Josiah Wedgwood was born on the 12th July, 1730 in Burslem Staffordshire into a family of potters. He was the youngest of 12 children to Mary Wedgwood and her husband Thomas and become the leader in ceramic manufacturers.
As a child he suffered from small pox which resulted in a weakened knee which meant he was unable to work the foot pedal of the potter’s wheel. This led him to concentrate more on the design of the pottery rather than the manufacturing.
Wedgwood’s high quality pottery was attracting orders from high levels of nobility including Queen Charlotte. His cream coloured pottery became known as Queen’s Ware.
In 1764, Josiah Wedgwood married his 3rd cousin Sarah and went on to have 7 children. Josiah Wedgwood opened a factory near to Stoke on Trent with Thomas Bentley in 1769. Attached to this factory was a small village where Wedgwood’s workers and family could live.
Thomas Wedgwood was a cousin of Josiah Wedgwood and became a business partner, he married Elizabeth Taylor in 1765. Thomas's son Ralph Wedgwood, was born in 1766, he was also a potter and continued under the name Wedgwood & Co at the Hill Works, Burslem, Staffordshire.
Ralph Wedgwood can be found on his daughters Baptism record in 1791. These early Birth/Baptism records form part of the Non-Conformist record collection exclusively available at www.TheGenealogist.co.uk. The baptism entry of his grandmother Hannah Malkin can also be found in these records in the year 1745.
When Wedgwood’s business partner Thomas Bentley died in 1780 he called upon his friend Erasmus Darwin for help. Little did they know Erasmus Darwin’s grandson the famous Charles Darwin would later go on to marry Wedgwood’s granddaughter Emma. This marriage can be found using the BMD Index on The Genealogist:
Josiah Wedgwood died in 1795 and left the prosperous business to his children; Josiah II and John. This was confirmed by viewing the in-depth 7 page Will at TheGenealogist.co.uk. Wills are a valuable source of genealogical information as they can give details of family members, places of residence and burial, as well as revealing details about their possessions.
There are over 1 million records in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills and probate collection, which covers the years 1384 to January 1858. The Genealogist has now added over 100 years of these records , which will shortly be expanded to cover all years.
Josiah II retired in the early 1840s which left Francis Wedgwood in charge of the Company. Francis with his 3 sons, Godfrey, Clement & Laurence ran the company and concentrated on the production of Jasper Ware, and re-introduced Bone China, which saw the company boom. Josiah & Sons can be found in the Slater’s 1850 Staffordshire Directory available at The Genealogist. Directories can be an invaluable research tool as they cover more years than the census.
The later Post Office directories for the 1900’s give reasonably complete lists of residents as well as tradesmen in the area. With the 1873 Landowner records available on The Genealogist you can see how successful the Wedgwood’s had become. Landowner records will show you the name of the owner, the address, extent of land and the estimated rental.
The Genealogist offers complete census transcripts with images for England and Wales 1841-1901 which will allow you to trace the Wedgwood family through the years. Using the records available and the TreeView facility the Wedgwood family tree has been compiled. To view this please go to: http://thegenealogist.co.uk/treeview/demos/wegwood.php
Laurence Wedgwood can be found on the Staffordshire 1881 Census with his son Kennard, who received shares in the business along with Cecil and Francis when Laurence, Clement and Godfrey retired in the late 1800’s. By typing in the name “Laurence Wedgwood” into the Census Transcript search and selecting the Name Variations option (as a lot of names on the census can be recorded differently) you can see him listed as Lawrence ” (as written on the original census page) rather than “Laurence”. The Name Variant option for searching is just one of the many useful search tools available on The Genealogist.
Just before the Great War, the designs of Daisy Makeig-Jones ‘Fairyland Lustre’ and ‘Dragon Lustre’ fine bone china proved massively popular up until the early 1930’s. These beautifully detailed pieces are highly collectable now.
The grandson of the famous Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma Wedgwood can be found in the De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-1918 on The Genealogist.
In 1930 Wedgwood decided to purchase a new estate at Barlaston as the factory at Etruria had been subsiding due to coal mining. They started to move production to Barlaston in 1940. The production was restricted to crockery for the Armed Forces during the second World War, but by 1950 all production had been transferred to the new site which was more efficient and produced a higher quality product.
Wedgwood was increasingly successful here and abroad through the 1950s-1960s. In 1960 Josiah Wedgwood V stepped down as Managing Director but remained Chairman. He was the last Wedgwood family member to have managerial control over the company.
1963 saw the first non-member of the Wedgwood family, Arthur Bryan, become managing director. The 1960s saw expansion with the gaining of several other ceramic companies into the Wedgwood Group. In 1986 Wedgwood’s merged with the Irish Glass company Waterfords.