To refer to Harry Barnard as simply an artist is to do him a serious injustice. During a 33-year career at Wedgwood his other occupations also included modeller, designer, manager of the tile department at Etruria, manager of the London Showroom, museum curator, and public relations officer, in addition to author and lecturer.
My interest in Barnard was not generated through any of his designs or the highly artistic pieces of ware that he produced, but through a photograph of him. Here was a man who would wander around the factory at Etruria wearing a fez! I couldn’t help being drawn, like many of us are, to the ideal of the English eccentric. Secondly, he bears a striking resemblance to one of my musical heroes, Frank Zappa. But as Frank would say, now for the serious stuff...
He was born on June 8th 1862 at Belinda Terrace, Canonbury, in the London district of Islington. Virtually nothing is known of his formative years although a reference in a later journal recalls his ‘early schooldays at Belper’. The eldest of six children, he left school at the age of fifteen to work in the modelling shop of the family business of silversmiths. This evidently didn’t suit him for shortly afterwards he enrolled at The Royal School of Art to study drawing and modelling. In 1880 he found employment at the Doulton Lambeth studios at Fulham assisting in producing ornamental vases and commemorative jugs decorated with portrait medallions. In 1884, at the age of twenty-two, he had become under-manager of the studios which then employed 370 people. He also began producing unique exhibition pieces as well as designing the exhibition stands. During fourteen years service he invented or perfected many processes of production and decoration.
In 1894 he resigned and the following February joined James Mackintyre of Cobridge, introducing a new style of decoration, a form of pate-sur-pate, which he called ‘Gesso Faience’, a term that appeared on the backstamp of Barnard’s designs from this period. This included stencilling with slip, which was embellished further with the application of tube-lining with more slip. Pieces attributed to Barnard include an eggcup and stand with individual salt and pepper containers in the form of birds eggs. However his two-year contract was not renewed and in August 1897 he joined Wedgwood on a six-month trial as a slip decorator. The following year he had become artistic director producing work that included piercing, slip trailing, tube-lining and sgraffito on a variety of ware, including tiles, becoming manager of the tile department in 1899.
Economic fluctuations, including those brought about by the Boar War, meant the closure of the tile department in 1902. He was spared redundancy and moved to London to manage the Wedgwood Showrooms. In 1914 he made his first overseas trip to ‘preach the gospel of Wedgwood’ (as he put it), setting sail on July 3rd for the six-week journey to Australia. Shortly before his arrival however the outbreak of the First World War understandably had a devastating effect upon the prospect of doing business, finding that to talk of business almost felt like a criminal offence. Visiting the firm of Anthony Ordern and Sons in Sydney, with whom he had pre-arranged his first exhibition, they expected Barnard to return on the next boat. Instead he adapted his programme of events as best he could, and the first exhibition opened on December 1st, two months later than originally planned, principally due to the delays in shipping. The exhibition was housed in three adjoining galleries that comprised of almost an acre in terms of size. He had taken with him some thousands of pounds worth of stock, and its success far exceeded his own expectations as well as those of Wedgwood’s. His intention had been to hold exhibitions in all the principal cities but owing to the conditions he found this impossible. However, he did manage to exhibit in Wellington, Melbourne and Adelaide. Like the exhibition in Sydney, these further ones were all considered very successful despite the general dislocation of business. During the tour he also hosted a number of lectures entitled ‘Josiah Wedgwood – His Life and Work’, illustrated with some 200 lantern slides and a film describing a tour of the Etruria works.
He arrived home on June 15th 1915, and remained in London until 1919 when he returned to Etruria having being given the task of expanding the museum, succeeding Isaac Cook as curator. He also acted as public relations officer for the firm. The same year he was asked to produce a new edition of the Portland vase, the trials for which occupied him for four years, which was the same length of time that the original trials occupied Josiah I. Between 1923 and 1930 he produced a total of 195, most of which were mounted on a mirrored stand to reflect the base. Others were set on another special stand which he designed incorporating jasper replicas of the four panels of the original sarcophagus in miniature.
However, it was not exclusively replicas of the Portland vase that he produced. In 1922 he designed fourteen enormous Black Basalt vases and plinths for the staircase of the Wyatt wing of Winnington Hall in Cheshire. In 1925 he embarked on a new development in conjunction with the Cameograph Photosculpture Company, where photographs of the sitter were translated into Jasper medallions.
In 1927 he was responsible for the largest piece of Wedgwood ware ever produced, made for the shop front of Beeshy’s English China Store at Ridgway, Ontario. The Black Basalt panel 53” square, 5” thick and weighing 800 Ibs, depicted a thrower alongside an extract from Omar Khayam. He solved the problem of firing the large panel without warping by cutting it into forty-two irregular shapes, like the pieces of a stained glass window, and afterwards joining them together in a previously-prepared screen.
The following year he undertook a lecture tour of America which he recorded in detail in ‘My Trip to The West 1928’, being one of two travel journals that he compiled and to which we will return shortly. Wedgwood’s AGM of stockholders held in New York the following year recorded that the advertising value of his visit would make itself very favourably felt over a long period of years. Sadly any benefit that was expected to come of his visit was cancelled by the effects of the Wall Street crash.
The depression in trade back at home meant that in 1930 he fell victim to cutbacks at Etruria. Now aged 68, he was devastated and wrote in his personal journal of the following year referring to the 7th generation of Wedgwood’s who had assumed leadership of the factory on the sudden death of Frank WW in 1930: ‘I have not a word to say against them; they are good men, and will make good I have not the least doubt; but they do not know by experience what has happened and to whom the firm owes much of its success…they have got the ‘wind up’ very badly, and last year’s big loss means drastic retrenchment…years of service and past performances do not seem to appeal much…so the axe has dropped on me…’ He accepted (with reluctance) semi-retirement with a retaining fee of a quarter of his previous salary and continued to lecture on Wedgwood all around the country.
