secret, he was accustomed to evaporate his mixed Clays on a long trough in a place locked up, under cover, beneath which were flues for the heat from fire applied on the outside. This also kept the clay free from any kind of dirt; and the idea is supposed to have been gained from Ihe tile-makers' method of drying their tiles in stoves.
Mr. Shaw became so litigious and overbearing, that many of the manufacturers were extremely uncomfortable, and prevented improving their productions.
Not content with the success he experienced, and the prospect of speedily acquiring affluence, his excessive vanity, and insatiable avarice incited to proceedings that terminated in his ruin, unwilling to admit the customary practices of the business, and to brook any appearance of competition; he was constantly objecting to every trifling improvement, as an infringement on his patent; and threatning his neighbours with suits in equity, to protect his sole rights; till at length self-defence urged them to bear the expences of a suit he had commenced against J. Mitchell, to try the validity of the Patent, at Stafford, in 1736; and very aged persons whose parents were present, give the general facts of the Trial;—
All the manufacturers being interested in the decision, those most respectable were in the court; witnesses proved Astbury's invention and prior usage, of the practice, and a special Jury of great intelligence and wealth, gave a verdict against Mr. Shaw. The learned Judge, after nullifying the Patent, thus addressed the audience: —
The hall re-echoed with acclamations, and the strongest ebullitions of satisfactions, from the potters, to the indescrible mortification ol Mr. S. and his family; who afterwards went to France, where he carried forward his manufactory; whence some of his family returned to Burslem about 1750; and, in 1783, Mr. Wedgwood wrote a Pamphlet to prevent Potters emigrating with his Son to France; and others to America.
As this kind of Pottery required placing on bits of stone, to prevent the articles uniting in the oven, it was called Bit-stone-ware; and some specimens remain with the bits of stone affixed.
Two Saucers, of Mr, Shaw's manufacture, with a fine chocolate outside, and a white inner surface, are fused together, with the bits of stone remaining where they had been placed prior to firing. The accidents from separating the bits from the vessels, caused the invention of Stilts, Triangles, and Cockspurs.
In the early processes of the
White Stone Pottery, many obstacles required to be surmounted, and the prejudices of workmen presented various impediments. The manufacturers possessed little, knowledge of the chemical
properties of the various articles; neither had they any precedents for the kinds, they severally
attempted to make. But, as several persons at the same time were endeavouring to produce new and particular kinds, each experienced some degree of success.
The specimens manufactured by Dr. T. Wedgwood, at that time the principal potter in Burslem, are of good quality, and finely ornamented with embossed work, the bodies, and the shapes, are much varied; Coffee and Tea Pots, of clays compounded and mixed to resemble agate, marble, and other natural bodies, are in various shapes; some glazed with lead ore; and the white, all salt glaze.
Some of these moulds are of brass, very expensive, and much like the large tools used by bookbinders; others are of clunchclay, or Tough Tom, not very durable; and of both kinds specimens are yet in existence, found while altering the highways, and digging the foundations for some new buildings in Burslem.
some instances, these ornaments were coloured blue, by the workman using a small lock of wool to dust
upon them a small quantity of dry smalts, or pulverized zaffre, whose lustre was greatly augmented by the salt glaze. This method of
ornamenting, with that of relief figures in black, and white clay, continued a long time; and doubtless originated the methods of
imitating medallions, cameos, &c.
The persons who first made these utensils to produce the ornaments, were then called Block Cutters, and the principal person was Mr. Aaron Wood, born in 1717, and the indenture of that period shews that when about fourteen he was apprenticed to Dr. Thomas Wedgwood, distinguished from Mr. Thomas Wedgwood, of the Church yard manufactory, father of the celebrated Josiah Wedgwood, with whom he served his term, and received four shillings weekly, when twenty-one years of age; as journeyman, he received six shillings weekly, for a further term of five years; having for his ingenuity, and attention one shilling weekly more than was paid to the other journeymen.
When the second term was completed, the great demand for models and moulds of Plaster of Paris, like that brought by Mr. Ralph Daniel, (hereafter mentioned,) found A. W. full employment for different masters; among others, Mr. T. Whieldon, of Little Fenton. As he refused any person working with him he always had a room in which he was locked by the person employing him, and to his son he pointed out a room, at Fenton, in which he produced the best models used by Mr. Whieldon.
Mr. John Mitchell, had his manufactory on the highest land in Burslem, and there being at this time great demand for White Stone Ware, salt glare, made with Devonshire clay, and flint, (and produced by several who now desisted from using the clays of the neighbourhood,)
The wages paid to his lathe treaders, usually boys of seven years of age, were four-pence a week; and even in 1766, a good treader had only six-pence a week.
