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Josiah Wedgwood (& Sons Ltd)

Josiah Wedgwood was born in Burslem in 1730 and began working as an apprentice under his brother, before forming a partnership with Thomas Whieldon of Fenton in 1754. The partnership lasted five years before Josiah started his own business, renting the Ivy House works in Burslem for ten pounds a year.

In 1762, Josiah moved production to the Brick House, later known as the Bell Works. That same year he met Thomas Bentley, and after several years of negotiation, they formed a partnership in 1769. This would end on Bentley’s death in 1780.

By 1766 the business had prospered and Josiah was able to acquire the Ridge House Estate, on which he built himself a house and a new factory, which he named Etruria. It was formally opened on 13th June 1769 and Wedgwood and Bentley made six ‘First Day’ vases to commemorate the event.

In Josiah Wedgwood’s lifetime (1730-95) he invented and produced a wide range of tableware and decorative wares. Queen’s Ware is a cream-coloured earthenware (creamware) given royal assent in 1765 by Queen Charlotte. Black Basalt was introduced in 1768 and was the first decorative ware he developed. The most famous of Josiah’s inventions was the fine vitreous stoneware he called Jasper. It took years to find the right materials but the recipe was perfected in 1774. The most famous piece of Jasper Ware is the Barberini or Portland Vase replica made in 1789.

Fine bone china was first produced by Josiah Wedgwood (II) as a response to demand from clients to their London store. However, it was not as successful as they had anticipated, so it had a short production run from 1811 to 1822. It was then revived in 1878 and became a staple for the company.

Under the leadership of Josiah Wedgwood (V), it was decided that a new factory would be built. Etruria was suffering from mining subsidence and expansion or development was limited by the encroachment of surrounding industry. A country estate was acquired near Barlaston and a new factory was designed by Keith Murray. The foundation stone was laid in 1938 and production started there in 1940. Manufacture at Etruria finally ceased in 1950.

From 1966 Wedgwood began acquiring other British potteries, including Mason’s Ironstone, J & G Meakin, and Johnson Brothers.

In 1986 the Waterford Glass Group purchased Wedgwood, forming the Waterford Wedgwood Group. By 2009 the group had gone into administration, and some subsidiaries were sold to a private equity firm. This group, called WWRD (Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton) was then sold to Fiskars in 2015.

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