Index for Shaw's history   

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
Grinding flint 
Wet grinding of flint
Mr. Parkes Chemical Catechism
Use of moulds
Ralph Shaw's patent & litigation  
Bit-stone ware 
White stone pottery 
Transporting materials 
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  
New manufactory
Plaster of Paris moulds



Thomas Astbury of Lane Delph

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.

Use of flint

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.

Now, however, the flint is calcined in a small kiln, much like those for burning limestone rock; and is ground in water by the power of a water-wheel, or a steam engine. 

After being calcined, the nodules are thrown under Stampers, to be broken. These are wooden beams, shod with iron on the lower end, and moved vertically in a frame, so as to fall with great force down on the flint laid on a strong grate. A circular vat is made of strong boards, in diameter from seven to fourteen feet, and firmly connected by iron hoops; in the centre of the bottom is fixed a step in which acts the gudgeon of a vertical shaft moved from the upper end, on each of whose four sides is fixed a well constructed paddle, bearing and carrying round in the vat large masses of tolerably pure chert, (a very hard silecious rock;) while the bottom is paved with smaller chert stones. 

Into this vat the calcined broken flints are thrown, and covered with water; and by abrasure they are ground till the water is a thick whitish pulp, which is then brought into a vat, and either used in the slop state, or dried upon a kiln into a fine powder. 

A few years ago, an inferior chert, containing much earbonate of lime, being used, caused considerable loss to the parties; and hence great care is exercised to prevent calcareous rock being used in grinding the Flint.—It has been suggested, that if the flint was thrown while red hot into the water, it would be rendered more brittle, and be stamped and ground in much less time.

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.

Grinding flint

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 him:—

Messrs. Baddeley, and now Messrs, Hicks and Meigh; Gentlemen who rank very high in public estimation for the numerous excellencies of character which add peculiar lustre to opulent employers. 

Had this ingenious man Gallemore, not, indulged in ebriety, a considerable property would have resulted from his labours; but equally with several other persons of genius concerned in improving the manufacture, his intemperance nullified the advantages which would have accrued to his family, and the benefits were enjoyed by others. He died in 1802, almost one hundred years old.

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.


Wet grinding of flint

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.

Mr. Parkes Chemical Catechism

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.


Use of moulds

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."


Ralph Shaw's patent & litigation

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 

"various sorts of mineral Earth, Clay, and other earth substances, which being mixed and incorporated together, make up a fine body, of which a curious ware may be made, whose outside will be of a true chocolate colour, striped with white, and the inside white, much resembling the brown China ware, and glazed with salt. The great quantities of salt which must be used therein, will be an addition to the public revenue." 

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. 

A pair of Flower Pots, excellent specimens of this person's manufacture, which had been received as a present, from the maker, by his wife's grandfather, were in the Author's possession till very recently. 

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: — 

"Go home, Potlers, and make whatever kinds of Pots you please."— 

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.


Bit-stone ware

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.

White stone pottery

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.


Transporting materials

Ralph Leigh, (83 years of age, in 1813,) was employed by John Taylor, of the Hill Top, to look after his horses, and was the first man whose wages were raised from 10d. to 12d. per day. 

With four or six horses he went twice to Whitfield, or thrice to Norton in a day, for Coals; of which each horse brought 2½, cwt. on its back; along lanes extremely dirty, and roads scarcely passable. 

At the pit, Coals then cost 7d. the draught, whether 2, 2½, or 3 cwt.; for the colliers guessed at the quantity, and did not take the trouble to weigh them— 

The charge for carrying each load, from Norton to Burslem, was three-pence, (a penny a mile.) 

Ground Flint was carried in square tubs, one on each horse, containing four pecks— 

During a long time, he carried crates of Pottery to Winsford, and brought back Ball Clay; each of the five horses carried a crate on a pack-saddle; and a small pannier on each side was used to hold two or three balls of clay, weighing sixty or seventy pounds. 

Each horse was muzzled, to prevent it biting the hedges, and the roads were narrow and bad, and without toll gates. Afterwards with a cart and four horses he went to Winsford, and delivered his crates the same day ; and on the second day brought back a ton of Chester clay to Burslem, which was regarded as very heavy work, owing to the bad roads. 

He was allowed four days to take crates to Bridgnorth, and bring back shop goods for Newcastle, and a few to the Potteries. He frequently went with crates to Wellington Ferry, and returned with Flints, Plaister Stone and Shop goods. 

He has gone to Liverpool, and also as far as Exeter, before there were regular Carriers. 

