This is not an exhaustive study of Etruria, but an examination of the village originally planned by Josiah Wedgwood. Authors who have previously tackled the subject have always included Shelton due to its close proximity, along with neighbouring communities such as Tinkersclough and Basford. Although no settlement exists in isolation these places are largely ignored in this study, even though the industrialisation of Shelton was a contributory factor in Etruria’s downfall. For the same reason that part of Etruria which developed around the Rose and Crown public house further east of the original settlement is only mentioned briefly.
Until the arrival of the decennial census the community had no administrative division other than the estate in which it lay. Similarly, neither was its ecclesiastical jurisdiction formed until the middle of the nineteenth century. This can both help and hinder any historical study. With a lack of precise division it becomes easier to adopt a self-made boundary. However, the inclusion of a community into a larger administrative area often makes the segregation of statistics difficult. Published population figures do not exist for the enumeration district of Etruria alone, being always included in the totals for either the township of Shelton or the municipal borough of Hanley, into which Etruria fell.
However, both the census enumeration district and the ecclesiastical division are still too large to be chosen as a boundary for this study. The community that Josiah Wedgwood founded was that portion of Etruria between the canal bridge and Fowlea Brook. Despite any confusion over the boundaries, the community had a strong sense of identity. When the King George V and Queen Alexandra visited the Wedgwood factory in 1913 Her Majesty enquired of one of the old workmen whether he was a native of the Potteries, to which he proudly replied ‘No Ma’am, I am an Etruscan’. Two autobiographical accounts by ‘Etruscans’, almost eighty years apart, both agree, one directly and the other indirectly, that Etruria began at the canal bridge and ended at the railway bridge (near to the Fowlea Brook). These therefore have been adopted as the mental horizons.
1. The Arrival of Wedgwood and the Establishment of the Community
Most large pottery manufacturers were directly responsible for changes in the local landscape during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This was caused not only by the erection of the factories themselves, but also through the establishment of a range of ancillary buildings including houses and pubs. Many manufacturers were also associated with improvements to transport systems, either through being members of turnpike trusts or investors in canal companies. Yet no manufacturer changed the face of the landscape as much as Josiah Wedgwood. Not only did he build the factory known as Etruria, he also created the village of that name. Without Wedgwood that community would never have existed.
The conception of Etruria dates from 1766, when Wedgwood, who then operated from the Brick House Works in Burslem, became aware of the need for a larger, purpose-built complex in which production could be maximised. In December he had purchased a plot of land consisting of 265 acres two miles east of Burslem known as the Ridge House estate. The terrain was rough gorse, containing only a couple of farms, and through which ran the main Leek to Newcastle-under-Lyme turnpike road.
A plan of the Ridge House estate sketched by Wedgwood in a letter to Thomas Bentley reveals that the southern boundary of the estate was the turnpike road. The land south of this when the estate was purchased belonged to a Mr Egerton of Tatton. Wedgwood also purchased this land primarily to stop others becoming disagreeable neighbours, and so that the wharf could be built further away from the planned site for the family home, Etruria Hall, Wedgwood already having expressed concerns over the possibility of noise. The sketch also shows what is probably a group of houses along the north side of the road, suggesting that the intention of providing workers’ houses and their location was initially planned from the beginning.
The new factory, although not complete, opened on June 13th 1769 and sat on the junction of the turnpike road and the Trent and Mersey canal. Although the canal was not completed until 1777 Wedgwood was well aware of the route it would be taking. This was of vital importance for both importing raw materials and exporting finished goods. Six years earlier Wedgwood had complained about the local roads being in ‘a very bad condition, narrow in some parts, and in the winter season impassable in many places’. The canal meant a safer and more cost-effective method of transportation, finished goods having previously been despatched by mules or packhorses.
The façade of the factory, rather than facing the main road, ran alongside the length of the canal – an unusual concept adopted so that important visitors received at the Hall would have a view of the factory before being taken around it. Within view of the Hall’s windows the canal was specially widened to form an ornamental sheet of water before the northern end of the works. In the centre of this miniature lake was a small piece of triangular land still adjoined to the mainland on which Wedgwood planted trees and shrubs to form a retreat.
The Wedgwood family moved into their newly completed Hall in November 1769, almost six months after the opening of the factory. It comprised of thirty-four rooms, in addition to the cellars reputedly used by Wedgwood to conduct his ceramic experiments. Outbuildings included coach houses and stables, and the ground was landscaped to include gardens, meadowland and pools. During harsh winters these would freeze, as would the canal, and many people would skate on the ice as far as Kidsgrove or Trentham. The two wings that flanked the Hall were added later in 1780, which included a chamber for Alexander Chisholm, Wedgwood’s secretary and amanuensis, a billiard room, schoolroom, a new drawing room measuring 20ft by 30ft, and bedchambers for Wedgwood’s children. In June 1787 a bowling green was laid out in the grounds for the use of neighbours and employees. During the initial layout of the estate Bank House, occasionally referred to as ‘Little Etruria’, was built near to the Hall for Wedgwood’s business partner Thomas Bentley, although never occupied by him. Bentley died in 1780, and apart from being briefly tenanted by Josiah Wedgwood II, Bank House remained largely unoccupied and fell into disrepair. It was taken down during the 1820s.
Because the factory was set in a rural location Wedgwood needed to provide homes for his workers, and manufacturers were beginning to see the benefits of owning houses. By 1777 Thomas Whieldon had around fifty and although his factory predated Etruria it is uncertain whether these were built at the same time or were a later addition. Of the forty-seven potters who took out insurance policies over a twenty-year period between 1789 and 1809 nineteen owned workers’ houses, ranging from a single cottage to twenty-nine terraced houses. The rapid growth of the pottery industry had resulted in a shortage of housing and the provision of accommodation acted as an incentive to lure those with the necessary skills. From the manufacturers’ point of view it offered social control. The threat of eviction for an employee who behaved badly outside working hours meant that control was not confined to the factory premises.
Most manufacturers such as Spode, acquired or built groups of houses piecemeal. Wedgwood’s original ‘village’ however was built in one phase between the summer of 1769 and the early months of 1770. This consisted of seventy-six houses that stretched along both sides of the turnpike road forming a linear settlement between the canal bridge and Fowlea Brook. Most of these had been built at an average cost of £45 each under a team of at least twelve men, supervised by Edward Bourne who had also overseen the construction of the Hall. A document between Josiah Wedgwood and Thomas Shaw dated May 30th 1769, reveals that Wedgwood employed Shaw to complete two dwelling houses by the end of August for an agreed estimate of £65. Wedgwood stipulated that if these were not completed to schedule then Shaw would receive £60 rather than £65, while at the same time emphasising the quality of workmanship required. Shaw’s work must have been satisfactory as he was still engaged in building workers houses the following year.
The majority of the houses originally had two downstairs rooms, a living room and a kitchen scullery, with two bedrooms above. They had earth floors, plain board doors, and brick and lintel sills with casement windows of small panes of green leaded glass, some showing the bull’s eye formed when being made. The living room was the only room with a fireplace and therefore would have been the focal point of family life, with cooking, eating and entertaining all taking place in this room. The kitchen scullery was considerably smaller, housing a dogleg staircase to access the bedrooms above. Most of the dwellings opened out directly onto the street with a long yard at the rear.
When new, these houses were by far a huge improvement on most peoples’ homes at that time. The original occupiers had probably moved from Burslem, where the majority of houses in the town during the middle of the eighteenth century would still have been of thatch and timber. The arrangement of a large living room with a smaller kitchen behind appears to have been the standard design for many working class houses over the next seventy-five years. The dwellings in St Mark’s Street, Hanley, built around 1840, mirrored the design of those properties at Etruria both internally and externally. Multiplying these seventy-six houses by five to represent average household size produces a population estimate of 380 for Etruria during the 1770s. Whether Wedgwood owned workers’ houses before Etruria is open to conjecture. An undated letter and receipt to Wedgwood from James Brown mentions slating a house in Burslem Churchyard and the erection of a dwelling house on a piece of land known as the Cross Hill near to Burslem Church.
Annual rents varied from between £2 to £3, although a few anomalies existed such as the rent of Richard Greaves at £6 and John Hackwood at £7. William Hackwood commenced his employment at Wedgwood in September 1767, possibly occupying one of the new houses from the date of his marriage in 1774. Three years later the renewal of his hiring agreement revealed that in addition to his salary, the £10 annual rent of his house, ‘Dwelling House number 4’, was also waived. Until the early part of the nineteenth century the majority of these properties appeared to be occupied by Wedgwood employees, with a proportion of the rent being deducted directly from their wages. Additions or improvements were made as early as May 1790 to some of the properties, which then numbered eighty-seven, such as that occupied by Ralph Moreton, resulting in an increase in annual rent of £2, and that of Widow Bedson in 1798 which increased her rent by £1 4s. Commercial premises such as the house and shop occupied by crate-maker Thomas Chesworth were let at higher rents than private dwellings. By this time Navigation House had also been built near to the wharf for the canal engineer, as well as a bath house for the use of the bargees.
During a thirteen-year period between 1797 and 1810, 154 of the 174 tenants listed were male. The four female heads that were recorded were presumed to be single or separated as the sixteen widows were listed separately. These accounted for almost 10% of the total number of tenants. There appeared to be no subsidy in rents for widows, although they were allowed to remain in the property after the death of their spouse. Timothy Oldcott was listed as tenant of house number four in 1797, but five years later it was in the occupancy of ‘Widow Oldcott’.
Of these eighty-seven properties between 1797 and 1810 their occupancy remained fairly stable, with 42.5% of the properties remaining in the hands of the same tenant for the duration of those thirteen years, while 32% of the properties only changed hands once. Only a quarter of the properties had three or more occupiers during that period. However, these figures also include the four properties whose tenancy appeared to pass from father to son, as well as the eleven tenants who simply moved to another Wedgwood property in the street. The numerous reoccurrences of surnames suggests a settled community in which the majority had some form of kin resident in the neighbourhood. Multiplying these eighty-seven houses by five suggests the population had risen to 435.
By June 1790 the Wedgwood workforce numbered 278 men, women and boys. The diversity of ware resulting in a range of occupations had produced a hierarchical structure of employees. This was reflected in the wage rates, from Fanny Lownds, a ‘painter of pins’ earning 1s a week to a well-respected modeller like William Hackwood earning 42s a week. Dividing the figure of the workforce (278) by the number of houses (87) and assuming that both the husband, wife and one child or other household member were employed at Wedgwood it would seem therefore that the majority of these properties were tenanted by employees.
As well as the houses the village also contained the Etruria Inn, a blacksmiths’ shop and several bakehouses and ovens. The inn not only satisfied the workers needs, but also those of visitors and travellers, many of whom would have unloaded raw materials at the busy wharf. The wage books reveal that the method of payment to each potter also included an allowance for his ancillary workers, whom he paid directly from his ammount, usually after five o’clock on Saturdays. In a rural environment such as Etruria the inn may have been the only place where money could have been exchanged.
The inn also had a substantial amount of farmland attached to it, in addition to the Ridge House Farm situated in the north eastern part of the estate and Fowlea Farm to the west. These were the only two dwellings to have been in existence before the estate was purchased and therefore predate the village of Etruria. The account book for 1777 records a series of payments under the term of husbandry including ploughing, harrowing, thrashing (sic) wheat, hedging in the Cow Pasture and clearing the plantation that lay in the grounds of the Hall along with the nurseries. The steady stream of payments concerning agriculture reveals that farm management was also an interest of Wedgwood the industrialist.
A number of wells were sunk and at least three pumps were installed to supply water for the village. One was situated at the foot of the canal bridge steps on the south side of the street. Another was halfway along the north side approximately where Forge Lane would later be built. The third was behind the houses on Fold Street, which was the only other street in existence at the time and contained six dwellings.
From the canal bridge down to Fowlea Brook the road along which the houses stood became known as Lord Street. Beyond Fowlea Brook at the bottom of Basford Bank stood a tollhouse. The gate took the form of a chain attached to the fifth house on the south side of the road. On the north side lay Etruria Woods, a place of attraction with blackberries, raspberries and wild flowers until the arrival of the railway and the steelworks. From the canal bridge and stretching up to Cobridge the road was known as ‘The Grove’. By the end of the eighteen century there were only five dwellings along its length – the Etruria Inn, Bank House, the lodge to Etruria Hall, another tollhouse with a triangular gate, and close to the top the White House, home of potter Ephraim Hobson also known as Cobridge Cottage. In 1774 Edward Ratcliffe spoke of Etruria as ‘that paradise’, while Jos Mayer commented upon ‘the delightful, salubrious situation, and beauty of the place’. Twenty years later a person writing in The Gentleman’s Magazine described the whole community as ‘a colony newly-raised in a desert’.
The earliest surviving map of Etruria appears to be a copy made in 1818 of a plan of the estate originally drawn in 1796. The houses lie on both sides of the main road with slightly more on the north, despite not beginning for some distance from the canal bridge. Fold Street can be seen at the western end of the village, and also visible is the Etruria Inn, a group of dwelling houses that adjoined the works, and various sundry buildings, including the farm behind the houses on the north side of the street. Unfortunately the scale does not allow the precise number of dwellings to be calculated. Overall, the map portrays a rural environment, which it is not too difficult to imagine as being the setting of a Thomas Hardy novel.
The first painting of Etruria dates from about the end of the eighteenth century and confirms the rural environment that existed at this time. This is the only illustration that includes Bank House. The Hall and the works are also visible and in the background can be seen Hanley with its church and windmill. A slightly later painting portrays the field immediately behind the houses on the north side of Lord Street, which is screened by trees, and is the scene of haymaking. The west side of the field is bounded by Fowlea Brook, its course discernible from the trees that lined its banks. No bridge is visible suggesting that a ford existed. The pastoral scene is also reflected immediately south of the village. Beyond the neat rows of houses on both sides of Lord Street can be seen the Etruria Inn and Kirk’s Foundry, opposite which was the Wedgwood works, and above these the wooded area known as The Grove is shown.
Yet this new Eden was not without incidents of hardship and tragedy. 1783 was a year of food shortages throughout the Potteries caused by crop failure during the preceding harvest, with feelings intensified due to unemployment and inflation. In that year a narrowboat moored near to the Wedgwood factory with a cargo of flour and cheese intended for sale in the Potteries. The owners however instructed the crew to continue to Manchester. The shopkeepers of Hanley and Shelton related this news to their customers, who misinterpreted the incident as an attempt to increase demand and inflate prices. A large crowd pursued the vessel and apprehended it at Longport, forcing it to return to Etruria where the master had to sell the cargo at a reduced rate.
