Master Potters in Georgian Burslem (1714-1837)
Enoch Wood (1759-1840)
The Wedgwoods were the principal family in Burslem for most of the 18th century. When their industrial activity in the town began to decline other families became more prominent. The most important of these families was that led by Enoch Wood. He was the son of Aaron Wood an accomplished modeller. Aaron sent his son to Liverpool to learn drawing and anatomy from his relatives the Caddick family. After his return to Burslem he worked for short time at the Brickhouse Works of Josiah Wedgwood and was then ' apprenticed to Humphrey Palmer of Hanley Green. He became a skilful modeller and in 1781 produced a bust of John Wesley during one of his visits to Burslem. At 24 he set up in business with his cousin Ralph Wood.
The following description of his firm is taken from John Ward's, "The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent" published in 1843:
"The firm of ENOCH WOOD AND SONS take the lead as Earthenware manufacturers, and have occupied that position for many years; the head of the house, Enoch Wood, Esq., whose name we have had occasion to introduce on several previous occasions, commenced business, in 1783, on his own account, and, in 1790, was joined by James Caldwell, Esq., late of Linley-Wood; the business being then from that time conducted under the firm of "Enoch Wood & Caldwell," until the year 1818, when Mr Wood purchased Mr Caldwell's property in the concern, and the present firm of Enoch Wood and Sons had its commencement.
They occupy the sites of four ancient pot-works, near together, on the two sides of the old Pack-Horse-Lane, (formerly a public thoroughfare from Burslem to Newcastle, but now stopped up,) and which are connected by means of a subterraneous passage, as well as by the arched gallery shewn in the first of the two plates introduced hereafter, which exhibits the east front of the large manufactory in Fountain-Place, erected by Mr Wood in 1789.
A windmill was, in the first place, employed here in raising water and preparing the day, ready for the hands of the potters, and for grinding glaze and colours, but this work is now done by steam-power. Messrs Wood and Sons also occupy another manufactory at a short distance in the town, late belonging to Mr John Brettell...
Mr Wood., in the year 1807, obtained a Patent for an improvement in the mode of raising water from deep mines, by means of balance beams, fixed at different depths in the shaft, and combining therewith the high pressure power of the steam engine known as Trevithick's, with the air-pump and condenser of Boulton and Watt, which had not been previously adopted. This invention Mr Wood applied, for many years, to a steam-mill, and drainage of coalmines, at the Bycars, near Burslem, and found productive of very considerable advantages. The establishment of Enoch Wood and Sons has been hitherto employed in the manufacture of earthenware of every variety, and they have of late years been reckoned the largest exporters of that article from Staffordshire to the United States of America. They have recently combined the making of Porcelain with their other business."
When Enoch Wood. died in 1840 Burslem virtually dosed down on the day of his funeral. The hearse was accompanied by 7 coaches, and a hundred tradesmen, while an immense crowd assembled in the town to witness the funeral procession. He was buried in the family vault in St John's churchyard. The writer of his obituary in the North Staffordshire Mercury expressed the hope that "there may be a long succession of Enoch Woods".
Initially it appeared that the next generation would follow in their father's footsteps. The firm was now run by two of his sons, Enoch and Edward., Joseph Wood the second son having left the firm by 1838. Enoch Wood, the eldest, moved into the house at Fountain Place where he was recorded in the 1841 census with his wife, 6 children and 4 female servants.
However 4 years later in December 1845 the following report, which omits the name of the firm, appeared in the Staffordshire Advertiser:
"We regret to have to announce the stoppage, last Saturday, of one of the oldest established, most extensive, and respectable concerns in Burslem. The firm has long occupied three or four manufactories, and at one time employed more than a thousand hands, although latterly it has not carried on business with the same activity. Losses in the American trade are understood to have first impaired its resources, which were still further crippled through the demise of the senior partner, and the retirement of others, causing great withdrawals from available means. The unquestionable probity and worth of the gentleman who has latterly been at the head of the concern, give assurance of the integrity of its transactions; and although the liabilities are said to be large, yet as they are in few hands, the suspension will not occasion much commercial difficulty in the neighbourhood. Suffering will be caused to the numerous operatives thrown suddenly out of employment; but trade is good in the Potteries, and it is hoped that should it be judged advisable to wind up the concern, they may soon meet with work at other manufactories."
On his death Enoch Wood had left substantial sums of money to his 7 surviving children and. grandchildren but he stipulated that the legacies should not be paid until at least 5 years after his death in order not to harm the business. As soon as the 5 years were up his children claimed their money which drained the firm of capital and his sons closed the factory with the result that almost a thousand people were thrown out of work.
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