Mr. Aaron Wood was engaged by this gentleman as apears by the following instrument, for seven years in a penal bond of £10. to work during that term, for Mr. John Mitchell only; (who engaged him, to be the better able to compete with Dr. T. Wedgwood.) and to whom also was apprenticed his eldest Son, William.
Mr. Mitchell was a religious and unsuspicious person; the first who received into his house the Preachers in the Wesleyan Methodist Connection; and tho' he died in very reduced circumstances, yet during some years he was the greatest manufacturer of that day.
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 zaffre, 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 scollops, as in the specimens kept by Andrew Boon, of the Honeywall, Stoke;) and other useful articles.
Mr. A. Wood, made models and moulds of these articles; also pickle leaves, crabstock handles and cabbage leave spouts, for tea and coffee pots, all which utensils, with candlesticks, chocolate cups, and tea ware, were much improved, and his connections extended subsequently, when Mr. J. Wedgwood became his managing partner, He was a shrewd and careful person.
To prevent his productions being imitated in quality or shape, he always buried the broken articles; and a few months ago, we witnessed the unexpected exposure of some of these, by some miners attempting to get marl in the road at Little Fenton. The fortune he acquired by his industry, enabled him to erect a very elegant mansion, near Stoke; where he long enjoyed in the bosom of his family, the fruits of his early economy. He was also sheriff of the County, in the 26th year of the late reign.
The benevolence of his disposition, and his integrity, are honourable traits of character, far superior to the boast of ancestry without personal merit. He died in 1798, at a very old age; and in 1828 his relict was interred beside him in Stoke Church yard.
Of the four apprentices to Mr. Whieldon, three commenced business, and were eminently successful; Mr. Josiah Spode, (the first,) Mr. Robert Garner, Mr. J. Barker, (and his Brothers we believe,) —
Mr. Daniel Bird's productions at the manufactory
at Cliff Bank, (which Mr. T. Mayer now occupies,) were very lucrative; Agate Buttons, Knife Hafts, and Flint ware, salt glaze, by which he speedily realized a handsome fortune. He was distinguished by the
appellation of the Flint Potter, because he is believed to have first ascertained the exact quantity of flint proper to be mixed with the clays to form the body of the Pottery.
Before 1740, two sons of Aaron Wedgwood, Thomas and John, (the one an excellent thrower, the other a most skilful fireman, as lead ore glaze potters,) left their father's service, to commence business for themselves at Burslem, in the manufacture of White Stone Ware. As there was not then an instance of any Master Potter, who did not most diligently apply himself to some branch of the business, usually throwing and firing, their well-known industry, experience, and ingenuity, warranted the expectation of a portion of Success.
The practice of boiling the clay on a Slip Kiln being now introduced, the Sun Pans were appropriated as reservoirs of water for the uses of the manufacture ; and, as was formerly the practice, all around their sides were thrown, for convenience, or until a proper opportunity for removal, heaps of the broken pots, pot-sherds, (vulgar shords,) and much rubbish containing refuse salt, which mixing with the efflorescence from the salt glaze ware, was carried by the water from the falling showers into the Pan or reservoir, and formed a saline liquid. This very important fact was forgotten or not contemplated, by the Brothers, in using this almost saturated water to levigate and mix with their flint and clay; and they sustained loss by their pottery fusing at a temperature much below that of other vitrescent kinds, even tho' glazed with salt; and prior to introducing the glaze.
The Manufactures now much improved and widely extended into a source of National wealth, and
employment to many thousands of the community, were found to depend on successful chemical combinations of several materials; the principal of which are Clay and Flint, (called, when
pure, Alumina, and Silica,) at times coloured by oxides and carbonaceous
substances which are more frequently united naturally, and have more affinity for each other than any other
substances; and of pigments formed of metallic oxides &c. with which the ware is embellished.
Alumina is soluble in every acid; and alone will fuse, when oxygen gas is present, into a hard vitreous substance that will scratch glass; but by strong heat its chemical cohession so diminishes its bulk, that it becomes capable of resisting acids and alkalies.
It is found pure naturally at Halle, in Germany, and is artificially procured by decomposing Alum in water and carbonate of Ammonia, and washing well the precipitate; but it unites so intimately with water, that even a heat that will fuse iron, leaves of that fluid a tenth of the weight of the earth.
The Manufacturers here use Four kinds of Argillaceous Earth, by them called Clays, two from the south of Devonshire, Black, and Cracking; and two from the Isle of Purbeck, called Brown, and Blue.