Shortly afterwards, a similar incident occurred with another boat laden with provisions at Etruria Lock. This time the mob of several hundred became riotous, buildings were looted, and attempts were made to set fire to some of the houses belonging to wealthier landowners. At the Wedgwood factory the crate shop became a victim of arson and four men went up to the Hall demanding food and drink. As Josiah Wedgwood was away on business in London, his wife Sarah and his eldest son, seventeen-year-old John, gave them what they requested after attempting to reason with them. Eventually the Militia were summoned to restore order and the two leaders, Joseph Boulton and Stephen Barlow, were taken to Stafford prison. Boulton managed to escape with a public flogging although Barlow was hanged for the offence. Punishments were sometimes severe. In 1800 a boy living at Etruria was convicted of stealing a sixpence and was condemned to be hanged, a sentence that was later carried out.
2.The Growth of the ‘Village’ During the Early Nineteenth Century
By the end of the first decade of the nineteenth century the number of houses in the village had risen to 100, suggesting a total population of 500. The annual rents had increased to an average of £4-16-0, although again with a few anomalies. A note dated September 8th, 1806 commented that ‘…in consequence of the great trouble collecting poor rates for small houses Mr Wedgwood has signed an agreement drawn up by the vestry clerk…to agree to pay the levies for the support of the poor for such of our tenants who are rated under 3s 4d….Mr Wedgwood intends to be paid back by adding them to his rents’.
A woodcut of Etruria Grove from about 1815 looking from the canal bridge in the direction of Hanley shows why this name was well suited as the road was heavily wooded on either side. To the right of the bridge stands the Etruria Inn with James Hampton’s name underneath the sign, the four-storey building appearing to extend for some way along the canal. Further up the Grove, also on the right, is the thatched school built by Josiah Wedgwood II in 1814 that also functioned as a Sunday School, and in the distance, at the top, the Toll House and gate. Although not visible, through the trees on the left was the entrance to Bank House and Etruria Hall.
Ten years after Josiah II had built the school, Etruria Hall also became a seat of education. After standing vacant for a period it had been let by 1821, along with Bank House, to G E Magnus and his wife who occupied the property with four resident assistants. With the success of the pottery industry this school at the Hall had been established to cater for the sons and daughters of wealthier manufacturers. Annual fees, inclusive of board and tuition, were twenty guineas for those under the age of fourteen, and twenty-four for those above. Its curriculum included the Classics, Latin and Greek, together with Hebrew, French and other European languages. More conventional lessons included mathematics, history, book-keeping, natural philosophy and elocution. In addition drawing, music and dancing was also taught. The school appeared to flourish for a number of years, although the date of its closure, sometime before the early 1840s, is uncertain.
The first map to allow an accurate calculation of dwellings is an estate plan dating from 1826. This shows sixty-two houses along the north side of Lord Street, and forty-five on the south, with a further six in Fold Street. In addition to these were eight properties running along the towpath adjoining the factory, making a total of 121. All but these eight had either a rear garden or yard, and the majority had their own individual outdoor privy. It also appeared that Brick Kiln Field immediately south of Lord Street had been divided into gardens and allotments for the residents. The number of dwellings suggests a total population of 605 for the mid 1820s.
The map also shows the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel erected in 1805 (although re-fronted in 1820). Due to the rapid popularity of Methodism this replaced a smaller one that stood on the south side of the road near to the bottom of Basford Bank. The building midway along the south side of Lord Street that stood back from its neighbours was a chapel, probably that belonging to the Unitarians that flourished only briefly and was no longer in existence by the mid 1850s.
By this time the Etruria Inn had become the offices of Kirk’s iron foundry, the inn being relocated on the opposite side of the road at number eight Lord Street. The map also reveals the racecourse that existed between the road and Etruria Hall on the northern edge of the estate. The Pottery Races were established in 1824, with the races held over two days during the August ‘Wakes Week.’ The course covered forty-six acres and was a mile in length, with the grandstand and other buildings on its eastern side. As well as horse races there was also a foot race and a ‘prison bar’ match, a game involving two teams of ten men, the rules of which appear to have passed into obscurity. The last race meeting was in 1840 and before the site was abandoned it also served as a cricket ground.
There appeared to have been virtually no change at Etruria between 1826 and when the estate was next surveyed in 1844. In between these dates Thomas Hargreaves’ map of the Staffordshire Potteries was published in 1832, although due to its smaller scale its usefulness is limited in terms of identifying actual buildings at Etruria. Both gas and water were now delivered to the houses, the water being conveyed in barrels and carted to the houses at 1/2d per bucket.
In 1839 Lord Granville established a series of blast furnaces known as Shelton Ironworks. These were not actually in Shelton, but occupied the space between the junction of Mill Street (the original name of the road that forked right from The Grove and ran up to Hanley) and Cobridge Road. Directly opposite the lodge to Etruria Hall was the Furnace Inn, a double-fronted whitewashed house that stood by the pay office entrance. At the bottom of Mill Street stood the Rose and Crown public house. The Shelton Ironworks were separate from the Etruria forge and iron mills that occupied the land north west of the Etruria estate from 1858 and which much later (and somewhat confusingly) became known as Shelton Bar.
Along with the school in the Grove and the occupancy of Etruria Hall as a centre of learning, another early school was the Dame School at the corner of Fold Street. This consisted of one tiny room downstairs, approximately ten-feet square, that served as a schoolroom, living room and kitchen, with a narrow staircase leading to one bedroom above. If all these houses were the same they were therefore smaller than those on Lord Street. One of the pupils was John Finney who later recounted in his autobiographical Sixty Years’ Recollections of an Etruscan starting at the school in the early 1840s at the age of four or five, which was then run by Miss Mary Simpson. Lessons were intermixed with games including cricket, prison-bars, tip-cat and marbles, and later hoppity-fox and half-in half-out. Upon leaving, pupils continued their education either at Shelton or Newcastle before the small school was built behind the Wesleyan Chapel about 1850.
For the children that attended Sunday School an exciting event was ‘Charity Sunday’, considered even more important than ‘Wakes Sunday’. The procession formed in front of the Wesleyan Chapel, with the top two boys of each class proudly wearing the medals they had been awarded around their necks. The party then marched through the village and up to the Hall where they formed around the entrance with the choir in the centre. After singing, the assembled children marched between two large baskets of large square buns, one being given to each child by Mrs Frances Wedgwood and her daughters. The procession then continued to the Infirmary to sing more hymns and then onto Etruria Vale, before crossing the drawbridge and returning to the village along the canal side. The children were then dismissed until chapel time, when selected members were invited to join the preacher on the chapel stage.
A popular form of amusement for children during the 1840s was to go to ‘the top of the village’ to see emigrants leave by canal for Runcorn, en-route to different parts of the world. Some of these emigrants were the first inhabitants of Pottersville, a colony in Wisconsin, America, in a scheme that was established in the Potteries in 1846 to cope with unemployment and distress largely caused by the increased use of mechanisation within the pottery industry. A treat for the children was to watch the horse-drawn narrowboats of Pickfords’ and the Grand Junction Flys’ race each other from the canal bridge to the lock. The lock was three hundred yards south along from the canal bridge, where Navigation House stood. Before the arrival of the railway more than 700 boats passed through this lock each week. From the wharf by the lock a horse-drawn railway ran into the centre of Hanley along Trinity Street.
However, among all the merriment was also tragedy. On Sunday August 4th, 1833 Stephen Johnson, the village constable and captain of the fire-brigade, along with Charles Rhodes, the constable from Hanley, brought to the Etruria Inn the body of thirteen-year-old John Holdcroft. He had been strangled during an argument concerning gambling by sixteen-year-old Charles Shaw in nearby Crabtree Field. Despite Shaw’s age he was sentenced to death at Stafford, although this was later commuted to transportation.
By 1844 the only change in Etruria itself from 1826 appeared to be the erection of the ‘Boatman’s Church’ on the west side of the canal. This was founded by Henry Wynter, a Church of England minister. He originally began preaching in the clubroom over the stables of the Etruria Inn before buying the land and building the church. Neither the boatmen or the villagers took much interest and after a couple of years it was abandoned. Later it became the Navigation Inn until being finally absorbed into the foundry it adjoined during the early 1940s.
The number of houses remained virtually unchanged from 1826 (121 between the canal and Fowlea Brook), still chiefly occupied by Wedgwood employees and let at annual rents now ranging from £3 15s to £24. As before, commercial premises were charged more. James Hampton’s annual rent for the Etruria Inn during the 1820s was £30, the same rate that existed during John Gerrard’s tenancy from 1829 to 1840. When Mary Jones entered on Lady Day 1840 her annual rent increased to £45, with an additional 17s for the stables and brewhouse, and £2 8s for fixtures. The majority of workers’ houses owned by Spode in Stoke and Penkhull at this time appear to have been let at annual rents ranging between £4 4s and £5 5s, and as with Wedgwood’s, there were numerous examples of some tenants paying more, particularly for commercial premises such as shops. Spode’s higher rents, along with a higher number of non-employees, was partly due to Stoke’s prominence as a centre of commerce.
St Matthew’s Anglican Church was consecrated in 1847 and the ecclesiastical parish formed. Unlike the Boatman’s Church, this proved to be successful and continually drew a large congregation. The church built in stone in the perpendicular style, consisted of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, west porch, and a turret at the northwest angle that housed a bell. It stood on the south side of the bottom of the Grove and occupied the site of the home of John Bourne who was eventually buried in what was his garden, it having been converted into the churchyard. Shortly afterwards the vicarage was built next to the thatched school. This was later demolished and a new one erected in its place that also functioned as the church hall.
Immediately below the canal bridge was the Bridge Inn, and separated by only one house, the Etruria Inn. This was used by the Wedgwood factory for social functions such as the half-yearly meetings of the fire brigade. This had been formed in October 1783 when the fire-engine made by Samuel Phillips of London arrived. The brigade comprised of a neatly uniformed team of eleven able-bodied men who turned out for practice about four times a year. During the early 1850s this was proudly captained by Stephen Johnson who had previously been the village constable. Two annual suppers were given by the Wedgwood management, and a half-guinea was paid yearly to each fireman by Enoch Keeling, the firm’s cashier. Those present found it amusing to hear Johnson call out the names of the men after the supper “number one, Captain Johnson – that means me”, at which there would be a laugh, followed by the names of the others. After the money was paid out and supper ended Johnson would call for “three cheers for the paymaster” and then “three for your captain – that’s me, you know” accompanied by further laughter. Enoch Keeling would traditionally begin the post-meeting singing with ‘Rule Britannia’ normally accompanied with much home-brewed ale.
Fortunately the fire brigade was seldom required, although they would efficiently tackle fires not only on the works, but also in the village and surrounding neighbourhood. One of the fires attended during the 1850s occurred on a Sunday morning at Shelton Farm. John Finney was a witness and recalled that ‘the Hanley brigade also arrived and positioned itself on the opposite side of the house. Rivalry between the two teams was great and the Hanley brigade fired water at the Etruria men. When they thought they had drenched them they drew their engine around the end of the house in line with the Etruria team. The captain of the Etruria team, Stephen Johnson, then said “now my men, at it” and they began to pump. As soon as they had got sufficient force Johnson pointed his hose at Samuel Cole, the captain of the Hanley brigade, the water striking him so fiercely that it lifted him off his engine. Then the fun began and while it lasted the house burnt down’. Presumably under normal circumstances they were more effective and took their role more seriously.
The inn was also used by the firm in November 1859 to entertain nine of the oldest workmen, known collectively as the Etruria Jubilee Group. This was a dinner hosted by Francis Wedgwood, for a group of employees who had each served over fifty years. Along with Enoch Keeling were William Stanway, Benjamin Lovatt, John Finney senior, William Adams and his brother John, James Boulton, Moses Brownsword, and Thomas Mason. The event was photographed by Emery’s of Albion Place, Hanley, with each workman receiving a copy.
Brick Kiln Field and Greatbach’s Meadow had become occupied by gardens belonging to the houses in Lord Street, although by the early 1840s planning had already begun for the laying out of additional streets. These gardens were similar in size, being either five or six roods each. Similarly a number of Spode’s properties also had gardens, detached from the houses and in groups, the majority of which were four roods each. Gardening was not only a form of recreation but also a means of supplementing the diet. In periods of hardship the more industrious tenant would at least have had a fresh supply of vegetables. During the 1840s and 1850s, in addition to the bakehouses and inns the commerce of the village included grocers, beer retailers, a cobbler, and a tailor and draper. Alternative occupations to the pottery and iron industries included crate makers, lime burners and a bone merchant. Two blacksmiths and a farmer still reflected the rural environment of the community.
3. Division of the Estate and the Expansion of Iron
Small parts of the Etruria estate had been sold off piecemeal from the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 1844 the entire estate was put up for auction, including more than 103 houses. On the death of Josiah Wedgwood in January 1795 his eldest son Josiah inherited the Hall. The younger Josiah had however already settled on his own estate in Dorset. His mother and two unmarried sisters remained at the Hall for a couple of years before also relocating to Dorset after which the Hall stood empty. By April 1803 it was briefly tenanted by Josiah I’s nephew, Thomas Byerley, and was then used as a school. During 1842 Francis Wedgwood, grandson of Josiah I, took up residence, and it was his decision to sell the estate, although insufficient interest meant that a buyer for the complete estate could not be found. The Duchy of Lancaster purchased a large portion that comprised of all the land to the east of the canal. This included the Hall and Park, Ridge House Farm, the racecourse, and Kirk’s iron foundry together with the dwelling houses occupied by Enoch Keeling, John Bourne and Joseph Bateman. All that remained within the hands of the Wedgwood firm from this point was the factory itself, the houses in Lord Street and the fields both north and south of these.
A local surveyor named Richard Gillett wrote a number of letters to the Duchy of Lancaster’s London office reporting on the condition of the estate. In January 1845 he justified his lower than expected valuation being caused by ‘…when Lord Granville’s smoke is taken into consideration I feel sure no independent gentleman could be induced to occupy it unless he was engaged in some local undertaking…it might become untenanted for the probability is that the annoyances will increase. Even now the smoke made in the process of making cokes is strongly impugnated (sic) with sulphur and is killing the trees all along the east of the property by the racecourse’.
A similar letter by Gillett a couple of weeks later described the state of the Hall itself and suggested a number of options for its future use. It also explained that Francis Wedgwood was now a yearly tenant of the Duchy. ‘Mr F Wedgwood never occupied more of the Hall than he now does, that the remainder has been shut up for some considerable time being completely useless, and that previous to his occupation the whole had been untenanted for some time…I certainly consider the Chancellor should let the remainder to the best advantage, or if he wished, pull it down; but a question arises, how is this to be effected? If the useless part was pulled down the materials would only sell as second-hand ones and comparatively be of little value. Added to this the general outward uniformity would be completely destroyed. Again, supposing the idea to be entertained of converting the Hall into two respectable tenements I feel convinced from its construction such a plan would not be practical without incurring great expense. Then comes the consideration can a tenant be found to pay an adequate rent? I confess I very much doubt it in consequence of the sulphurous smell emitted in the process of converting coal into cokes and calcinating the ironstone for the use of Lord Granville’s ironworks…the large quantity of broken panes in the unoccupied part of the Hall and outbuildings have every appearance of having been broken for some time, probably occurring at the time the Hall was untenanted…I am told that an application has been made to your office for the Hall’s use for barracks. Should such an offer be very advantageous it may be worthy of consideration’.