Mr. D. Morris of Lawton, kept a gang of horses, to bring Clay from Winsford, and Salt from Lawton, to Burslem; these horses also had crates to carry the ball clay, seven in each; which at times were filled with Cream Colour, to be printed by Sadler and Green of Liverpool. He next used a Cart, and afterwards a Waggon, for this purpose, when the High roads were rather improved.


Dr. T. Wedgwood's manufacture

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. 

Had the agate rising genius of that day been adequately encouraged, doubtless many important improvements would have resulted The ornaments on some specimens then made, and most of the elegant articles, appear to have been formed by pressing bits of clay into moulds, and after being well smoothed on the surface and edges, they were extracled, and by slip fixed on the sides of the vessel. 

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. 

In 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.


Aaron Wood's apprenticeship to Dr. T. Wedgwood

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.


"This Indenture, made the three and twentieth day of August, in the fifth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King George the Second over Great Brittaine, &c. Anno Dni. 1731, Between Ralph Wood of Burslem, in the county of Stafford, miller, and Aaron Wood his son, of the one part, and Dr. Thomas Wedgwood, of Burslem aforesaid potter, of the other part, 

Wittnesseth that the said Aaron Wood, of his own free will and consent, and to and with the direction and appointment of his said father, Hath put himself, and doth hereby put and bind himself apprentice unto the said Dr. Thomas Wedgwood, the art, trade, mystery, and occupation of a potter to learn, that is to say, turning in the lathe, handling, and trimming (throwing on the wheel being out of this indenture excepted,) and with him the said Dr. Thomas Wedgwood to worke from the eleventh day of November next, being Martinmas day, for during and until the full end and terme of seven years from thence next ensuing and following, and fully to be compleat and ended, during all which time and terme of seven years the said Aaron Wood, as an apprentice to his said master, will and faithfully shall serve, his secrets shall keepe, his commands lawfull and honest every where shall do, the goods of his said master, hee shall not inordinately waste, nor them to any one lend, without his said masters lycence, from the business of his said master, he shall not absent himself, but as a true and faithful servant shall, during the said terme of seven years, behave and demean himselfe towards his said master and all his. 

And the said Ralph Wood shall, during the said terme of seven years, find and provide for his said son all sorts of apparrell, whether linen, woollen, or other, as also meat, drink, washing, and lodging, fitting and necessary for an apprentice to such trade as aforesaid. 

And the said Dr. Thomas Wedgwood in consideration thereof, and of the said seven years service, doth hereby covenant, promise, and agree, that hee, the said Dr. Thomas Wedgwood, shall and will, during the said terme of seven years, teach and instruct, or cause and procure to be taught and instructed, him, the said Aaren Wood, his said apprentice, in the businesse of the potting trade aforesaid, so farr as turning in the lathe, handling and trimming, as much as thereunto belongeth, or the best way and method he can. 

And the said Dr. Thomas Wedgwood doth also promise and engage to pay unto his said apprentice, the said Aaron Wood, for every weeke's worke done by the said apprentice in the first, second, and third year of his said apprentishipp, the sum of one shilling weekly, of good and lawfull money of Great Brittaine, and for every weeke's worke done by the said apprentice in the fourth, fifth, and sixth year of his said apprentishipp, the full sum of one shilling and sixpence, and for every weeke's worke done by the said apprentice, in the seventh and last year of his said apprentishipp, the full and just sum of four shillings of lawfull money of Great Brittaine. 

And the said Dr. Thomas Wedgwood doth hereby furlher covenant, promisse, and agree that he, the said Dr. Wedgwood, shall, and will, over and above the weekly wages aforesaid give yearly to the said Aaron Wood, his said apprentice, one new pair of shoes during the said terme of seven years. 

In witnesse whereof, thesaid parties aforesaid to these present Indentures have interchangeably put their hands and seales the day and year first above written:

"Sealed and delivered in the presence of
"Sara Wood X her mark
"Jos. Allen 
"Ralph Wood
"Aaron Wood
"Dr. Tho. Wedgwood


Aaron Wood II's apprenticeship to John Mitchell

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,) 

Mr. M. rapidly enlarged his premises; and as only one hovel was still thought requisite for all who made salt glaze ware, the strife among the potters who should excel in the size and height of the hovel, caused him to erect the most enormoursly wide and high one ever attempted to be built. (The largest hovel ever attempted, was finished at Burslem, by John Shrigley, in 1765, many persons witnessed the laying of the last brick, but no sooner was this completed, than the fabric began to crack and open, and in a few minutes the whole was level with the ground, and the builders escaped, almost miraculously, by sudden descent. This caused low hovels to be adopted.) 

