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Wedgwood Family of Burslem

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The article is an overview of the Wedgwood Family of Burslem who were manufacturers of stoneware from the late 17th century to the 1760s. The Burslem Family of Wedgwood is “inextricably linked with the history and development of Staffordshire salt-glazed stoneware from the late 17th century.”[1]

Aaron Wedgwood II and Brothers

Aaron Wedgwood II and his brothers “Dr” Thomas Wedgwood, and Richard Wedgwood are 3 of the earliest known makers of stoneware in Staffordshire. All 3 were among the defendants in a 1693 lawsuit brought by John Dwight of Fulham for the infringement of his patent for the manufacture of stoneware. He claimed that they had “for several years past in a private and secret manner made and sold great quantities” of stoneware using his patented method. (NB There is some doubt as to whether the Aaron Wedgwood referred to in the lawsuit is Aaron Wedgwood II or his father Aaron Wedgwood I. Mountford in his book believes it to have been Aaron II.)

The Wedgwood brothers were born in Burslem, Staffordshire and were sons of Aaron Wedgwood I (1624-1700) and his wife Margaret.

Dr Thomas Wedgwood (c1655-1717), married Jemima Carlos (or Careless) in 1692 and died in 1717. He combined the trade of potting with those of a publican (he owned the Red Lion Inn, Burslem) and a Barber-surgeon. Josiah Wedgwood’s list of 1720 shows his potworks as being in the centre of town, Burslem

Richard Wedgwood (1668-1718), married Katherine Wedgwood, a distant cousin and in 1691 he leased the Overhouse pot works in Burslem from his father-in-law.

Aaron Wedgwood II (c1666-1743), married Mary Hollins in 1689. Josiah Wedgwood’s list shows his pot works as being next to the Red Lion Inn, in Burslem.

Sons of Aaron Wedgwood II

Aaron Wedgwood II’s 4th and 5th sons were:

Thomas Wedgwood (1702/3-1776), married Mary Wedgwood.

John Wedgwood (1705-1780) (Known as “Long John Wedgwood”), married Mary Alsop in 1758 and then after her death m. Mary Wilkinson in 1776.

Trained in their fathers pot works which they then inherited after his death in 1743, they “were both skilful hands the one as a thrower; the other as a fireman;” “They employed both pressers and casters “(including Ralph Wood and his son) “ to produce white salt-glazed stoneware of the highest standard” and “by manufacturing ware of a superior quality both as to form and glazing, they opened an excellent trade, chiefly export, for themselves, and acquired a large fortune.”

The demand for their wares was so great that they built a large factory incurring “general censure because of their extravagance 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.)......they now made dishes, plates, and common vessels, also some elegant fruit baskets, bread trays ...... and produced Cauliflower, and Melon ware, &c.”

In 1750, the Brothers built “a Dwelling House, so durable, and on a scale of extent, and a style of magnificence, so far excelling all in the district, that it was called the BIG HOUSE”

It still stands today. See The Potteries I and The Potteries II

Some of Thomas and John Wedgwood’s productions can be seen at Nelson-Atkins Museum and Manchester Art Gallery

The brothers retired sometime in the 1760s having bought much land and property in Burslem.

Aaron Wedgwood II’s 2nd son Aaron Wedgwood III (1695-1722),married Martha......He died when his son Aaron Wedgwood IV was 5 years old.

Aaron Wedgwood IV (1717-1763), married Sarah Littler in 1738. He made white salt-glazed stoneware and for a period in the 1740s shared a potworks at Brownhills, Burslem with his brother in law William Littler.

Aaron Wedgwood IV and William Littler are credited with the discovery of a technique producing a deep blue colour on the surface of white stoneware. This class of stoneware is known as Littler-Wedgwood Blue.

According to Simeon Shaw in his History of the Staffordshire Potteries - “Messrs. Littler and Wedgwood first introduced a compound of very fusible materials—of certain proportions of ground zaffre with the flint and the clay that composed the body of the pottery; mixed with a determined quantity of water, and varied for the different kinds of articles. Into this liquid the vessels were dipped, while in the state of clay very little dried, and absorbing the water, received a very thin coating of the materials in solution, which when dried and fired in the salt glaze oven, appeared of a fine glossy surface, free from those minute inequalities observable on all the Pottery glazed with salt only. Some excellent Specimens are ornamented by enamelling and gilding; and others having had a little manganese applied, resemble the finest Lapis Lazuli”

In 1970 two sherds of Littler-Wedgwood blue were were examined by the British Ceramic Research Association who concluded that Simeon Shaws explanation of the process was most likely the correct one. [2]

In 1749/50 William Littler left Brownhills to make porcelain at Longton Hall. Aaron Wedgwood IV continued to manufacture “Littler-Wedgwood Blue” stoneware until his death in 1763. All the contemporary references to this ware are within these 2 dates and mention only Aaron Wedgwood.

Some examples of Littler-Wedgwood Blue Stoneware -

  • Basin of salt-glazed stoneware with a blue glaze, and circular in shape and painted in oil-gilding, probably made by Aaron Wedgwood, and possibly in partnership with William Littler, Burslem, ca. 1760-1765.[1]
  • Milk-jug and cover of salt-glazed stoneware with a blue glaze, and painted in oil-gilding, probably made by Aaron Wedgwood, and possibly in partnership with William Littler, Burslem, ca. 1760-1765.[2]
  • Teapot, white stoneware, coloured blue under a salt glaze, globular shape with a crabstock handle and plain spout, not marked, made by Aaron Wedgwood or by Aaron Wedgwood in association with William Littler, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, c1745-1764.[3]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Mountford
  2. Staffordshire Salt-Glazed Stoneware - A Mountford 1971
  • Staffordshire Salt-Glazed Stoneware - A Mountford 1971
  • A History of The Wedgwood Family - Josiah C Wedgwood 1908
  • The Life of Josiah Wedgwood - Eliza Meteyard 1865
  • History of the Staffordshire Potteries - Simeon Shaw 1829
  • Lucy Alexander 2019/05/05