By September 1845 Gillett was suggesting that notice should be given to all the occupiers of land at Etruria as ‘I observed all this years produce has been carried off and hitherto no manure whatsoever laid upon the land. If such practices are allowed to continue the result will be that the land will be deteriorated and before long a reduction in rent must be submitted to. These remarks are intended to apply especially to Messrs J and W Hambleton and Mr John Poulston, the former occupiers (in part) of two fields…one has now a crop of oats on it, or rather should have, and the other potatoes, both of which are in a most shameful state. No weeds have been cut, in fact a considerable portion of the crop is nothing but kedlocks, docks and thistles which have shed their seed and will require years to eradicate’. The result of this letter was that the Duchy wrote to a local agent named Thomas Fenton later that same month requesting him to serve notices to the tenants. The Duchy stated that they would not object to their continuance as long as a proper course of husbandry was adopted rather than allowing the lands to continue being badly managed.
Early the following year, however, Gillett was again informing the Duchy that ‘Mr Poulston, the present occupier of Ridge House Farm, does not cultivate his land in a satisfactory manner…I would humbly offer his removal at Lady Day next, added to this that he is drunken and unsteady’. He also expressed similar opinions over the remaining tenants, including the Hambletons, although the remainder had promised to improve their lands with Gillett recommending that they should be allowed to continue. By the end of the year Earl Granville was already ‘desirous of becoming tenant of the racecourse now held by Messrs Hambleton along with other lands…having stated their willingness to relinquish their tenancy in favour of Earl Granville at Lady Day next’. By the following year both the Hall and the racecourse were in the occupancy of Earl Granville, the Hall later being occupied by Colonel W. S. Roden, a working partner in Shelton Bar ironworks. He left the Hall on the death of his wife and from 1864 the building was used as the offices of the ironworks. Almost twenty years after the proposed sale of the Wedgwood factory in 1862 the firm still possessed 127 of the 203 houses (over 60%).
This series of letters also reveals that three years before the completion of the Stoke to Manchester railway line there were plans to construct a line from Crewe to Derby that would have passed through the estate. Gillett complained about ‘the injury which would be done to the woods and lands belonging to The Duchy thro’ which the railroad is intended to pass at present for I neither know the width of the tunnel, the width on the surface of the deep cuttings, the width at the foot of the embankment, nor whether they will adhere to the line as now laid down on the plans’. A year later, although nothing had been done, Gillett was still in opposition to the scheme ‘as it will entirely ruin Lord Granville’s wharf and Messrs Kirk’s foundry. I have had the road levelled from the canal bridge and if the present line is removed about 240 yards nearer to Hanley, instead of an embankment it would be a deep cutting of about 22 feet and pass under the road and give satisfaction to all parties’.
The scheme was eventually abandoned and Etruria Railway Station, on the main Stoke on Trent to Manchester line, opened in 1848. During the construction of the line a troop of navvies headed by Samuel Ffoulks (sic) lodged in the village. They were regarded with curiosity, neither mixing with potters, boatmen or foundry men. The course of the Fowlea Brook was altered to make the ground firm, Basford Bank was filled in and levelled towards the bottom, and the road bridge over the railway was constructed. The original station consisted of a single platform, built on the north side of the bridge. In 1862 this was rebuilt in its current location on the south when the first part of the Potteries Loop Line (also referred to as ‘The Spurline’) was opened. This skirted the lawns of Etruria Hall, passed near the ironworks, and under a bridge next to the Rose and Crown public house before continuing onto Hanley. The line that ran across the bottom of Cobridge Road forming a level crossing was a later mineral line constructed by Earl Granville to serve the furnaces. In 1878 the station was extended and a goods yard stretched almost up to the rear of the houses on Etruscan Street. At holiday times some of the youngsters would meet at the railway bridge ‘at the bottom of the village’ and arrange an outing. Often it would be to Stableford, Barthomley, Audlem, Wybunbury, Ipstones or Oakamoor, being unafraid of walking up to thirty-five miles as long as it meant a day in the countryside.
In 1850 a reporter for the ‘Morning Chronicle’ described the interiors of working class houses in the Potteries, the best examples of which he found to be in Etruria: ‘The lower apartments were paved with bricks, the upper were floored with boarding. The living room, I could see, was generally used for cooking, the kitchen being appropriated to the purposes of a scullery. There was a capital range, containing boilers, ovens and apparatus for roasting, all as clean as hard brushes and black lead could make them. I may mention also that in a great number of these cottages the doorstep was brightly black leaded. In almost every house in the village a handsome eight day clock ticked in a corner and one side of the living room was accompanied by a sofa, perhaps not very elegantly shaped, but ample, and covered with glazed calico. In the kitchen was a good store of pots, pans and tea and dinner ware; and behind the house was a garden about twenty yards by six or seven…[in another house] a carpet was spread over the brick floor, a roaring fire danced and flickered upon the perfectly polished range and fire-irons; there was a clock and a large and handsome chest of drawers in the room, a central table, and several smaller ones, a sofa and a comfortable easy chair…Upon the several ledges and ridges of the old fashioned chimney piece were set a profusion of little china ornaments – dogs, vases and shepherdesses tending their flocks beneath very green crockery trees. There was also a bookcase, very fairly stocked, and newspapers and cheap serial publications lay in the broad window sill…In the next house…the floor was at least partially carpeted, and a horse covered with good white crisp linen was airing before the fire. Among a number of portraits and engravings hanging upon the walls was a very fair copy, executed in oil, of David’s picture (I think it is) of Napoleon crossing the Alps. The brass candlesticks which were ranged upon cupboard and shelf were as bright as a Dutch housewife could wish them; and at the end of the garden was a small greenhouse. These gardens were one and all provided with proper private accommodations. The fences were formed of old ‘saggars’; and a fair quantity of kitchen vegetables were, as I was informed, produced by each patch of land.’
Yet not all dwellings in Etruria appeared to be in good repair. One such example was the cottage occupied by Henry Lawton, a young and industrious florist and gardener. As a report of its condition was sent to the Duchy of Lancaster’s office it is presumed that this lay east of the canal and therefore was no longer the responsibility of the Wedgwood firm. ‘The cottage, although not a very old one, is in a very bad condition owing to its original faulty construction. Recently a part of one side bulged out and as I am informed fell down. The tenant rebuilt it but apparently not in a very substantial way as I observed a crack already in the new work. The principal beam carrying the floor rests in the flue of the living room and the tenant informs me that he is sometimes alarmed by the smoke escaping among the joists of the floor. I also observed that damp penetrates the roof and walls in various places; and consequently some of the paperhangings are falling off from the surface of the wall in a tattered and rotten state. The cottage consists of one living room and a very small wash house with two small bedrooms over the same. Lawton complains much of want of decent accommodation and certainly it is not of a size suitable to his holding, it is scarcely fit for the habitation of a field labourer. I am inclined to recommend that a substantial addition should be made to this cottage of one good living room and one good bedroom. The present walls and roof should be repaired, and the flue turned so as to be clear of the woodwork. Also the cottage should be rough-cast in order to render the brickwork impervious to wet. I should think that the whole of the above improvements and repairs might be completed for £70 or thereabouts. The tenant expresses his willingness to pay interest on the outlay at 5 per cent by way of additional rent’. Two months later the work had been approved and was being carried out.
During the 1850s, with the pottery towns organising volunteer movements against the threat of a French invasion, a local defence group was also formed at Etruria. Although Francis Wedgwood was approached with the offer of captaincy, he felt that he was too advanced in years to accept. However he suggested Colonel Roden, who agreed and proposed an artillery, rather than a rifle corps. Uniforms were made, battery guns delivered, and the school room was used as a drill hall. Professional training sessions were occasionally given at Liverpool’s North Fort.
A detailed although somewhat technical analysis of the Potteries that included Etruria was published by Marguerite Dupree in her Family Structure in The Staffordshire Potteries 1840 – 1880. Her sample contained 1,373 households with 6,707 individuals and was based upon the registration district of Stoke on Trent and Wolstanton. Therefore any conclusions are representative of the whole district, rather than applying exclusively to Etruria. She did, however, state that ‘the enumeration district encompassing the village of Etruria had a population of 966 in 1861, adjacent to the Wedgwood factory’ and also gave the figures for those employed at the factory in 1842 as 500. She specifically stated that the population of the village increased by 21% between 1851 and 1861 and that additional houses were built, resulting in an increase from 154 to 203.
Dupree established that the average household size was five and that these were largely nuclear families, with only 17% of households containing extended family members (i.e. grandparents, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces). She also found relatively few lodgers or boarders (6%). This suggests a degree of social control executed by Wedgwood in regards to sub-letting and contrasts strongly to properties owned by Spode where sometimes up to two complete unrelated families occupied one dwelling, particularly those at Cliff Bank Square. Three-quarters of the households examined by Dupree that contained lodgers were headed by married couples, the extra income tending to supplement the family income rather than providing sole support. Couples in middle age took in lodgers to provide income and to fill up empty beds when adult children had left home and the husband’s ability to earn high wages had declined.
Of those heads of households present in Etruria in 1861, 54% had also been there ten years earlier, suggesting a high persistence rate. 60% of the individuals listed as potters in Etruria in 1861 were born there, with 85% of adult sons of potters also employed in the same industry. By 1861 the pottery, iron manufacture and coal mining industries combined accounted directly for nearly half of the employment of all men aged twenty and over. Of those employed in pottery manufacture 52% were men aged fifteen and over, 29% were women aged fifteen and over, and 19% were children aged between seven and fourteen. From the middle of the 1840s a number of ironworkers began moving into Etruria, and by1862 these accounted for 10% of the employed population. By 1867 there were 1,500 men employed in Earl Granville’s mines and ironworks, the majority of which were in Shelton.
There appeared to be a wide variance in wages, although Dupree suggests that 90% of the adult men employed in the pottery industry in the early 1860s earned around 20s per week. Boys under the age of twelve earned between 1s 6d to 3s per week. Those from the age of thirteen or fourteen earned between 2s to 3s 6d per week for two years, and then worked at a reduced journeyman’s rate. Women earned between 9s to 10s per week, or more with overtime, while girls beginning at the age of ten earned 1s a week for the first three years.
John Finney began work at Wedgwood (probably in 1850, although no precise date is stated) earning 18d a week. Eventually he moved to lathe turning for Henry Foster on the Black Bank, receiving 4s 8d which he considered a ‘top wage for a lad then’. In a later, rather contradictory account, he stated that at the age of thirteen he was apprenticed to a hollowware presser, commencing his employment with George Lowndes and then Daniel Stubbs on the Black Bank. Others he was apprenticed to included Henry Cartlidge and Enoch Travers, being moved from one shop to another as he advanced in skill. Wages were 2s a week for the first year, and when sufficient was learnt Finney was set on piecework, allowing half-price until he had served seven years. However, after quarrelling with a warehouseman his indentures were cancelled and he moved to Taylor and Yates in Burslem, staying for two years. When a slump in trade occurred he returned to Etruria and stayed until 1867.
St Matthew’s church continued to serve the religious needs of the neighbourhood. Between 1849 and 1865 the registers record more than 800 burials during the sixteen-year period. Dividing this figure by the number of years suggests the average number of burials per year was fifty, representing 5.2% of the population. In December 1864 a directive from the Home Secretary stated that burials were to be discontinued at a number of churches in the area by the end of 1866, including St Matthews. The only exceptions were for interments in vaults or walled graves. Following this communication the Duchy of Lancaster granted twenty-eight acres of land adjoining the existing churchyard (later the site of the park). The Reverend Topham applied for permission to use this as a burial ground, although this was rejected in favour of the nearby cemetery at Shelton.
Despite the closure order Topham was still performing burials nineteen years later when in June 1885 he buried a stillborn child. For such burials he received a fee of three shillings, and the sexton Thomas Tideswell one shilling for digging the shallow grave. At a later court hearing the sexton’s wife claimed that there had been between forty and fifty stillborn children buried during the last five years. When describing the position of the small box she stated that ‘there was no hole dug, but the ground was scratched’. The outcome was that Topham was fined the maximum penalty of £10.
By the middle of the nineteenth century Shelton Bar ironworks had expanded across the west side of the Cobridge road, with a series of blast furnaces by the side of the canal being opened in 1852. A decade later there were thirty-four furnaces in operation and further development included the addition of puddling furnaces and rolling mills. By the end of the 1870s the number of furnaces had expanded further to forty-two and a colliery occupied the site of the former racecourse. In 1886 production increased to include steel, and by the end of the century the thriving complex also housed its own coking plant.
Although Dupree states that additional houses were built during the 1850s Warrilow claims the first phase of expansion was Salem Street in 1864. Despite this specific date it appears more probable that the first phase of building took place during the early 1850s. John Finney remembered that it was about the time of the construction of the railway that notice was given to the holders of the gardens in Brick Kiln Field that a new street was proposed. Not all the gardens were lost and additional land was brought into cultivation immediately to the west. Thirty years later, however, these would disappear under the National School and its playground.
An undated estate map from the mid-1850s shows the development of Salem Street in progress. The first five houses were built on plots purchased by Reuben Steele, a clerk at Wedgwood, followed by others, the street soon filling up on one side. These, along with subsequent housing, were larger than the original Wedgwood houses in Lord Street, as they had to conform to the newly introduced building laws. The map also shows the Salem Methodist New Connexion (sic) Chapel, the cornerstone of which was laid by John Ridgway of Cauldon Place, and the small school behind the Methodist Chapel. The majority of the plots on the north side of Cavour Street were already purchased, although these houses had yet to be built. The formation of this street meant that these houses backed onto the rear of those in Lord Street with an alleyway, or ‘back lane,’ separating them.
In 1855 Wedgwood sold three and a half acres of ground to the Shirley Family who then built Etruscan Cottage on the site of another large building. Originally this new house had a large garden at the rear with a coach house and stables. The drive was also at the rear and led onto Etruscan Street. White rocks flanked the iron gates and the gardens, enclosed by hawthorn hedges, contained many overhanging trees. It remained like this until 1930 when Cavour Street was extended.