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.


ARTICLES of Agreement indented, made and concluded and agreed upon, the twenty-eight duayof September, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Forty Three, and in the Seventeenth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King George the Second, over Great Brittain and so forth, between Aaron Wood, of Burslem, in the County of Stafford, Earth-potter, of the one part, and John Mitchell, of Burslem, aforesaid, Earth-potter, of the other part, as follows:

"First,—The said Aaron Wood, for the consideration hereunder mentioned, doth covenant, promise, and agree, to and with the said John Mitchell, his executors, administrators, and assigns, by these presents in manner following (that is to say) that he the said Aaron Wood shall and will, for and during the term and time of seven years, to begin and be accounted from the eleventh day of November next ensuing the date of these presents, abide and continue with the said John Mitchell, his executors, administrators, and assigns, as his and their hired and covenant servant, and diligently and faithfully according to the best and utmost of his power, skill, and knowledge, exercise and employ himself, and do and perform all such service and business whatsoever relating to the trade of a earth-potter which he the said John Mitchell useth, as he the said John Mitchell shall from time to time during the term aforesaid order direct and appoint, to and for the most profit and advantage of the said John Mitchell that he can, and shall and will keep the secrets of the said John Mitchell relating to the said trade or business, and likewise be just, true, and faithful to the said John Mitchell, in all matters and things, and no ways wrongfully detain, embezzle, or purloin any monies, goods, or things whatsoever belonging to the said John Mitchell, but shall and will from time to time pay all monies which he shall receive or belonging to or by order ot the said John Mitchell into his hands, and make and give up fair accounts of all his actings and doings in the said employment without fraud or delay, when and as often he shall be thereto required. 

And in consideration of the premises of the several matters and things by the said Aaron Wood to be performed as aforesaid, the said John Mitchell doth for himself, his executors and administrators, covenant, promise, and agree to and with the said Aaron Wood by these presents, that he the said John Mitchell shall and will well and truly pay or cause to be paid unto the said Aaron Wood, the sum of seven shillings of good and lawful money of Great Britain, by weekly payments, for every six days that the said Aaron Wood shall work with the said John Mitchell as aforesaid during the said term; and also shall and will well and truly pay or cause to be paid unto the said Aaron Wood the further sum of ten shillings and six-pence of like lawful money, upon every eleventh day of November yearly, during the said term; the first payment of the said sum of ten shillings and sixpence, shall be made on the eleventh day of November next ensuing the date hereof. 

And it is further agreed by and between the said parties to these presents, that the said Aaron Wood shall not be from the service of the said John Mitchell above two weeks in any one year during the said term. 

And that the said Aaron Wood shall not, and will not at any time or times during the said term, work for any other person or persons at the trade of a earth potter, but the said John Mitchell, his executors, administrators, or assigns, upon penalty of paying to the said John Mitchell the sum of ten pounds of good and lawful money of Great Britain. 

And that the said Aaron Wood shall not have person or persons to work with him in the business that the said John Mitchell is to employ him in but himself only. 

In witness whereof, the said parlies to these presents their hands and seals have hereunto put this day and year first above written.

"Sealed and delivered in the presence of
"J. Henshall
"Ann Henshall
"Aaron Wond (Sic)
"John U. Mitchell
    his mark"

Mr. Mitchell's travellers

 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. 

He had four travellers, Mr. Dean, of Burslem, (afterwards of Bridgwater;) Mr. Dale, of Mole Cob, (since of Exeter;) Mr. Dickens, (since of Plymouth;) and Mr. Bowers, (since of Falmouth.) The practice customary then was, not to take out invoices, or on returning to render an account of the sales; but merely to empty their pockets; after which they received their wages, (five or six shillings a week,) for the time of the journey; their expences having been paid out of the cash received. Thus each traveller saved sufficient to avail himself of any favourable opportunity to commence business for himself as a dealer in class and earthenware; and each has been successful, while it is painful to add some of Mr. M's descendants are now in low circumstances in Burslem.


Mr. Thomas Whieldon of Little Fenton

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.


Whieldon's four apprentices

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,) — 

but Mr. William Greatbatch, a person of great ability, (mentioned again hereafter.) was ruined by a bad debt. The father of William Greatbatch, was a farmer, at Berry hill; and supplied coals to the manufacturers at Fenton, from Bottesiow and Colamoor; and among others, to Mr. Whieldon, and Mr. Daniel Bird, on the backs of horses, the roads being then so bad that had a horse stumbled, or missed his step into the hides, he certainly would have fallen, and with difficulty would have been again raised. He received his money every journey, because fearful of the parties.