Flint is usually, in weight, a fourth, a fifth, or a sixth part of the mass, which it greatly aids by its transparency. Silica performs a very important part in the composition of many
natural bodies; and may be procured pure by subjecting nodules of Flint to a high heat, rendering them very brittle by plunging into cold water; next they are pulverized, and mixed with four times the weight of potash, and
then dissolving in water, and by an acid taking up the alkali, the Silica precipitates as a white,
inodorous, insipid, and insoluble powder, which must be well washed.
The pottery made of flint and Biddeford clay, tho' very white, being liable to crack, when well fired, or suddenly heated; to remedy this, some of the native clays, and the finest white grit from Mole Cob, were used, and much improved the quality of the article, which being comparatively thin saved materials, time, labour, and coals for firing.
Rain water, or water from deep wells, now became very important; and the Brothers used only that from Hankerses well, a spring immediately nigh their works, for their different kinds of Pottery.
Those made from Clays without glazing, are called DRY BODIES; of which were formed their most elegant and valuable articles. There soon was such a demand for their productions, as to require
extra supplies of flint; to grind which Mr. Brindley erected the windmill on the Jenkins, and filled it with machinery to grind flints in water.
The excellent productions they now sent forth were so much in demand, that they erected a new manufactory, and incurred general censure because of their extravangance in erecting so large a manufactory and covering it with tiles, (all others being covered with thatch,) and for erecting three ovens, (subsequently increased to five.) In like manner, the greatest possible surprize was occasioned by B. & J. Baddeley, erecting four hovels in a row behind their manufactory in Shelton, which they had covered with Tiles (where Messrs. Hicks, Meigh, and Johnson are now manufacturing.)
Of the White Stone ware they now made dishes, plates, and common vessels, also some elegant fruit baskets, bread trays, &c. glazed with salt, and probably
cast in moulds; for the under side of the saucers, and the outside of the cups have different
The White Stone ware was varied into a better Tortoiseshell, by rubbing manganese upon the vessels before they were glazed; for a different kind ground zaffres were applied with either a sponge or hair pencil; and similar application of calcined copper, iron, and other metals, produced Cauliflower, and Melon ware, &c.
In 1750, the Brothers erected near their manufactory, (and now in full view of Waterloo Boad to Cobridge,) a Dwelling House, so durable, and on a scale of extent, and a stile of magnificence, so far excelling all in the
district that it was called the BIG HOUSE; and now bears the name, (applied also to its founders, to distinguish the family from that of the
over house, and that of the Churchyard works.) These Brothers continued their manufactures until 1763; when they retired to enjoy a very large property, the reward of their industry and integrity.
Every reader only partially acquainted with the manufacture, will be aware, that the materials
employed in making Saggers, require to be unaffected by the action of the mixtures in fusion; not fusible by a degree of heat much higher than what is requsite for baking the ware, or vitrifying the glaze; and capable of retaining any shape and size most suitable and best adapted for the different purposes.
The Clays proper for the kinds of Pottery, differing in kind, quality, and colour, numerous trials were made to determine the proportions of marl, sufficiently strong to bear the weight of the vessels, and sustain the requisite heat.
Information that the French manufacturers employed moulds of Plaster of Paris, caused some of the Burslem potters to have moulds formed of Plaster stone; the specimens evincing great ingenuity in the workman, and the prevalent desire to improve the Art.
Mr. Ralph Daniel, of Cobridge, happened to visit a Porcelain manufactory in France, where among other information relative to their processes, he ascertained that the moulds were formed by mixing Plaster of Paris in a pulverulent state with water. He obtained a mould of a large Table Plate, which on returning home he exhibited to all the Potters, and explained the discovery, and its attendant advantage, and quickly moulds were introduced.
The substance, which obtained the name Plaster of Paris, because its material was then procured from the hills around that city, is now known to be Selenite, or Sulphate of Lime, mostly called Gypsum; abundant at Chelaston, in Derbyshire, and Beacon Hill, near Newark; and in parts of Staffordshire and Salop.—
but for the use of Potters, it is ground by a pair of Stones in a mill, similarly to grain, afterwards submitted to a process, incongruously called boiling, on a long trough, beneath which are flues, where it remains until all its water is dissipated, attended by a man, who is prevented inhaling its fine particles by his nose and mouth being protected by a double silk handkerchief.
When the mass has been by such process deprived of its water, it is rendered so miscible again with that fluid, that on receiving its own proportion of water, it condenses such a quantity, as almost immediately to become changed into one compact and solid mass.
The Ethiopians, knew of this property of Gypsum, for Herodotus mentions, that they dried in the
sun the bodies of deceased relatives; and then covered each with paste of gypsum, on which subsequently was painted the portrait of the deceased person,
next: Chapter 7 Introduction of Fluid Glaze..
previous: Chapter 6 - progress of manufacture from 1700 to 1760
contents: index of Shaw's book