The plan however is a warning against acceptance of taking a map at face value. Cavour Street, or Chapel Street as it was named, rather than being in two sections ran directly from Salem Street to Fold Street. Garibaldi Street, although empty, is shown, as is School Street, later to become Humbert Street. Three streets proposed but never built included one running east-west along the southern border of the estate as well as two that lay at right angles to this, one of which ran from Lord Street alongside the newly-built Shirley property
4.Census Analysis 1881: Community Structure and the Final decades of the Nineteenth Century
Further expansion in the village had taken place by 1881. Cavour Street and Garibaldi Street had been completed and Fold Street had been expanded and renamed Etruscan Street. In addition there was Forge Lane and Humbert Street, although the latter contained no domestic dwellings. Towards the bottom of Humbert Street the National School was built in 1881. This later became known as Etruria Council School, one of its former pupils being John Edward Smith, who later became Captain of the ill-fated ‘Titanic’. The development of these streets resulted in two small square courts at either end of the south side of Lord Street. The one behind the houses on Etruscan Street, known as Pump Entry due to the water supply, was entered on the north side by a small opening between two houses, and on the south by a larger cobbled entry. The court at the top end of the street was also accessed by a narrow entry that ran under the upper storey of one of the houses. At the bottom of Lord Street, opposite the entrance to Etruscan Street, a terrace of six three-storey houses had been built, and Hope Foundry had also been established on the corner of Lord Street and Salem Street.
A set of exercises similar to Dupree’s was executed on the 1881 census data. The extent of the analysis encompassed the five streets that lay between the canal and railway that formed the majority of the community of Etruria. Lord Street contained a total of 128 dwellings, seven of which appeared to be vacant, thereby producing 121 households, accounting for 47% of the total population. The census enumerators distinguished the five inns – the Bridge, the Etruria Inn, the Lamb, the Vine and the Railway Inn, and from the occupations stated in the returns it would appear that there were eight grocers, one operating from the Post Office, three butchers, a baker and confectioner, a chemist, a boot and shoe dealer, and a hosier. Those who gave their profession as commercial retailers are taken to be representative of conducting their business from the property that they occupied, although there is no guarantee of this, and they may have operated from Hanley, Burslem or either of those two markets.
Salem Street, the first of the new streets to be built, was also the largest with fifty-six households. The enumerator distinguished the Navigation Inn, and occupations would suggest that there were two grocers’ shops. Etruscan Street contained thirty-seven dwellings, six of which were empty, therefore housing thirty-one households. This included the terrace of five houses classed as Etruscan Villa that actually stood at the bottom of Cavour Street rather than Etruscan Street. Thirty-four dwellings stood in Cavour Street with thirty-two households, and the occupations suggest a grocers shop and a general dealer. Only nineteen dwellings existed in Garibaldi Street with two unoccupied, producing seventeen households.
The total population of Etruria on the night of April 3rd 1881 was 1,440. This comprised of the five streets accounting for 1,380 individuals, together with twenty people in Forge Lane, a family of eight at the Bath House on the canal side, and the thirty-two individuals in the (now seven rather than eight) properties ‘by Wedgwood Works’. Dividing the total population (1,440) by the total number of dwellings (271) suggests an average household size of 5.3, although this often ranged from between two and nine, with the few above this number largely confined to Lord Street. In only one instance was a household of a single person recorded. By comparison the average household size of both Dupree’s sample and that of Hanley in 1851 was five. The seventeen dwellings (6.6%) that appeared to be vacant, coupled with the absence of overcrowding, suggests that housing during this period was not in short supply.
Of the total of 259 households examined (Lord Street, Etruscan Street, Cavour Street, Garibaldi Street, and Salem Street) 218 (84%) were headed by married couples. Thirty-six (13.8%) were widowed and four unmarried (1.5%), with one household headed by someone who gave her status as a servant. In neighbouring Hanley in 1851, 79% of the heads of households were married couples, 16% were widows or widowers, and 5% were single people.
In Lord Street 78.5% of households were headed by married couples, considerably lower than the other four streets which ranged from between 87.5% to 90%. This street also had the highest number of widows and widowers, 18% in comparison to between 9% and 12.5% for the other four streets, as well as containing three of the four households headed by those who gave their marital status as single. Ironically, Salem Street, with a considerably high proportion of individuals employed in the iron industry, considered a more hazardous occupation than pottery work, was the street with the smallest number of widows.
The overall picture was one of the nuclear family (74.5% of the total households). In addition 15% of the households contained lodgers or boarders (3.5% of the total population) the majority of which were in Lord Street and Salem Street. Only 6% of the households had servants (1.6% of the total population). The term ‘servant’ however could indicate a false impression of wealth until it is remembered that these were mainly young females, most of who were living in those properties that appeared to be shops or inns and who would have earned relatively low wages. By comparison, of the households of 1851 in Hanley 15% also contained lodgers, although there was a much higher number of servants (9%), no doubt due to the higher number of retailers. In addition to these were also a minimal number of visitors and ‘others’.
Extended family members accounted for 8.5% of the total population. The most numerous category were grandchildren, followed by nephews and nieces, sisters, and sons-in-law. Likewise, Anchor Terrace in Longton in 1881 was also one of mainly nuclear families, with extended family members similarly accounting for almost 9% of the total population, the largest category again being grandchildren.
Family size, whether nuclear or extended, was relatively close to household size due to the proportionally small number of non-related individuals who resided in Etruria. The numbers of children born to married couples varied greatly, ranging from one to seven, with only a minimal number above this. However, based upon census evidence alone, this does not take into account couples in later life whose older children may have already left home, or younger couples who may have had more children later. 18% of married couples had one child, 35% were recorded with two children and 16% with three, with a dramatic decrease in the number of couples with more than five children.
The age-sex structure of the community was slightly male-biased up until the age of forty-five when the trend was reversed. Over a third of the population were under the age of fifteen, and overall there were slightly more males than females, possibly reflected by the heavy industry at Etruria. Two-thirds (66%) of the population was under the age of thirty, reflecting a youthful community, and census data previously published on pottery towns such as Penkhull, central Burslem, and central Longton also reached the same conclusion.
Of the 259 households in Etruria seventeen contained married offspring with their children living with parents, effectively producing two families, although counted for the census as one extended family. In addition to these were a further four households containing married offspring without children.
The Vine Inn was occupied by Eli and Ann Malbon and demonstrates two things – the reason why household sizes could appear large, and the high number of grandchildren found in the community. Here the household size was identical to family size as they were all members of an extended family. Sarah, a daughter of Eli and Ann, had married George Frost, and was living with her husband at the inn. Between them they had five children. Because Eli Malbon was recorded as the head of the household these technically were his grandchildren and recorded as such on the census.
Widower John Shaw, along with his four-year-old son, had returned home to live with his parents at 48 Etruscan Street. Space did not appear to be a problem as the household of seven also contained a lodger. Seventy-seven year old widow Mary Foster was the head of the household at 69 Lord Street. Also resident was her married daughter Lavinia Coates and her husband Edward, along with their six children. This may be an example of the mother living with the daughter’s family, with Mary being the head of the household in name only.
Where married offspring without their spouse seemed to be living with parents it is difficult to determine whether they were simply visiting or had separated and had permanently moved back home. Such an example is that of Sarah Chandler at 25 Salem Street. This married twenty-year-old was resident along with her one-year-old daughter, although it is impossible to establish exactly what her circumstances were.
The opposite scenario of married offspring residing with parents occurred at 29 Salem Street. Living with Joseph and Elizabeth Smith and their two daughters were Elizabeth’s parents, George and Mary Roberts, both in their late sixties. This household also demonstrates an important point concerning family mobility. Both parents had originated from Denbigh in North Wales. Daughter Elizabeth had been born at Bilston. Ironworker George had obviously been employed in the Black Country before coming to Etruria, showing that some immigrants did not move directly from their birthplace to Etruria. Likewise John Highfield of 5 Lord Street had been born in Sedgley in the Black Country. He had married a Walsall girl and had, according to the birthplaces of their children, previously lived at Wolverhampton and Tipton before arriving at Etruria where both John and his eldest son had found employment in the ironworks.
Eight households contained grandchildren but without the presence of either parent, presumed to be married and absent. Those three sharing the same surname as their grandparents were probably fathered legitimately by male offspring rather than by unmarried daughters. Those five with different surnames were presumed to be the offspring of married daughters. Six of these eight households contained one grandchild, while two contained two each and due to the same surname and close proximity in ages were presumed to be brother and sister.
The ages of grandchildren ranged from four to fourteen with one exception. This was the household of eighty-six-year old widower James Manwairing at 14 Cavour Street. Living with the retired builder was thirty-year-old Ann Till (no occupation given, possibly looking after her grandfather) and twenty-eight year old Spencer Till, probably a brother of Ann, employed as a solicitor’s clerk. Both had been born in Etruria, presumably to a married daughter of James. At eighty-six years of age James was the oldest resident in Etruria, although not the oldest Etruscan, having been born at Sandbach in Cheshire. He eventually lived until the age of ninety-seven and was commemorated with an earthenware memorial tablet featuring a relief portrait in the Methodist chapel, as he had been both a local preacher and one of the chapel’s first trustees. The only other octogenarian was Elizabeth Morgan at 27 Lord Street, originally from Wolstanton.
Illegitimacy was more difficult to detect. Living with James Hammonds at 16 Lord Street was his twenty-year-old unmarried niece Alice Johnson, an unemployed domestic servant. Also resident was two-month-old George Johnson, Alice’s son. Living with Frederick and Emma Bowers at 24 Garibaldi Street was Fred’s widowed mother Sarah and an unmarried sister Mary. Assuming that the four-year-old niece Anne was the daughter of Mary also suggests illegitimacy.
Just over half (55%) of the heads of households originated from Stoke on Trent and North Staffordshire, with a further 13% from the remainder of Staffordshire including the ‘Black Country’. Those from neither the Black Country or other towns within the Potteries were mainly from small rural communities in relatively close proximity, attracted by the availability of regular employment. The combined neighbouring counties of Cheshire, Derbyshire and Shropshire combined accounted for 11%. A proportionally high figure of 9.6% existed for Welsh immigrants, just over half of whom lived in Salem Street.
Of those heads of households indigenous to Stoke on Trent, 39% (or 18% of the total population) originated from Etruria itself, with 27% (or 12% of the total population) from Hanley. By comparison, of the male heads of households in central Longton 40% had also originated from Longton itself or within the towns of Stoke on Trent and Newcastle. A similarly high proportion also originated from rural Staffordshire. However, the comparison reveals a stark difference in the figures for immigration from the Black Country at Etruria (7.3% compared with only 1.8% for Longton), and a large proportion of Welsh and a minimal number of Irish immigrants, the latter group of whom in central Longton accounting for just over 11%. Like the Welsh, half of those from the Black Country also lived in Salem Street. Dupree found only three Irish in Etruria in 1861, while in central Burslem in 1861 they accounted for 8% of the population.
A report in The Staffordshire Sentinel stated that in 1860 Hanley was home to approximately 2,000 Welsh, mainly employed in collieries or the iron trade. Because of this, four Welsh chapels had been established in the town, a Presbyterian, a Wesleyan, a Baptist and an Independent. The report went on to reveal that they ‘neither drink, fight or hold much intercourse with the local population’. Many of those resident in Etruria in 1881 had originated from the Abersychan and Pontypool areas of Monmouth and had found employment in the iron industry.
Male employment was predominately in the potting industry, although both Etruscan Street and Salem Street contained a higher proportion of those employed in iron manufacture. The figure for Salem Street corresponds with the high proportion of Welsh and those from the Black Country that occupied the street, traditionally areas of iron manufacture. Likewise Etruscan Street also had a higher proportion of those originally from the Black Country.
Almost 33% of males listed with an employment were potters, while 25% were engaged in iron manufacture. Taken together this accounted for over half of the male employment of those resident in Etruria. However less than 3% of males listed with an occupation were miners. There were also relatively small numbers of railway workers (3%), tradesmen (8%), clerical workers (4%) and retailers (almost 6%). The proportion of women employed in the pottery industry was much higher. Over half (54%) of those listed with an occupation were potters. A further 20% were dressmakers, with 4% classed as clerical workers and 8% engaged in shop work.
Of the 141 male pottery occupations listed, 30% accounted for plate, dish and tilemakers, pressers, stampers and handlers. Throwers and turners accounted for an additional 6%, and decorators, including gilders and ornamentors, 11%. Printers and transferrers represented 7% and modellers and engravers 3.5%. Ovenmen and kilnmen, and packers and warehousemen both represented just under 10% of the total workforce each. In addition there were a minimal number of placers, slipmakers, flint grinders, crate and saggarmakers, labourers and clerical staff. There were also two managers and two individuals listed as ‘master potters’.
The variety of occupations in the pottery industry were evenly distributed among the five streets. There appeared to be no specific street (or part of a street) for managerial class or white-collar workers. Modellers, engravers and gilders lived alongside slip-makers and labourers. This was also true of the seven properties adjoining the works, whose pottery employees comprised of a gilder and a gilder’s foreman, a presser, a crate-maker and a saggar-maker.
The pottery industry offered a wider variety of employment, and was more open to both women and children than either the iron or coal industries. The general hours of work for pottery employees were from 6.30am to 6.30pm Monday to Saturday with half an hour for breakfast and one hour for lunch. Hours could be longer when specific orders necessitated it. Some potters also worked longer through choice between Tuesday and Saturday so that ‘St Monday’ could be observed. This gave an extended weekend, although the practice was not tolerated at Wedgwood. The bell that hung over the central façade of the factory was used to summon workers, as although clocks and watches were in existence they were still comparatively expensive and beyond the means of some. The bell was rung at 5.45am each working day and was chimed from 6am for ten minutes. Anyone arriving later than 6.15am was locked out until breakfast. The general hours of work in blast furnaces, mills and forges was a two-shift system: 6am to 6pm and 6pm to 6am with half an hour for one meal break and one hour for another. The turns changed from day to night and vice versa every other week. Some firms worked seven days a week, while others stopped on Sundays. Coal miners also had a day and night turn, although their week usually only lasted five days. Wages for miners and ironworkers were lower on average than those in the pottery industry, with the exception of youngsters, who before coming out of their time in the pottery industry were earning less than either miners or ironworkers.
Eighteen people on the census were classed as unemployed, although it is impossible to determine how long these individuals had been out of work. There were five females and thirteen males, seven of whom were the heads of households. Six had been employed in iron manufacture and one in the pottery trade. It is impossible to be sure to what affect unemployment would have had upon these households. William Williams, a sixty-five year old unemployed iron puddler of 13 Lord Street, had two sons, both in their thirties, employed as puddlers as well as a son working as an iron roller. His two daughters were also employed and so the lack of one wage in a household of seven may have had only a minimal effect. In contrast, unemployment for Thomas Whitehurst of 29 Lord Street may have had drastic consequences. The twenty-eight year old joiner was the only wage earner in his household with a wife and two young children to support.
