Stoke-on-Trent - Potworks of the week

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Brick House Works (Bell Works), Burslem

The Brick House Works, known as the 'Bell Works' after Josiah Wedgwood installed a bell to call 
his potters to work. 


According to Jewitt "The Life of Josiah Wedgwood" the Brick House Works were owned by a Mr. John Bourne of Newcastle, from him the property passed to his grandson Mr. John Adams of Cobridge. 

  • Josiah Wedgwood had started potting at the nearby Ivy House Works in 1759. He moved to the Brick House Works in 1763 which he rented from the Adams family, who owned three potteries in Burslem.  

  • In 1764 Josiah Wedgwood married his cousin Sally Wedgwood and they set up home in the Brick House associated with the potworks.

  • It was here that the Duke of Bridgewater gave Wedgwood his patronage and ordered a 'completest Service of Table service in the Cream Colour...'

  • Through a competition Wedgwood eventually supplied a creamware service to Queen Charlotte - word spread that "an innovative manufacturer was supplying quality 'cream ware' that even the King had expressed admiration for" 

  • In 1766 Wedgwood was appointed 'Potter to Queen Charlotte' - Wedgwood was soon deluged with orders for the new ware.      










Josiah Wedgwood

Wedgwood rented the works from the Adams family of potters.
In November 1769 Wedgood received notice to quit because his landlord, William Adams needed the buildings for himself. 
Wedgwood did not fully re-locate from this site to his new Etruria factory until the summer or autumn of 1772.



William Adams

 William Adams took the works for himself but he relet them in 1774



William Bourne (& Co)

After Wedgwood relocated to Etruria the Brickhouse Works were occupied by William Bourne an earthenware manufacturer - he was tenant there in 1809.  



Bourne & Cormie

William Bourne entered into partnership with a potter named Cormie. The partnership appears to have been short lived. 



Beech & Jones

The works having remained unoccupied for some time were divided.

One part was continued as a pottery and was taken by Beech & Jones -  some of the land was used for the building of the Independent chapel, which was built in 1837. 

Other parts were let to other traders.      



William Beech

After the partnership between Beech & Jones was dissolved in 1839, William Beech continued on his own and in 1846 he expanded the business, taking over the tenancy of the remaining premises.  



Beech & Brock

William Beech entered into a short lived partnership with a William Brock. 



William Beech

After the partnership between Beech & Brock was dissolved in June 1855, William Beech continued on his own until his death in 1874.  



Jane Beech

William Beech was succeeded in 1866 by Jane Beech.  
Recorded in the trade directories variously as a manufcturer of china, earthenware, toys and water closets. 
Recorded as a figure and toy manufacturer. 



Beech & Podmore

In 1876 the business closed - part of the premises was purchased by the local Board of Health to build a covered market and the rest of the works was taken down. 

Beech and Podmore may have continued in business togther for a few more years.
The trade directories record a Beech and Podmore at Wellington Street, Cobridge in 1876 and 1880. 




Burslem in 1750 - from a plan by Enoch Wood
Burslem town centre in 1750 - from a plan by Enoch Wood
John Adams Brickhouse is highlighted -it would be another 13 years before
Josiah Wedgwood started potting here

(in the top right is the 'Big House' of Thomas and John Wedgwood
- which was just being built when this plan was drawn) 


Burslem town centre one hundred years later  in 1851







The Brick House Works, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent
The Brick House Works, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent


"One of the improvements at Brick House Works was instrumental in introducing a new kind of discipline amongst Josiah's workers. He had a bell rigged to a turret on one of his workshops across the yard from his house and every morning at quarter to six he rang it to tell his employees it was time to start work. 

Not every potter in Burslem worked on the same schedule, but every one of them (and even the postman) sounded a horn to summon their workers. It apparendy took a dedicated ear to distinguish each tone, so Josiah eliminated possible confusion, or entreaties thereof, by establishing his own sound. 

From then on the Brick House Works was also known as the Bell Works.

Installing the bell was Josiah's first management innovation. He had long known the importance of discipline in the workforce, especially when it came to regulating working hours and distracting dilatory workers from the allure of the alehouses. 

Gone were the days when the rise and fall of the sun dictated the potters' working day. The day had to begin and end for the team in unison, or time and productivity was lost; it was up to Josiah to set times, shortening lunch breaks or prolonging the working day according to demand."

Brian Dolan 'Josiah Wedgwood, Entrepreneur to the Englightenment" p146




1851 map of Burslem town centre
1851 map of Burslem town centre
from: Staffordshire Past Track

Blue circle = The Bell Works
Yellow line = Queen Street
Light blue oval = The Town Hall
Red outline = St. John's Square

The layout of the town is generally the same as it is today.

Burslem Town Hall, The Leopard Inn, The Queen's Head, The Swan Inn, The George Hotel, The Old Crown, The New Inn, The Red Lion, The Duke William, The Bull's Head and The Big House are all in the same location and are features of Burslem today.

Market House is now roughly the site on which Ceramica is situated and The Marquis of Granby public house is now called the Saggar Maker's Bottom Knocker.



close up of 1851 map - the location of the Bell Works is shown in blue

In 1836 the Bell Works, having remained unoccupied for some time, were divided.

One part was continued as a pottery and was taken by Beech & Jones (shown by the blue circle) -  some of the land was used for the building of the Independent chapel, which was built in 1837. 





The 'Bell Works' Burslem
The 'Bell Works' Burslem

from The Life of Josiah Wedgwood by L. Jewitt 







Related pages 

Burslem - one of the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent