At the outset, Josiah Wedgwood worked with the established potter Thomas Whieldon until 1759 when relatives leased him the Ivy House in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, allowing him to start his own pottery business. The launch of the new venture, his own company, was helped by his marriage to Sarah Wedgwood, a remotely-related cousin, who brought a sizable dowry to the marriage. In 1765, Wedgwood created a new form of earthenware, which impressed the then British Queen consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who gave official permission to call it "Queen's Ware." This new form sold extremely well across Europe. The following year in 1766 Wedgwood bought Etruria, a large Staffordshire estate, as both a home and factory site. Wedgwood developed a number of further industrial innovations for his company, notably a way of measuring kiln temperatures accurately and the new ware types Black Basalt and Jasper Ware. Wedgwood's best known product is jasperware created to look like ancient cameo glass. It was inspired by the Portland Vase, a Roman vessel which is now a museum piece. The first jasperware color was Portland Blue, an innovation that required experiments with more than 3,000 samples. In recognition of the importance of his pyrometric beads (pyrometer), Josiah Wedgwood was elected a member of the Royal Society in 1783.
The main Wedgwood motifs in jasperware, as well–as in other wares like basaltware, queensware, caneware, etc.–were decorative designs that were highly influenced by the ancient cultures being studied and rediscovered at that time, especially as Great Britain was expanding her empire. Many motifs were taken from ancient mythologies: Roman, Greek and Egyptian. Meanwhile, archaeological fever caught the imagination of many artists. Nothing could have been more suitable to satisfy this huge business demand than to produce replicas of ancient artefacts. Many representations of royalty, nobles and statesmen in silhouette were created, as well as political symbols. These were often set in jewellery, as well as in architectural features like fireplace mantels, mouldings and furniture. Wedgwood has honoured American individuals and corporations as well, both historically and recently. In 1774 he employed the then 19-year-old John Flaxman as an artist, who would work for the next 12 years mostly for Wedgwood. The "Dancing Hours" may be his most well known design. Other artists known to have worked for Wedgwood include Lady Elizabeth Templetown, George Stubbs, Emma Crewe and Lady Diana Beauclerk.
Wedgwood had increasing success with hard paste porcelain which attempted to imitate the whiteness of tea-ware imported from China, an extremely popular product amongst high society. High transport costs and the demanding journey from the Far East meant that the supply of chinaware could not keep up with increasingly high demand. Towards the end of the 18th century other Staffordshire manufacturers introduced bone china as an alternative to translucent and delicate Chinese porcelain. In 1812 Wedgwood produced their own bone china which, though not a commercial success at first, eventually became an important part of an extremely profitable business. Josiah Wedgwood was also a patriarch of the Darwin–Wedgwood family. Many of his descendants were closely involved in the management of the company down to the time of the merger with the Waterford Company.
Wedgwood's founder wrote as early as 1774 that he wished he had preserved samples of all the company's works, and began to do so. The first formal museum was opened in May 1906, with a curator named Isaac Cook, at the main (Etruria) works. The contents of the museum were stored for the duration of the Second World War and relaunched in a gallery at the new Barlaston factory in 1952. A new purpose-built visitor centre and museum was built in 1975 and remodelled in 1985 with pieces displayed near items from the old factory works in cabinets of similar period. The Museum is fully accessible for wheelchair users, we have wheelchairs available to hire, and wheelchair accessible toilets. There is a loop system for the hard of hearing. Guide dogs welcome. Unfortunately there is very little in the way of tactile experiences for the visually impaired.
Location : The Wedgwood Museum, Wedgwood Drive, Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent ST12 9ER
Transport: Stoke on Trent (National Rail) then bus or taxi. Bus Routes : Firstbus 23 and 23A stop 12 minutes away.
Opening Times : Weekdays 10:00 to 17:00; Saturday/Sundays 10:00 to 16:00
Tickets Museum: Adults; £7.50; Concessions £5.00; Children £3.75
Tickets Factory Tour: Adults; £10.00; Concessions £7.50; Children £5.00
Tickets Combined: Adults; £15.00; Concessions £10.50; Children £7.50
Tel: 01782 371900