William Evans was a twenty-three year old coal miner. Married with one daughter, he and his family were living with his parents at 6 Salem Street. His father, also William, was a coal dealer, and also resident was another son also employed as a coal miner. Whether William junior was living at home permanently or whether financial necessity through unemployment had forced his return to the parental home is impossible to determine. The only household with more than one individual out of work was that of Edmund Thomas, occupier of the Lamb Inn. His dual occupation of unemployed iron roller and beerhouse keeper suggests that the business of the inn was able to maintain him and his family, which included his eighteen-year-old unemployed daughter.
Most marriages were fairly localised (e.g. marriages between partners both of whom had been born in Hanley, or where partners had been born relatively close to each other in districts such as Stoke and Wolstanton) although there were a few instances of marriages with partners from longer distances (e.g. Longnor in the Staffordshire Moorlands). Even those who were not indigenous appeared to have married locally (e.g. Sedgley and Walsall). Most Etruria-born males also chose partners from relatively close (e.g Newcastle, Tunstall, and Bucknall) with only a few instances of greater distances (e.g. Sandbach, Dudley and Manchester). Etruria-born females whose husbands were not local included immigrants from Ashley and West Bromwich, although these were rare. Most of the families that moved into the area were ‘ready made’. William Williams of 13 Lord Street was typical of many families that moved into Etruria. Born in Llangvid, Glamorgan he had married a girl from nearby Tredegar in Monmouth where the couple had had five children. Less than a dozen couples with birthplaces other than Etruria showed evidence of having children born exclusively at Etruria.
Where wives were listed as having birthplaces other than local, it is probably evidence of the daughters of immigrants. Gwen Taylor, the wife of William Taylor of 40 Lord Street, was born in Oswestry in Wales and was likely to have been the daughter of someone who had come to Etruria to find employment in the ironworks. This may also have been the case of Hannah Cartwright, the wife of Isaac Cartwright of 26 Etruscan Street, originally from Aberyschan and who had married her locally born husband.
The age difference between marriage partners was relatively close. 8% of partners were the same age as each other, and almost 54% were between one and three years in age of their spouse. A further 23% were within six years and 10% between seven and ten years. Overall, husbands tended to be older than wives (64% in comparison with 24%). Almost 38% of husbands that were within three years in age of their spouse were older, compared to only 16% for that same group for wives. There were eight incidences of marriages where the difference in age of partners was greater than ten years, four each for both husbands and wives. The greatest age difference where the husband was the eldest was nineteen years, although the ages of children of this marriage suggest that the age of his wife may have been incorrectly recorded on the census. The eldest wife appeared to be seventeen years older than her husband.
An attempt was made to estimate the age that married women first gave birth by examining the ages of the eldest child from a sample of all those in Lord Street. Using only the census for this type of analysis produces the same problem as that of the estimate for children, especially those couples in later life who may have had children that had already left home. The youngest mother was a fourteen year old, although as mentioned in the preceding paragraph the census gives this individual’s age as being nineteen years younger than her husband and therefore may have been recorded incorrectly. Therefore this incident has been ignored in the statistics. The majority of mothers had children from between the ages of nineteen and thirty, accounting for almost three-quarters of all births. Six mothers had been teenagers (7%) and all except the youngest, a sixteen year old, had been nineteen. Only 19% of mothers had been in their thirties, including the three oldest at forty.
There appeared to be five incidences of remarriage. Any attempt to illustrate remarriages using the census will produce only a minimal figure and in reality the actual number may have been higher. Evidence is only visible where a wife who had been previously married still had her original offspring with her and were therefore regarded as step-children to the head, and with different surnames. James Bate of 76 Lord Street was thirteen years younger than his wife Elizabeth. The three eldest children, all with the surname Warr, were recorded as step-children, in addition to two children that James had fathered. John Weesh lived at 9 Lord Street with his wife Margaret and his three teenage step-children, all of whom had the surname Hunter. John was aged twenty-eight, eleven years younger than his wife. She had had her first child at the age of twenty, meaning that John was only eight years older than his eldest step-daughter. It is almost impossible to find husbands that had remarried as those children carried the father’s surnames and were recorded on the census as such. However, William Harvey of 130 Lord Street may be one such example. Originally from Gloucester, his three eldest children had all been born in Abersychan, Monmouth, while his wife Mary had been born in Tunstall. In all probability William had been married before coming to Etruria rather than Mary temporarily migrating to Monmouth before returning to the area.
The ages of those classed as scholars ranged from between three and fourteen, with a few instances of some individuals still receiving education at nineteen. Although many still appeared to be scholars at the age of fourteen some had already begun working. Thirty-five individuals, sixteen male and nineteen female, between the ages of eleven and fourteen were recorded with some form of employment. Nine of these were referred to as being ‘half-time’ to indicate that they were still receiving some type of education. Twenty (57%) of the thirty-five were engaged in the pottery industry, females usually as paintresses and burnishers, and males as assistants to pressers, in the dipping house or warehouse, with twelve specifically recorded as either assistants or apprentices. Only two were employed in the iron industry. Other child occupations included office and shop assistants, dressmaking or domestic service.
Although there were only two octogenarians, nineteen individuals had reached their seventies. Sixteen of these either headed the household and had offspring living with them or were living in households headed by their offspring. Only one household contained more than one seventy-year old, being that of John and Mary Morgan at 9 Etruscan Street. Of the other three Sarah Grocott lived with her sixty-eight year old husband at 77 Lord Street. Ann Baddaley took in a lodger in her otherwise empty house at 86 Lord Street. Seventy-five year old George Plant was a boarder at 19 Lord Street, along with (presumably) his forty-year old son, also named George. Both were labourers at the brickworks, as were a brother and nephew of the head, also resident in the same household. Yet of these seventy-year-olds only two had been born at Etruria, the oldest living Etruscan being seventy-eight year old Thomas Adams at 106 Lord Street.
Forty-six males and seven females were recorded as lodgers or boarders. Of this total of fifty-three, forty-three were single, two were married, and eight were widowed. Over a third were in their twenties, being young single males who had taken mainly labouring jobs, many in the iron industry. Despite this there was a wide variance in age and circumstances. Seven were under the age of twenty, the youngest two, including a three-year-old, were both recorded as scholars. Over a further third were in their thirties and forties, with a further six aged between fifty and seventy-five. Surprisingly twenty individuals had been born in local towns, including two from Etruria itself. Those that were from farther afield included seven from Wales and six from the Black Country.
Twenty-nine individuals were solitary lodgers, while twelve households contained two. Some of those that lodged in pairs were clearly not related, such as Ellen Wagstaff and John Dugan. They lived at 17 Cavour Street with Charles and Sarah Dunn, a married but childless couple in their mid-twenties. Ellen was a seventeen-year-old unmarried potter’s assistant originally from Shelton. John, a general labourer and also unmarried, was twenty-seven and had been born in Ireland. This married couple no doubt used their spare bedroom(s) as a means to generate extra income.
Lodging with John and Amelia Highfield at 4 Salem Street were Thomas and Mary Glover. Both were in their early twenties, unmarried, and originally from Walsall, the birthplace of Amelia. John Heath, recorded as a visitor, was probably also related. Seven doors along at 18 Salem Street was the household of David and Edith Highfield. David aged thirty was no doubt related, possibly as a brother or cousin of John. The link of kinship is evident, not only among the Highfield family but also that of the Glovers, as Stephen Glover, a twenty-nine year old bachelor from Walsall, was also a resident in the household. In addition, another Highfield family, also from the Black Country, lived at 5 Lord Street.
About forty households appeared to share some form of kinship link with other families in Etruria. Yet recurring surnames did not necessarily mean kinship. Despite eleven of the households containing individuals with the surname of Jones, no definite link could be established. There were only two occurrences of those sharing this surname originating from the same place (Abersycan), the others coming from various parts of England and Wales. However, at the Post Office (18, 20 and 22 Lord Street) lived Elizabeth Faram, a sixty-five year old widow originally from Lawton in Cheshire. Living with her was her twenty-eight year old daughter who was employed as the Post Office clerk. On the opposite side of the road at number twenty-one was her thirty-seven year old son butcher James Faram, also originally from Lawton.
Many of those of the same root family, yet living separately with their own families, also appeared to share the same occupations. Henry Johnson of 49 Lord Street had been born in Tean. His son William, also from Tean, lived at 65 Lord Street, both being employed as blast furnace labourers. John Dunn of 101 Lord Street was originally from Croxton near to Eccleshall, as was his brother William of 18 Cavour Street and were both employed in the carpentry trade.
Perhaps the best example of family distillation is demonstrated by the Grocotts. Sixty-eight year old William Grocott, a potter’s saggar-maker, and his seventy-one year old wife Sarah lived at 77 Lord Street. Their eldest son Joseph, aged forty-three, lived with his family at 4 Garibaldi Street and was also employed as a saggar-maker. Forty-year old Reuben Grocott, a potter’s ovenman, and his family occupied 72 Lord Street. At 42 Lord Street was thirty-seven year old Thomas Grocott, also a potter’s ovenman, living with his married sister Emily Jervis and her family. At 53 Lord Street was thirty-one year old Josiah Grocott with his family, employed as a grocer and potter’s saggar-maker. All had been born in Etruria and all were living relatively close to each other, a fact which demonstrates the network of kinship that existed at Etruria. For those coming into Etruria, such as the Highfield families, this network of kinship no doubt made immigration easier.
As the intention of the census was that nobody should be omitted, the enumerators also recorded the details of the crews of the boats that were moored at Etruria. There were fifteen barges with crew sizes ranging from two to five and totalling forty-eight individuals. All fifteen bargemasters were male ranging in age from nineteen to sixty-one. Thirteen were married, eight of whom also had their wives among the crew. Eight bargemasters also had members of their own offspring as crewmembers, and the nomadic existence of these people is reflected in the varying birthplaces of spouses and siblings. Only three bargemasters had been born locally, although four originated from rural Staffordshire and three from the Black Country. Only two crews consisted of non-family members.
The local trade directory reveals that at the beginning of the 1880s the village appeared to have thirty-four commercial premises (13 % of the total dwellings, based upon the total of 259). Twenty-three of these were in Lord Street, three in Salem Street, two in Cavour Street with three on the canal side and bridge, leaving Fowlea farm and one where the address was not stated. Six were simply classed as ‘shops’, with no further clue of what goods they dealt in, unless general provisions. The provision shops that were distinguished included seven grocers, five butchers and two bakers. In addition to these were a boot and shoe dealer, two haberdashers, dealers in earthenware, hardware and coal, a chemist, a joiner, a painter, a blacksmith and a farmer.
Only the Etruria Inn and the Railway Inn were mentioned by name, the Bridge, the Lamb, the Vine and the Navigation inns probably being regarded as four of the five beer houses that were listed. As previously mentioned the Bridge and the Etruria Inn were at the top of Lord Street. The Lamb was located on the corner of Forge Lane with the Vine directly opposite. The Railway Inn was on the corner of Etruscan Street, and the Navigation Inn, the only one not on Lord Street, was on the canal side at the end of Salem Street. Beer houses had rapidly increased in number since the Beer Act of 1830, introduced to encourage the drinking of a native product, as opposed to public houses that could also sell both wines and spirits. They could be established for a relatively modest fee compared to a public house licence, many simply utilising the front room of a dwelling house. In addition to these, by the end of the decade, a coffee tavern and a reading room was situated inside the Wedgwood premises.
During the 1890s eight streets were laid out away from the original village behind The Rose and Crown public house, these being Etruria Vale Road, Josiah Wedgwood Street, Sandon Street, Cavendish Street, Garner Street, Sefton Street, Twemlow Street and Vale Terrace. In the first decade of the twentieth century a further pocket of expansion took place. Dundee Road, Ladysmith Road, Kimberley Road, and Pretoria Road were all bounded on their western side by Belmont Road. This ran from Lord Street between Kirk’s Foundry and St Matthew’s Church parallel with the canal. Names such as Kimberley Road and Ladysmith Road were in memory of the South African War in which many of the Etruscan men took part. Back in the village a tile manufactory had also been established at the end of Humbert Street. The commerce of the previous decade had been expanded with a milliner, a dressmaker, a hairdresser, two tobacconists and a further coffee tavern in Lord Street. The shop of George Smallwood was also established in 1892 at 78 Lord Street selling exclusively Wedgwood ware. This was run by his wife Jane who had been in charge of the showroom at the Wedgwood works. When illness prevented her continuing her employment the firm suggested and assisted with the opening of the premises. Still employed as a butcher and beer retailer, James Faram had also taken over the role of Postmaster from his sister.
5. Wedgwood Employment Structure
The variety of occupations at the Wedgwood factory was recorded in the ‘List of Hands on Works compiled by Cecil Wedgwood’, a thirteen-page hand-written document dating from March 1883. This alphabetical list of thirty-eight occupations is sub-divided further into seventy-two, by the segregation of the different departments. For example, the different ovenmen are categorised as earthenware biscuit, earthenware glost, tile biscuit, ornamental ware biscuit, ornamental ware glost, china biscuit and china glost. To distinguish the various china departments, these were recorded in red rather than the usual black ink.
However the two pages of contents do not accurately reflect the main text, as some of those divisions listed in the contents do not appear in the list itself, such as the tile biscuit, ornamental ware glost, and china glost ovens. Furthermore some departments, such as the enamel and Majolica kilns, and the useful ware and tile sliphouses appear combined, while some distinct occupations, such as the china mould runners, were not recorded.
Using this segregation the potters (including plate makers, cup and saucer makers, tile makers, handlers, dippers and polishers) represented just over 20% of the total workforce, as did also the painters and paintresses. The next largest category was that of printers and transferrers at 14%, followed by the packers and warehouse staff at 10%, burnishers and gilders at 7.5%, and the ovenmen and kilnmen at 7%. The casters, mould makers and mould runners accounted for 5%, and throwers and turners 3.5%. Artists, engravers and modellers totalled 2%, the counting house and showroom 1.5%, and the overlookers just less than 1%. The sundry occupations of oddmen, bricklayers, joiners, and saggar makers accounted for just over 5%, and the sliphouse, engine and mill, and the marl grinders less than 2%.
170 of the 728 employees are recorded either by surname or surname and forename initial only, making any attempt to establish their sex difficult. Obviously in the case of departments such as paintresses or oddmen the sex of the employee can be fairly accurately surmised, as also those departments where the entries with full names all fell to one particular sex such as the burnishers (exclusively female) and the gilders (exclusively male). Using this methodology the workforce appeared to be composed of 375 males (51.5%), 300 females (41%) and sixty-three (8.5%) where their sex could not be established.
The majority of the names also have the areas where the employees lived written in pencil. Presumably these were added sometime later for most of the 104 names without an address are those that had been crossed through indicating that they were no longer employed at Wedgwood. Just under a quarter of the workforce actually lived in Etruria itself, while almost 30% travelled from Newcastle each day. A further 20% came from Hanley while the remainder commuted from nearby areas.
