William Kirkham



KIRKHAM, William (1829-1913), pottery manufacturer, Stoke upon Trent.


Mr. Ald. W. Kirkham, J.P.  (Mayor of Stoke)

William Kirkham was born on January 19th or February 2nd 1829 at Radwood, Staffordshire, the son of Samuel Kirkham. His wife, Mary Ann, born in Wellington, Shropshire, bore him four daughters and two sons.


Picture from: A descriptive account of The Potteries (illustrated)
- a 1893 advertising and trade journal



In 1859 he bought a pottery factory in London Road, (next to the Goss Falcon Works in Sturgess Street) Stoke upon Trent, and began manufacturing hospital and laboratory ware, school and artists' requisites, chemists' receptacles and a wide range of components for industry. In 1881 he employed 33 men, 18 women, 16 boys and 5 girls.

Summary of ownership of the works in London Road:

1862-92        William Kirkham 
1893-1945    Kirkhams
1946-61        Kirkhams Ltd

Then on Dec 31st 1961 Kirkhams combined with A E Gray to form Portmeirion. (Portmeirion occupies both the Kirkham and Goss works)


Jewitt's entry:

"In 1856, a valuable mine of red clay having been found on the London Road, a manufactory of floor, roof and ridge-tiles, etc., was commenced and was purchased by William Kirkham who, in 1862, built a manufactory for the production of terra-cotta and general earthenware for the home and foreign markets. To this, he added the making of brassfounders' fittings, chemists' goods and stoneware. The terra-cotta comprised water-bottles, ornamental flower-pots and stands, table-jugs, spill-cases and a variety of other articles a deep, rich, full red in colour, and close, hard and durable in texture. The ornamentation consisted of printed groups of Etruscan figures, borders and groups of flowers, enamelling in various colours, and dead and burnished gilding. Some of the fern decorations were graceful, natural and elegant; and those with Etruscan figures and enamelled borders were in good taste. William Kirkham continued to 1892".


One of the streets off London Road bordered the works and a Baptist Chapel, this street was named Kirkham Street


He was active in local government, serving as mayor of Stoke upon Trent from 1890-3 and acting as chairman of the committee appointed to implement the Technical Education Acts in the borough. He was a member of the Stoke upon Trent school board, was elected to Staffordshire county council and was county justice of the peace. He also belonged to the Duke of Sutherland's Lodge of Ancient Shepherds.

During his period of office as mayor he was presented by his workpeople with a portrait of himself painted by Lucien Boullemier. After his death, which occurred on 13th April 1913, his sons took over the business.


William Kirkham was buried in Hartshill cemetery along with Colin Minton Campbell and other notables in a  prominent site immediately adjacent to the main entrance. 



 The area directly in front of the main entrance of Hartshill Cemetery
 The area directly in front of the main entrance 
of Hartshill Cemetery 


Rear left
William Kirkham JP
Pottery Manufacturer
Mayor of Stoke 1890-3
Rear centre
Colin Minton Campbell
Colin Herbert Campbell 
Pottery Manufacturers


Rear right
Michael Hoole Ashwell
Medical officer of health for S-o-T
Front centre
Henry Charles Faram
Mayor of Stoke 1893-4


Sources: British Bulletin of Commerce, 1955; Dir. 1872-1907; Woolley (or Fenn) Almanacks for 1872-1903; C. Penn Staffordshire at the Opening of the 20th Century (photograph on p. 63). People of the Potteries. Jewitt's Ceramic Art of Great Britain 1800-1900. A descriptive account of The Potteries (illustrated)