Daniel Bird at Cliff Bank

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.

We shall just notice here, that Mr. T. Mayer has succeeded in a chef d' oeuvre of the Art of Pottery, by many considered as the best Specimen of Solid Earthenware hitherto produced. 

It is an Earthenware Table, of truly elegant workmanship, thirty-two inches diametar, on an elegant pedestal of proportionate dimensions; ornamented in a very chaste style, with subject from National History.


Thomas and John Wedgwood 

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.


Thro' a succession of losses and disappointment the Brothers almost resolved to relinquish the manufacture; but having caused some of their ware to be fired in another oven; and they in return firing another's ware in their oven; they found their pottery did not bear the high heat required to vitirify the other. 

Their investigation ascertained, that the saline particles of the water, with the lime which adhered to the flint stones, rendered their ware very fusible; and that careful sorting of their flints, and pure water, would produce a much better article, with less trouble, and little risk in the firing.


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.


Additions to the clay  

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

The Black is named so, because the Alumina is combined with carbonaceous matter, which disappears when the Pottery is properly fired. 

Cracking Clay, much used because beautifully white when fired, has its designation from its contractile property when highly heated, and often cracking in bisquet, when not apportioned with other less contractile clay. 

The Brown likewise is very white, and less contractile than the last mentioned; but some, peculiarity prevents perfect adhesion of the glaze, and crazing results. 

The Blue is best; it burns white, contracts little, takes a large proportion of Flint, and forms a durable body. And, altho' the opaqueness of Alumina affects the transparency of Porcelain, yet the latter two are occasionally employed in that branch of the Art.

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.

For the Finest Pottery there is also used a certain proportion of Cornish or China Clay; and likewise of Cornwall or Growan Stone.

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. 


The Brothers Wedgwood ascertained the kind of clay most liable to crack, thence named cracking clay; and were excited to further experiments, by some of the vessels made on their new methods, not being sufficiently vitrified; others being well fired, yet not fused; while those of the old body, were completely destroyed; this discovery caused other manufacturers to reject wafer from reservoirs near potsherd heaps, which were quickly carried off the premises.

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.

Amazed, these Sons of Genius I descry, 
Fix on the plastic mass their anxious eye; 
Urged by their native energy of mind, 
To Model forms aright they feel inclin'd; 
Intent on high designs, their fabrile souls, 
To shapes unfashioned now direct their tools; 
With daring aims, irregularly great, 
To raise their Art from its degraded state.


New manufactory

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 ornaments.


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.

The ware was varied to the sagger, and the sagger to the ware, until about 1745, when many different marls were used for saggers; and for the white stone ware, the difficulty was long experienced. 

At length, it was ascertained, that in whatever heat might be required, two parts of Can Marl, mixed with one of Black Marl, would retain their shape. The more the marl is exposed to atmospheric action, and broken during the time it lies weathering, the better will the saggers bear most intense heat without cracking. 

Some opulent manufacturers find their account in employing two or three men solely, to constantly work the marl employed in making the saggers for their manufactories.


Plaster of Paris moulds

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. 

The correction of this error introduced an important improvement; providing a fresh branch of manual employment, and supplying great facilities for manufacturing the choicest productions of taste and ingenuity. 

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 manufacturers were eager to possess moulds, because of the numerous productions which with great facility could be formed in them, yet not be produced by the wheel and the lathe; and others which did not need either; and also the quickness with which the clay acquired, what potters call the green state.

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.—

To prepare it for the use of Masons, Statuaries, and other Artists, for Cornices, Busts, &c. protected from moisture and the weather, the mass is broken small, baked well in a common oven to dissipate much of its water, and then reduced into an impalpable powder;—

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. 

Hence when used, the fluid is quickly poured, into moulds for statues, or busts: and round models or blocks to form moulds for the Potters,— usually for articles not circular, and for teapots, saucers, plates, dishes, &c. This property of so quickly absorbing moisture, causes the plaster moulds to be most peculiarly adapted to the purposes of the Potter; for as the moulds can be kept dry by placing them on shelves around a stove, they very readily absorb the water from the clay impressed into them: and the Articles are more easily delivered or quit from the moulds, in a fit state for finishing, than would be conjectured by persons not acquainted with the Art.

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