Fifteen years later one of the most interesting documents concerning Wedgwood employees was compiled. This was undertaken by Harry Barnard in the form of the photograph album known as ‘Etruscan Bread Winners 1898’. This 27-page album measuring 10” x 10” contains a series of extremely high quality photographs of each of the different departments taken by Barnard during July and August of that year. Furthermore, he also had the foresight to record the names of the individuals underneath each picture. The photographs themselves are an excellent source for revealing the dress sense of pottery workers at the end of the nineteenth century. These include the common occurrence of caps worn by males, the collarless shirts and waistcoats of the manual workers’, the shirts and ties of the decorators, gilders and throwers and turners; and the suits of the warehousemen and office staff emphasising the social hierarchy among employees.
In all probability a wash and brush-up and a change of clothes took place prior to being photographed. The majority of females all appear in their ‘Sunday best’, as evidenced on the photographs of ‘Printers and Transferers’, ‘Paintresses’, ‘Warehouses’ and ‘Slip Decorators’. ‘The Tile Makers’ although suitably dressed in working clothes appeared spotlessly clean, which also applied to the workers shown in ‘The Glost Oven’. The ‘Jasper black basalt Throwers and Turners’ again appeared wearing spotlessly clean aprons, but evidence of clay on the shoes and lower part of the trousers of the younger employees in the front row suggest a quick wash and brush-up. The one exception is the ‘Sliphouse and Mill’ workers who appeared as if having taken a break during their shift, including the young Kennard Wedgwood in the front row. Likewise Francis Wedgwood also appeared on the photograph of the ‘Oddest Men’.
The album however does contain some anomalies. Some of the 347 individuals appeared more than once. George Pedley, for instance, appeared in five different photographs, while Barnard himself appeared in three. James Allen also appeared three times with his suit and buttonhole identical on two, but with a change of clothes on the last, demonstrating that some of the photographs were taken on the same day, while others as Barnard stated, were taken at different times.
What percentage of employees this 347 actually represents is impossible to determine with precise accuracy. Wage books do not exist for the turn of the nineteenth century, and no complete list survives from this period. The nearest contemporary account is the list of 723 names compiled by Cecil Wedgwood in 1883. If this figure was still accurate fifteen years later it is a mystery as to why as little as only half of the workforce were recorded.
Although the photographs obviously under-represent the total number of employees they still reveal something of the age and sex structure of the workshops. The sliphouse and mill, biscuit oven and warehouse, earthenware glost ovens and earthenware potters were all exclusively male. This obviously also applied to the oddmen and oddest men whose occupations included bricklayers, joiners and engineers, as also were the gilders. This was unusual as generally both men and women tended to be employed as gilders, while burnishing, which appears to have been omitted altogether, was generally a female occupation.
Predominately male workshops included the Jasper departments, and included throwers, turners, decorators and those at the Jasper oven, as well as the general warehouse and office staff. The thrower usually required two assistants, either females or boys, one to turn his wheel and the other to ‘take off’. These departments usually had two or three females, as well as boys (as assistants) and male teenagers (as apprentices). A higher proportion of females existed among the china potters, the Majolica department and tile makers, the latter where half the workforce appeared to be female, the majority being in their late teens or early to mid-twenties. Again it appears that young boys were also employed in these departments. Females far outnumbered males as printers and transferrers. Men would have printed the design onto tissue paper, with the younger girls working as paper cutters, cutting out the patterns for the women who transferred them onto the ware. The only departments to be exclusively female were the slip-decorators, paintresses and apprentice paintresses.
Of the 347 employees captured by camera three-quarters were male. Taking into account the general acknowledgment that men and boys constituted two-thirds of the labour force, and females the remaining third, suggests that the omissions included a higher number of females. Unless disguised under the general headings of china or earthenware potters there was no mention of mouldmakers, dippers, saggarmakers or placers. The lighting on some of the photographs, such as that of the oddest men, suggest that these photographs were taken in the early evening, after the day’s work had finished, which may help to explain the omission of some employees. Absent for more obvious reasons may have been the commercial and foreign travellers. If the photographs were taken at the end of the working day, then possibly the working wives may have returned home to prepare the evening meal. The smaller than expected number of boys, only 8%, whereas those aged between six and fourteen supposedly accounted for almost 20% of the labour force, suggests that some possibly preferred a game of football or cricket after work rather than having their photograph taken.
By using hiring agreements and other records it is possible to build a picture of the lives of these individuals within the Company. One example is that of John Ridgeway, employed as a tile layer in March 1893. Although initially sited at the works, a large part of his time appears to have been spent working away, with Wedgwood paying travelling expenses, lodgings, and allowing a fixed rate for travelling time. Ridgeway had the authority to engage hands to assist him and to approve overtime if necessary. He was given money to settle smaller bills himself, including the payment of wages to those he set on, having to submit to the Company a weekly statement showing his expenditure. However, added in pencil on the reverse of his hiring agreement presumably at a later date, is written ‘in consequence of several irregularities of late we hereby give you warning that should you absent yourself without leave you must immediately write us a full explanation and bring us a satisfactory doctor’s certificate upon your return. If we are not satisfied we have the absolute right of dismissing you upon the spot’.
A letter from Wedgwood dated April 18th 1896 advises Ridgeway to be accurate in his quotes for laying floors in order to avoid friction with the Company and warning him to be moderate in his expenses. Whatever differences existed appeared to have been settled because by September he had been working in Camarthen and Tenby, being asked to continue the circuit that the Company had mapped out, and to attempt to seek business in Oswestry, Whitchurch and Crewe. This letter of September 17th continues ‘that nothing has cropped up in the way of tile-laying which necessitates your coming home, we are quite satisfied with your reports from the various towns you are visiting, and we are writing and sending catalogues as you ask, and have no doubt that fruit will result. Advise us where you will be for writing and do you need more money?’ Ridgeway was still employed during the late 1920s when he appeared along with many others, including Barnard, on a photograph of Etruscan veterans taken at the works.
6. ‘Village’ Life During the Early Twentieth Century
The first year of the twentieth century saw the first electric trams clatter along the two-and-a-quarter mile track between Newcastle and Hanley. These were welcomed by the public although not by the railway whose passengers on the Potteries Loop Line switched to this alternative method of transport. The route the trams took from Hanley was along Etruria Road (previously known as Mill Street and The Grove), Lord Street, and then Brick Kiln Lane beyond the railway bridge in the direction of Hartshill and Newcastle. There were passing loops in the tramlines near the Rose and Crown public house and at the lower end of Lord Street. During the early 1920s the trams faced competition from the growing number of petrol-driven buses and it became a regular sight to see both bus and tram racing each other up the hill to Hanley, the trams finally being replaced by buses in 1924. In 1904 the tollhouse in Etruria Road was demolished, the road widened and Etruria Park laid out. The other tollhouse at the foot of Basford Bank became a shop. Bounded by Lord Street, Etruria Vale Road, Dundee Road and Belmont Road the newly created park was screened on all sides by trees, and had a bowling green, tennis courts, pavilions, and the Wedgwood Fountain.
By the beginning of the twentieth century the row of houses adjoining the factory had become known as The Six Houses and the yard behind as Six Houses Yard. After their use as dwelling houses the one adjoining the lodge was used by the Wedgwood family as a private canteen, where Mrs Bourne would cook and serve their meals. When Queen Mary visited the factory in 1939 this was altered into a toilet.
The site of the original Etruria Inn, and later the offices of Kirk’s Foundry, was occupied by the Co-op shop, the foundry having been entirely cleared away by 1902. A Mission Church was opened in 1907, augmenting those chapels belonging to the Wesleyan Methodists, United Methodists and Primitive Methodists. St Matthew’s Church also went through a series of renovations and by 1905 was able to seat a congregation of 400.
Sarah Roberts (nee Podmore) was born in 1904 and as a girl lived in one of the original cottages built by Josiah Wedgwood in Lord Street. During the First World War ordinary school lessons were suspended in preference to knitting socks for the soldiers. After school some of the children would go to part of the field known as The Horse Field that was used by Wedgwood to tip shraff. If any Jasper was found it was used to play ‘shop’. If a piece was found with a figure on it that was not cracked it would cost the prospective customer more sweets.
At the outbreak of the First World War 159 of the 372 male employees at Wedgwood joined the forces (43%), as well as one female who enlisted for Red Cross work. To cope with the depleted workforce the firm engaged men of eligible age, although nine of these (in addition to the 159) were called up at various times by tribunal. Twenty-five workers lost their lives in action, including Major Cecil Wedgwood who was killed in action at La Boiselle. A further thirty-three were wounded in action. Three of those who served also gained distinctions. Modeller Arnold Austin gained a DCM, printer J Evans a MM, and manager B J Moore gained a commission and was awarded the MC. After the war, as well as providing work for as many of the old hands as possible, the firm also set on forty-seven ex-servicemen, in addition to ‘doing our full share in the scheme for employing disabled soldiers’. By the end of the decade the workforce numbered approximately 890.
An employee register for a section of the Ornamental Works records the thirty-two males and forty-five females that joined the firm between December 1917 and January 1925. Although by no means the most comprehensive register it does list where those people had previously been employed. 44% were aged between thirteen and fourteen with a further 26% eighteen and under, the remainder being evenly distributed between the ages of twenty and fifty-two. Due to the high number of individuals in their early teens twenty-seven (35%) had joined the firm from school. Twenty-four had come directly from other pottery manufacturers. Only two had come from the same employer, Cauldon Pottery, while the remaining twenty-two had come from different factories located throughout the Potteries. In addition to these were also four ex-Wedgwood employees who rejoined the firm. Of the twenty-two non-potters these included three ex-soldiers and four people who simply stated ‘home’. Those that had been employed in alternative occupations included a cotton factory, a doll factory and shop work. As with the list compiled by Cecil Wedgwood forty years earlier, a higher percentage of employees still lived in Newcastle (27%) rather than in Etruria itself (17%), the remainder coming from the other pottery towns or within five miles of the factory.
Like Sarah Roberts, Arthur Moore as a boy lived in one of the original cottages built by Josiah Wedgwood in Lord Street. His London-born father had married a local girl whose parents kept the Vine Inn and it was there where Arthur was born in 1916. Shortly afterwards his father was gassed while on active service and was demobilised. On returning home, the family managed to obtain one of the Wedgwood houses, and from the age of five Arthur attended Etruria National School until fourteen when, at Easter 1930, he commenced his employment in the design department at Wedgwood. After the death of his father in 1932 sixteen-year-old Arthur and his mother moved to a house at the top end of the park in Etruria Vale Road.
Moore’s hand-drawn map of Etruria reveals further insight into some of the changes in the area during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Pretoria Road and its adjoining streets appeared to be known locally as ‘Little South Africa’ due to their names. Towards the bottom of Salem Street the area was referred to as ‘Little Italy’ for the same reason. Behind the houses on the north side of Lord Street between Forge Lane and Fowlea Brook were a series of allotments, and a terrace of six railway employee cottages had been built between the station and where the loop line branched. During the 1930s Cavour Street was extended to form one continuous street between Salem Street and Etruscan Street, having two rows of semi-detached houses. Likewise the east side of Etruscan Street had also been extended in the same way.
During the General Strike of 1926 a social club was formed in a wooden hut that was purchased and erected by some of the residents between the school and Wooliscroft’s brickworks. From this, the Etruscan Choral Society was formed under the leadership of Harry Vincent, their first public performance being in 1927. Despite briefly disbanding when many of the Society’s members were drafted into the services during the Second World War, it nevertheless continued to perform and won much acclaim. Eventually the Society purchased a disused chapel in Humbert Street which was renamed The Etruscan Philharmonic Hall, and by the 1950s boasted over one hundred members.
For those at the Wedgwood factory a number of social activities exclusive to employees existed. The old mill pool at the rear of the works was filled in and during the late 1920s two tennis courts were built on the newly created space. In summer employees would play during the lunch hour, the games becoming very popular with spectators who sat around the courts with their sandwiches instead of going to the canteen. The standard of play was good and matches took place with other clubs located throughout the district. A lunchtime table tennis club also existed and the team went on to become the North Staffordshire champions in 1932, and in the top three of that league for a number of years. The works also had football and cricket teams.
During the late 1920s a small number of employees formed the Wedgwood Amateur Dramatic Society, known by its initials as WADS. Occasional performances were given in the theatre near to the canteen in the north west corner of the works. The WADS also performed for the benefit of local charities throughout the district, including Newcastle, Tunstall and Penkhull. A social club was formed about 1936 for which a penny a week was deducted from the wages. This club was held on Wednesday evenings with beginners’ dance classes sometimes held at lunchtimes.
Most of the houses in the village still lacked electricity, running hot water and inside toilets well into the twentieth century. Yet these must not be thought of as being sub-standard, as a description of similar-sized properties in a small square off Hanley’s Marsh Street at the beginning of the century revealed. These contained ‘one fair sized room downstairs with a small backplace and two corresponding rooms upstairs. The ceilings are low and in one or two cases badly broken so that there is the danger of the bedstead foot coming through. There is one water tap for the use of all eleven houses and one dustbin. At the bottom of the yard are five WCs, the use of which is shared by the houses in pairs. They are in a very bad condition. In several cases the backplace is of no use owing to the want of a fire grate. None of them have any sink or any convenience for washing’.
Harold Mills was born in 1925 at 81 Lord Street, next door to the Methodist chapel. Even as late as the 1940s the house, along with many others, was still without electricity, running hot water and an inside toilet. The interior comprised of a good-sized front room, a large pantry and a small back kitchen, the floors of which were red-quarry tiles that were scrubbed clean. Above these were two bedrooms and a box room. A cellar ran the length of the house, and fitted out with alcoves and stone slabs above which hung hooks, probably used originally for hanging meat. The rear garden joined onto the chapel wall, and at the end was a flush toilet. ‘After it had gone dark I didn’t like going down the garden to the toilet but we all had chamber pots under the beds for during the night.’
In the front room was a fire range and in the kitchen a brick-built boiler lit by a fire underneath. The sink was fitted only with a cold water tap. Downstairs was overrun by cockroaches. ‘Walking back from Hanley my dad always sent me on in front. I would go in and jump on the table on my knees, light the gas mantle and stay there until the floor that was black with them had cleared.’
‘Bath night was in a long tin bath in front of the fire. My sister would go first, then me followed by my brother, all in the same water. Washday was always on Monday and lasted from 6am until midnight, with me turning the mangle for my mother. The lady that lived opposite us and would breastfeed her baby in the doorway. Later, another of her daughters attempted suicide by jumping into the canal but was saved. One man who succeeded, however, had to be pulled out of the canal by my father.’
Harold also recalled that during the 1930s the Silverdale Co-op shop stood just above the canal bridge. Continuing down the south side of Lord Street was Jack Hood’s barber’s shop on the corner of Salem Street, and another shop on the opposite corner. Just before the Vine Inn on the corner of Humbert Street were Harry Vincent’s shoe shop, Ball’s chip shop, and lower down Eardley’s chip shop. On the opposite corner to the Vine Inn were Shipman’s newsagents, Freddie Berrisford’s tobacconists, Keen’s (or Kane’s) drapers shop, and Abbot’s greengrocers before reaching the Methodist chapel. A distinctive bow-windowed shop located a few doors down from the chapel was Walklate’s which sold various pottery items. On the corner of Etruscan Street stood Brunt’s confectionery and grocer’s shop, and on the opposite corner the Railway Inn. There were also two further shops passed before reaching the station, one of which was Birks’ that ‘always smelt of paraffin.’ Returning up along the other side of Lord Street were Anderson’s grocers, next to which stood Palmer’s butchers and another barbers’ on the corner of Forge Lane. On the opposite corner was the Lamb Inn. ‘This was probably the busiest pub in Etruria as the ironworkers would pass it on their way home from work. On pay-day it was quite common to see women standing outside in an attempt to prevent their husbands going inside. One woman used to come all the way from Blythe Bridge to stop her husband drinking his wages.’ Between the Lamb Inn and the Etruria Inn stood the Post Office that also operated as a stationer. Further up, Grove Farm, originally an outbuilding to Etruria Hall, had become a petrol station. The bathhouse provided for the workers located near to Forge Lane was also still in use. Soap and towel were available for 1d. Most people had one bath a week, usually in the dinner hour, women on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and men on the other days of the week.
On the corner of Cavour Street and Garibaldi Street was Mr Sheard’s printing shop with its old-fashioned press that he worked with a foot treadle. ‘He would let us wander in and watch, the room being crammed with type and ink. Mrs Lockett had a dairy in Cavour Street. I would take a jug round to her, the milk costing a farthing. If I gave her a halfpenny I would receive a small piece of cardboard with ‘farthing’ written on it which could be used next time. When the churns were empty she would wheel them down to the station on their rims at great speed.’
‘I worked for Anderson’s as an errand boy delivering bread at dinnertime and groceries during the evenings. I also picked weeds out, cleaned windows and cutlery, and drowned kittens, earning 2s 6d a week. On Saturday nights I would sweep the pavement. Sam Palmer would sometimes ask me to sweep the pavement in front of his shop too. I would be rewarded with a paper full of various meats such as chops with which my mother would be delighted. Mr Anderson would put posters in his shop window advertising the Theatre Royal for which he would receive two complimentary tickets. He took me to the show every Monday night, walking there and back.’
‘The ironworkers from Shelton Bar coming and going to work would stop and buy cigarettes from Berrisford’s, but on Sundays when the shop was closed Mr Berrisford would bring trays of cigarettes to our house where they would call and buy them. Sometimes my father would give me a penny and tell me to fetch The Sentinel newspaper. After he had read it he would make me go and sell it on the street to get the penny back.
‘He was a labourer at Wooliscroft’s Brickworks, working in the marl hole that stretched from the brickworks up to the top of Garibaldi Street. Sometimes he would come home soaked to the skin. His wages were between fifteen and twenty-five shillings a week according to the weather. Overtime consisted of punching in the oven doors after the bricks had been fired. After school, at the age of about nine or ten, I would go to the brickworks and hold a three-foot iron chisel that my Dad would hit with a sledgehammer to break down the doors. Each time the bar was struck I winced. After we had finished he would put his arm around my shoulder and we would walk home. Yet it was a great life.’
Alf Wakefield was born in1926 in Garibaldi Street. After the death of his father he lived as a small boy with his mother in the front room above Lucy McCabe’s dress shop in Lord Street. From the bedroom window he could see Palmers’ Butcher’s shop on the corner of Forge Lane and remembers both sheep and cows being driven along the main street from the railway station to the slaughterhouse. At Christmas lines of turkeys hung outside while the window contained a row of pigs’ heads with oranges in their mouths. He also recalls Mrs Lockett in her long black skirt and head shawl selling milk from churns that she wheeled on their rims down the road. Later in the day she would return selling coal from a handcart. A man also came around the village with a tray piled high with pottery items for sale, advertising his presence with a bell.
In addition to the shops described by Harold Mills, Barbara Jolley also recalls that between Berrisford’s Tobacconist’s and the Methodist Chapel was Haddon’s bike shop where people would take their radio accumulators [large batteries] to be charged, Mrs Haddon also being the local agent for the Provident Savings Club. Barnett’s ice cream shop occupied the corner of Lord Street and Salem Street, and between Kelly’s fish and chip shop and the Vine Inn was also an oatcake shop.
Due to extensive mining that had taken place subsidence began to occur in Etruria towards the end of the nineteenth century, gradually worsening throughout the twentieth century. The severity is best demonstrated by comparing the photograph taken of the front of the Wedgwood factory by Harry Barnard in 1898 and one taken from the identical viewpoint in 1931 by Harold White, by which time the factory had sunk about eight feet. The subsidence caused problems with drains, the constant flooding of cellars during wet weather, and the sagging and buckling of the tracks of the newly installed tunnel kilns. Subsidence not only affected buildings – posts were placed around the outer edge of the triangular piece of land that lay in the ornamental sheet of water in the canal outside the northern end of the factory. As subsidence continued one side of this land gradually disappeared causing it to become an island which itself slowly disappeared. In addition to subsidence air pollution was another problem. Smoke from trains climbing the gradient of the loop line and iron filings drifting up from Shelton Bar were a constant cause of ware being speckled. Also, because the area was now built-up there was no longer land available for extension. The question of finding a new location for the factory was first addressed at a meeting of the board of directors on November 26th, 1935.
The proposal to relocate was announced to the workforce at a lunchtime meeting in the canteen on Friday May 14th 1936. The news was broken by Josiah Wedgwood V who confirmed that due to the severity of subsidence relocation was inevitable, and that the Company had purchased an estate at Barlaston where the new factory would be built. He spoke of the ideal working conditions that the new factory would offer, the sporting facilities and the estate of houses that would be built, painting a promising picture in an attempt to pacify the workforce. The majority accepted the news in the best of spirits, except for those who were advanced in years. They were concerned about travelling and realised that it would mean the end of their careers at Wedgwood. To these the Company showed compassion by allowing them to remain at the old Etruria factory after it had officially moved to Barlaston in 1940.
7. Decline and Demolition
The huge task of transferring the works from Etruria was accomplished in two halves, and only the earthenware and Jasper departments moved to Barlaston in 1940. China production remained at the old factory until 1947 and accounted for a large proportion of the workforce. Because the move occurred during the Second World War a number of employees had been drafted into the armed forces. Wartime restrictions meant that production for the home market had automatically reduced although America showed its support by increasing trade. Between September 1939 and October 1940 the workforce had reduced considerably, and by 1942 the number of employees retained at Etruria had fallen to seventy-five. The majority of the old factory not used for china production was utilised for the storage of moulds and dismantled machinery. Certain areas had been leased out to other companies for storage premises and included the Dunlop Rubber Company and Shelton Bar.
During the war the Wedgwood factory canteen served dinners to the pupils of Etruria Schools, the children arriving at the works at noon each day. A fire-fighting force was retained at the factory for fire-watching purposes during non-working hours including evenings and weekends. On weekdays an evening shift would be replaced at 10pm by a team that would stay throughout the night, sleeping on benches or whatever they found comfortable. Despite now being a heavily industrialised area the factory remained relatively unscathed. Air raids occurred virtually every night, especially during the Battle of Britain in 1940. Arthur Moore recalled that one night Etruria was smothered in incendiary bombs. From the factory, as part of the fire-watching team, he watched as the incendiaries dropped all over Etruria from Shelton Bar to around his own home at the top of the park. Damage to the factory was minimal. One of the incendiary bombs fell through the roof and onto the floor where one of the team threw his coat over it, while another fell into a pile of raw clay that extinguished it. However not so lucky was the boathouse belonging to Navigation House, home of the canal engineer Harry Curbishley, that was destroyed by a bomb. To offer the residents protection a tunnel shelter capable of accommodating a large number of people was constructed in nearby Tinkerslough. Similar to the London Tube tunnels, the only amenity was electric lighting strung along the arched roof. Each night many people took refuge in their own regular place, sleeping on beds or chairs. In addition twenty air raid shelters had also been erected at Etruria by 1941.
Another casualty of the bombs was St Matthew’s Church, and on the night of June 30th 1940 it fell victim to a German air raid. All of the windows were blown out and most of the roof collapsed. The church had previously had a constant battle with subsidence. During a Eucharist service two years earlier the curate Reverend Horwood and the choir were hit by tiles falling from the walls. On another occasion Horwood and the verger both witnessed the floor of the church ‘rising and falling like the stomach of a great beast’, attributed to an escaping pocket of gas or air. Eventually the floor settled and was able to be trampled flat again, although a further incident involved a fifteen-foot column of water that gushed from the rear end of the nave flooding the church.
Following extensive repair work to the church the Bishop of Lichfield unveiled six stained glass windows on January 22nd 1950. One of these bore the inscription ‘Little Jimmy’ in memory of Jimmy Straw, a well-loved member of the Sunday School, who lost his life in 1940 when a bomb fell on his home. The names of thirteen other boys who also lost their lives during the war were also commemorated in the windows. Further results of subsidence caused sinkage of the ground that later necessitated the removal of the gravestones and the churchyard levelled over with soil.
By 1951 the only work carried on at the old Wedgwood factory was the making and firing of setters and flint calcining. The majority of remaining equipment either to be disposed of or still brought over to Barlaston was now concentrated in the mill area. The remainder of the estate was then sold to the steelworks. These had been modernised towards the end of the 1930s during which time the workforce numbered 4,500.
An article entitled ‘A Tour of The Potteries’ in The Land We Live In magazine described Etruria in 1951: ‘The streets in which the operatives live contain houses of equal height and have an equal number of windows, all of which are decked with flowers placed in pots, which would shame our London pots; all the street doors opening into the best parlours have mahogany chests of drawers. It appears that the potters have a very commendable bit of pride concerning this article of furniture and there can be little doubt that the treasures stored away in such receptacles often comprise no small amount of display and finery for Sunday’s wear’. Between 1951 and 1953 Shelton Bar transformed the old Hall fields into a thirty-seven acre sports ground for hosting both football and cricket matches (this is now the site of the current marina).
Etruria was not ignored by the great swathe of slum clearances and rehousing schemes of the 1950s. Of the 85,450 inhabited houses in the city of Stoke on Trent it was estimated that 20,000 were built between 1870 and 1914, and large estates of council built houses also began to appear in various parts of the city. Although some welcomed the prospect of moving to a better environment, compulsory demolition orders caused upset for many who felt that they were being torn from their roots. One of these was an elderly Etruscan lady whom declared ‘I pray that God will take me before they come’. This case was (rather unusually) dealt with sympathetically and she remained in her house almost until the time of her death.
Demolition of the houses after compulsory purchase began in early 1957. Ernest Warrillow visited Etruria on June 2nd after demolition had begun and described the setting in the evening sun. ‘The silence of Lord Street (now Etruria Road) is such as is rarely experienced in our city that it brings home the fact that Etruria is still a village – if a dying one. The remaining few loyal worshippers filing slowly into the Methodist Chapel seem oblivious of the desolation of their ghost village. The houses are in the last stages of enforced decay. Doors hang drunkenly, windows shattered, roofs and ceilings half gone. The houses that Josiah Wedgwood built for his workpeople, about the year 1769, are in various stages of demolition’.
The bridge over the canal had to be raised to overcome subsidence, resulting in a heavy incline when approaching from the station, which by the late 1950s formed a steep hill. By 1960 the church was again unsafe due to the continual subsidence, the walls having to be secured with iron rods. Later alterations also necessitated the removal of the tower.
From the beginning of the 1950s the Wedgwood factory had had several occupants, becoming steadily more dilapidated, and during the early 1960s suffered from vandalism. During this period the factory was in the hands of St Quentin Properties who planned to demolish those parts of the works not deemed by the Ministry of Housing as being of particular historic interest, and to use the land as a light industrial estate. The original intention was to preserve the original office block of 1769, two bottle kilns behind the main building and the round house immediately to one side of it. Attempts to raise both sufficient interest and capital failed, however, and demolition of the Wedgwood factory took place during September 1965. All was cleared away, the only buildings spared being one of the two round houses.
Not all the buildings in the main street were demolished during the 1950s and 1960s. The Railway Inn, the Etruria Inn and the Bridge Inn were all left unscathed. The latter was still standing in 1976 when it was described as having a small back room with green-painted high-backed wooden seats that lined the plain walls. In the centre of the well-scrubbed red quarry floor stood a solitary cast iron table. In complete contrast the larger room was well lit, with windows on the outside wall illuminating the bars and shelves. There were bottles of all colours, shapes and sizes containing a wide selection of drinks and many of the original features still adorned the walls.
Shelton Bar began to slowly close shortly after its nationalisation during the 1960s and continued to decline throughout the 1970s. Despite the formation of an action committee to help save the remaining 3,000 employees by the end of the 1970s the workforce had dwindled to 400. Within three decades Etruria had lost both of its primary industries. A skeleton staff of less than one hundred remained at the site until the end of the following decade but its reduction in operations had resulted in a great expanse of derelict land.
By the beginning of the 1980s this land had been acquired by the City Council who began to instigate a regeneration programme. The last few houses in Lord Street were finally demolished to make way for the dual carriageway that replaced the main road from Cobridge to Newcastle in Novemeber 1981, the course of which lay slightly to the north of Lord Street. This became renamed as Etruria Old Road and the only buildings to escape demolition were the Methodist chapel, the large detached house that had belonged to the Shirley family, and the Railway Inn (now The Rendezvous).
After the closure of the National School in 1978 the building was used by the council as a storage and repair centre for audio-visual equipment. This resulted in extensive alterations to the internal layout with the sub-division of larger classrooms and the bricking-up of some of the original doors.
As early as 1981 a proposal was announced that the area would be landscaped to house the 1986 National Garden Festival, thus creating 2,000 jobs. Areas of woodland were planted, artificial lakes formed and Etruria Hall was renovated after suffering from years of dereliction. Although not attracting the volume of visitors it had expected, largely due to consecutive wet summers, the National Garden Festival was still deemed a success. After its closure in 1988 St Modwen Developers secured the site of about 160 acres, sixty-five of which were to remain as open parkland and the remaining ninety-five utilised for development. This took place shortly afterwards and consisted of a number of leisure facilities including a multi-screen cinema, bowling alley, swimming pool complex and a dry ski-slope. The neighbouring retail park, occupying the site of the former Etruria racecourse, included a Morrison’s supermarket and a number of retail stores and fast-food outlets. Etruria Hall was converted into a four-star hotel and nearby a number of offices and light industrial warehouses were built. The canal was also renovated and a large marina constructed. The site of the Wedgwood works became developed and occupied by another long-established local business, The Sentinel newspaper. To ease the traffic congestion at the entrance to the retail park a flyover was constructed in 1992.
Today it is difficult to visualise the thriving community that once existed between the canal and railway bridges. Traversing the main artery from the city centre in the direction of Newcastle it is easy to miss these two boundaries. As the casual observer travels along the dual-carriageway and gazes south he may pick out the plain-faced Methodist chapel, Etruscan Cottage and the former Railway Inn, the only remaining buildings visible on a small lane that now leads to nowhere.
When Lord Street was demolished the majority of other streets remained unaltered until fairly recently. A few of the remaining terraced houses were still standing although unoccupied as late as 2004. Humbert Street is now the gateway to the newly-developed Lakeside View housing estate. After standing vacant for a number of years the National School, the last remaining building on Humbert Street, was finally demolished in January 2005, the site now occupied by apartments. Cavour Street, now operating a one-way system, remains largely unaltered from its initial development that took place during the 1930s. The small school building still stands at the rear of the Methodist chapel, and at the bottom stand the only remaining terraced houses in Etruria. Salem Street shows no evidence of it once being a residential street and now contains only small industrial premises, while the course of Garibaldi Street is still visible on derelict land. Although the terraced houses on Etruscan Street have been removed the semi-detached houses of the 1930s are still in existence before the new properties on the Lakeside View estate are reached. More than 230 years after its original conception, and after fifty years of decline, Etruria is once more developing as a residential area.
8. Memories of an Etruscan
A week before her eighty-fifth birthday in June 1979, Helen Elizabeth Burton (nee Poole) decided to capture her memories in an exercise book. Although rarely mentioning her adult life she describes what life was like during her early years providing a picture of the experiences of a young Etruscan female during the early years of the twentieth century. She was born on 29th June 1894 in a small cottage [either Garibaldi or Cavour Street] opposite the National School. ‘In those days anyone born between the canal bridge and Etruria station was called an Etruscan’, a status that she proudly claimed. Next door lived Uncle Arthur and Aunt Ellen [Rhodes – her mother’s eldest sister]. As they had no children of their own her early years were spent ‘divided’ between them and her own parents.
Her father, Charles Ball, was a highly skilled gilder who worked for a period at Wedgwood, where he met her mother, Elizabeth Ann Poole, who was employed as a paintress. The couple were married in 1883 at Trinity Church, Hanley. Because high-class work was scarce, Charles, Elizabeth and their first child, one-year-old Harry, moved to Derby in 1887 as Charles had found employment at the Crown Derby Pottery. Eight years later (1895) they returned to Etruria and lived with Aunt Florrie and Uncle Jack (a younger sister of her mother’s) and it was at that house Helen was born. Conditions were understandably cramped, and two years later when her youngest brother Arthur was born in 1896 the family took up residence at number twelve Garibaldi Street.
Helen described her father as a ‘slightly built man with very black hair and an imposing beard’, who although being very Victorian and stern, never scolded or smacked his children. He attended the Bethesda Chapel at Hanley, where he was the organist for a period, and then at a chapel ‘at a place called Rough Close’, her phrase suggesting that anywhere outside of the immediate vicinity was alien. At home they had a small harmonium that she taught herself to play by watching her father placing his fingers on the keys in conjunction with the score. He was also keen on botany and used to take Helen out into the country and tell her the names of the wild flowers growing in the hedgerows. Other trips were made with Uncle Arthur to Trentham Gardens or Alton Towers, or with the Sunday school to places such as Beech Caves and Mow Cop.
In contrast to her father, Helen described her mother as being very jolly and comical. She remembered her as ‘quite attractive with lovely complexion and black curly hair, before later becoming plump, often wearing a black dress with small buttons down the bodice. She was a good cook, despite having no gas stove in the early days. Everything was either cooked in the oven, on the hobs in large iron saucepans, or before the fire on a stand with a tin bonnet’. Although the family was rather poor Helen always remembered having good meals, and hearing her mother claim that she could ‘make soup with a ducker stone’. The exercise book also contained a recipe for oatcakes for which she claimed never having had a Sunday breakfast without them.
On Sunday mornings, accompanied by her father, Helen would visit her grandmother. Despite being neatly dressed she would always arrive home in a different set of clothes, such as frocks down to her ankles, much to her mother’s dismay ‘fancy dressing our Nellie in those old-fashioned things!’ She never wrote about her grandfather on her father’s side. In 1881 Charles Ball senior had been foreman of the china gilders at Wedgwood and the family, including her then eleven-year-old father, occupied the foreman’s house, one of the dwellings that ran along the canal adjoining the factory.
Neither did Helen know her grandfather on her mother’s side. Hezekiah Poole had died before she was born on Boxing Day 1892 while going to a wedding in Longport. In 1881 the family were living at 36 Cavour Street, with Hezekiah employed as an earthenware presser, although his omission from the ‘List of Hands’ compiled by Cecil Wedgwood two years later suggests that this may not have been at the Wedgwood factory. He had been a sergeant in the Etruria volunteers, the artillery regiment headed by Colonel Roden. However, she learnt from her mother how he hated being ‘strapped up in his uniform’, the act of which always involved ‘a lot of puffing and bellowing, to say nothing of a few swear words. Grandfather Poole was very proud. Sometimes they were unable to afford a roast for Sunday dinner and had to substitute a pluck. According to my mother he would still stand at the front door when people were coming out of the Wesleyan Chapel sharpening a carving knife on steel as if they were having a roast’.
‘There were no hot water bottles in bed during the winter. Instead bricks were heated in the oven, wrapped in flannel, and then placed in the bed. Everything was very primitive. We didn’t have water closets, rather a wooden seat with a hole in the middle and a wooden cover. Night soil men came in the middle of the night to empty the buckets. Ashes from the fire were taken to the ash pit at the top of our long yard. All vegetable refuse and paper was burnt on our coal fire. Later our landlords, the Brayfords, had the old type of toilets removed and water closets installed’. Neither was there a bathroom. ‘We had a long zinc bath and a smaller one. Washing clothes was hard work. We had a wooden tub and a dolly peg, with an iron boiler to heat the water, and a wringer with large wooden rollers’.
‘During the evenings near to Christmas we would go from the chapel carol singing. It was often freezing cold and sometimes snowing. We stood in a circle and someone would carry a lantern on a pole. We would collect quite a lot of money for the chapel funds’. Every Christmas morning before daylight ‘Trumpetor’ Sheard who belonged to the Salvation Army would walk around the streets of the village playing ‘Christians, Awake!’ ‘It was such a beautiful, clear sound, nobody minded being wakened if they were asleep. After he died his son Arthur carried on the tradition until he himself became too old’. [At the time she recorded these memories Arthur Sheard had just turned ninety years of age on 5th May 1979, being the only other original Etruscan still living].
‘I was good at school and could have gone to Hanley High School for girls, but the uniform had to be paid for. My mother had to refuse the headmistress of Etruria School because we were short of money. I was spoken for at Wedgwood’s and learnt the art of decorating until I was twenty-one, at which time I had a gold half-sovereign. While an apprentice I was paid only a very small sum of money – 2s and 1s 9d on alternative weeks. It took seven years to learn gilding, banding, lining, lustre and enamelling. After I came out of my time I went onto piecework and could earn a lot more money’.
Among the several grocers and greengrocers there were three butchers, two fish and chip shops, two bakers where you could take home-made bread to be baked at a half-penny per loaf, and a tiny Post Office inside someone’s front parlour. One of the butchers was Palmers. Old Mr Palmer and his son Samuel used to go to the cattle market at Newcastle. It was a common sight to see the animals being driven up Lord Street and into the slaughterhouse in Forge Lane. At Christmas they used to have a display of dead pigs in front of their shop, each with an orange in its mouth. Another butcher was Mr Faram, a big man with a spade-like beard, who made the most delicious savoury ducks’.
‘A farming family named Whittiker rented the front room of a house in Lord Street. They came from Ashley by horse and cart every Saturday morning bringing fresh fruit and vegetables, and butter in small moulds with the impression of a cow, thistle or shamrock. In winter they mould be muffled up in shawls and blankets. At the end of the day they would be so tired that they just told the horse to take them home, which he did’.
Another family she remembered were the Corbishley’s. ‘Living with Mr and Mrs Corbishley was Mrs Corbishley’s sister, Sarah. The two women were like two men, with moustaches, and I always thought that they were men dressed as women. They kept cows, which Sarah milked in a cowshed at the bottom of the old part of Cavour Street, and put out to pasture in Shirley’s Field, running down the centre of which was a stream. At Christmas Mrs Corbishley always brought us bottles of elderberry wine and mince pies as large as saucers. Needless to say we couldn’t eat the mince pies knowing who had made them’.
Even during the earlier part of the twentieth century the last remnants of rural society still existed with ‘Clark’s Farm with its cows and duck pond, and cornfields that came down to the loop line. Flowers were everywhere in the small gardens and the fields – kingcups, lady smocks and cowslips. In the woods during early spring the banks would be covered with bluebells, with masses of hawthorn hedges, the perfume pervaded everywhere’.
Note. A pluck consists of a heart and liver of an animal, savoured with onion and sage. Although agreeing that it sounds awful she concluded that it was ‘very tasty nevertheless’.
The story of Etruria is that of a factory-dominated neighbourhood that still retained much of its rural identity until the enforced sale of a large part of the estate seventy-five years after its conception. This became a passport that allowed other industries to develop which, through changes both above and below the ground, eventually led to the end of the community that Josiah Wedgwood had originally established
Wedgwood had been aware that the establishment of a community of workers’ houses in close proximity to his purpose-built factory was also a means of contributing to increased production. These were built as capital investment, all to the same design and with no architectural adornments, although each had an ample rear yard and individual outdoor toilet, a consideration that some later manufacturers neglected to include. To Wedgwood they offered social control as well as appearing as an act of philanthropy. Whatever the motives, the design of the houses both externally and internally without any deviation, was still being used as a model for some working-class houses within the Potteries seventy years later
There were no differences between those properties occupied by key employees such as modellers or managers and those occupied by manual workers. This was because the hierarchical structure of employees was either still in its infancy or had yet to be developed. Therefore Etruria differed from later workers’ communities such as Saltaire and Bournville
Additions or improvements made to some of the properties less than thirty years after their construction suggest that Wedgwood did not ignore requests from his tenants. That the cost of such improvements were added to the rents again suggests capital investment. This can be amplified by the few commercial premises being charged more. Yet rents were lower than some workers’ dwellings built by other manufacturers. The houses built at Etruria, although of similar design, appeared to have better facilities and therefore offered better value for money for the tenants.
The occupancy of the houses appeared to be fairly stable. The fact that widows were allowed to remain in the properties also suggests philanthropy, and the fact that they were paying the same in rent as their husbands indicates that Wedgwood still provided them with employment to do so. Philanthropy is also suggested by the bath house built for the use of the boat people
From its conception Etruria had never been a self-sufficient community. Although the inn and several bakehouses had been built other household necessities would have been obtained from nearby Hanley or Burslem. The first school was not constructed until more than forty years after the village had originally been laid out, and neither was there provision for worship during its formative years.
However, the village did continue to expand slowly from its original layout. After a temporary lull from the beginning of the 1820s to the end of the 1840s expansion increased rapidly. From the 1850s the number of dwelling houses along with the number and variety of retailers, inns and beer houses rapidly increased. This boom in growth occurred during a thirty-year period that ended in the late 1870s and which drastically changed the face of the village. This resulted in the arrival of many immigrants who found employment in the expanding ironworks established in 1839 and what would eventually become one of the primary motives for the relocation of the Wedgwood factory exactly one hundred years later. This was the turning point when Etruria ceased to be a Wedgwood-dominated neighbourhood as the residents were no longer dependent upon Wedgwood for employment.
The rapid expansion in the iron industry had a more dramatic effect visually on the community. When the Wedgwood factory expanded it did so inwardly within its own complex, largely due to mechanisation that required little or no extra space being needed, and therefore less visible in terms of growth. However, the iron industry expanded outwardly. Despite the colossal size of the furnaces themselves the industry was responsible for other sundry buildings such as the Furnace Inn as well as its own railway lines that contributed to the changing face of the landscape
Wedgwood managed to balance industrialisation without eradicating the community’s rural aspect as paintings, contemporary descriptions and the constant payments in the Company’s account books concerning husbandry testify. Until the development of the iron and steel industry the community was still surrounded by woods and fields
When Etruria reached its zenith in terms of growth towards the end of the nineteenth century its composition differed little from the other pottery towns of Stoke on Trent. Most households were headed by married couples, and three-quarters of families were mainly nuclear. Those households containing extended family members largely consisted of married offspring with their children, therefore accounting for the high number of grandchildren. This may have been through financial necessity caused by unemployment or the death of a spouse as shortage of housing did not appear to be a problem. Most marriages were fairly localised with relatively close ages between partners and three-quarters of all children were born to mothers aged between nineteen and thirty. Both remarriages and illegitimacy appeared to be minimal although admittedly these were difficult to detect. The number of married offspring in Etruria along with the presence of other family members suggested that a strong network of kinship existed.
Where Etruria did differ markedly from the other Potteries towns was with its lure of immigrants. Although immigration also accounted for similar sized percentages of population elsewhere, Etruria attracted a considerably higher number of Welsh and those from the Black Country due to the flourishing iron industry. Another marked difference was the almost total absence of Irish immigrants, usually considerably more numerous in the other towns.
A third of males listed with employment were potters and a quarter were ironworkers. The division was distilled further with tradesmen, retailers, clerical workers and railway staff. Where possible it would appear that sons would follow their fathers into the same trade. Over half the women listed as being employed were potters, as were the majority of the small number of children that were listed with an employment. Despite a wide hierarchy in pottery workers there was little segregation outside the factory with different workers living next door to each other, rather than certain areas having been established for certain groups of worker.
Despite most of the houses lacking electricity, running hot water and inside toilets well into the twentieth century by contemporary descriptions these were not regarded as sub-standard. A number of old Etruscans, although possibly through rose-tinted nostalgia, have painted a picture of daily life during the 1930s and 1940s, in which there is no mention of neglect or dissatisfaction. Contemporary descriptions as late as the 1950s reveal the clean and well-kept appearance of the houses of the village. The great post-war slum clearances and rehousing schemes of the city council managed to evade Etruria until 1957. That the planners did not turn their attention to Etruria until long after the rehousing schemes had been developed suggests that the community was not as bad as many other places. The sense of community spirit still prevailed until the end. At the close of the 1970s one elderly resident born in the village still proudly proclaimed to being ‘an Etruscan’.