During semi-retirement he also produced unique pieces of his own design which he sold himself, paying only for the raw materials. It was not only at Etruria where he continued to pot. During the 1920s Barnard appears to have been acquainted with a couple called the Neaverson’s who owned a small pottery studio in Huddersfield. Harry, or ‘Dustie’ as he was affectionately known, often stayed with the family and on these visits would often make gifts. Their daughter later recalled that as a girl she had two Dutch rabbits, and using local clay ‘Dustie’ made the model of a rabbit drinking from a lily pad for her. The mother was interested in lizards, and for her he made the ‘Salamander’ black basalt vase.
As an author his published works include the collaboration with artist James Hodgkiss in 1920 entitled Artes Etruriae Renascuntur, a fascinating glimpse into the factory and working processes of Etruria. This was followed four years later with Chats on Wedgwood Ware which interweaves the biography of Josiah I with the evolution of the different wares, processes and artists that were employed at Wedgwood. His last publication was The Art of The Potter in 1932. He died on January 15th 1933 at Newcastle-under-lyme, leaving a widow, a son and two daughters.
‘My Trip to The West’ and ‘Successful Additions’
‘My Trip to the West 1928’ is an 8” x 5” 288 page journal detailing his lecture tour of America, illustrated with drawings, postcards, maps and other memorabilia. He wrote as a travel writer, recording the smallest detail that interested him, waxing lyrically at times, almost taking the reader with him. He sailed from Liverpool on September 8th, and constantly noted the weather, life aboard ship, and the difficulty of sleeping in his cabin. The chief engineer was a collector of Wedgwood, which resulted in Barnard being given a tour of the engine room and stoke hole. He in return gave a short lecture with film to a packed and enthusiastic audience. Obviously a success he found himself stopped a dozen times during his walk on deck the following morning. Before the end of the voyage he felt compelled to ‘enter the foolery’ of a fancy dress party after the ship’s purser had especially sent ‘professor Barnard’ a college mortarboard hat and large nose with spectacles.
The voyage took eight days and he arrived in New York on September 16th. He stayed at The Prince George Hotel and met with Kennard Wedgwood, in charge of the American branch of the firm, who acted as his host on a number of occasions. Never before had he witnessed the huge volume of vehicles or pedestrians. Walking along 5th Avenue he found it to be like ‘Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street rolled into one that stretched for miles with shops’. He remarked upon the ‘many beautiful young ladies but can’t understand why they spoil nature’s gift by painting their faces, especially the lipstick, the colour and shape makes them look awful’, estimating that ‘this applied to at least 90% of those aged between 13 and 50…and some older still’.
Other customs that aroused his interest included the system of tickets for public transport by dropping a coin into a slot that allowed access by turnstile. The common occurrence of drinking iced coffee and tea, and having to give the dinner waiter the whole of the order at the beginning of the meal, stressing the huge quantities and concluding that generally Americans ate too much. Once in a café he was accused of attempting to leave without paying, simply because he didn’t understand the method of payment.
Although the itinerary was busy, he still managed to undertake some site-seeing, including the Metropolitan Museum (mainly to see the English ceramics), General Grant’s Tomb, Central Park, and marvelled at the view from the top of The Woolworth Building. When not sightseeing he would be at the Wedgwood office writing letters or answering queries that were steadily coming in. He also gave biographical interviews to four American newspapers, humouring one reporter by informing him that he was present at his birth.
The first of his lectures entitled ‘The Story of Wedgwood’ was at Springfield, Massachusetts on September 24th to which he travelled by rail aboard a Pullman car, amazed at the luxury of having his own swivel armchair. He described the train, glimpses of the places that he passed through and the scenery that he witnessed. Three days later he departed from New York for three weeks, again aboard a Pullman/sleeper with easy chairs, but with less comfortable bunk beds. This was the first leg of the tour in which he would deliver 32 lectures, sometimes as many as three or four in one day, as well as organising displays in some of the more prestigious department stores. The cities he lectured at included Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St Louis, Detroit and Rochester. At Chicago he also gave a fifteen-minute radio interview and his personal observations included his astonishment at finding a café that stayed open 24-hours a day. At Boston in his suite at a newly constructed hotel he could not find his bed. Because the bed had not arrived by the time he went down to dinner he enquired at the reception desk. After dinner and an evening stroll it had still not arrived so he rang reception. Shortly afterwards one of the staff arrived and opened what Barnard had thought to be a door to another room, amazed to find an upended bed on a pivot that was brought down complete.
Returning to New York from the second leg of the tour that included lectures in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston, he visited the Lenox pottery at Trenton. He commented on the cleanliness, modern machinery, production and decoration processes, and the general arrangement set out on a plan ‘impossible in an old factory like ours’. Of particular interest was that he encountered a number of potters from Staffordshire who were employed at Lenox: ‘There were Minton, Copeland, old Brown Westhead men and Longton men too who told me they would not change back to the Potteries of Staffordshire for anything’. At Buffalo he also saw the large black basalt panel that he had made the year before in situ at Beeshy’s store, pleased that it was large enough to be a feature of the building and without protruding unduly.
The final leg of the tour included Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta and Savannah, by which time he estimated that he had covered some 13,500 miles in total. Before leaving for home Kennard Wedgwood, obviously pleased with the reception of the tour, showed Barnard a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings praising the lectures he had given.
He left New York on November 24th and remarked in his journal that everywhere he had been cordially greeted, finding Americans most affable, hospitable and genuine. The only exception appears to have been one of his table companions on the return voyage who was travelling to Manchester to buy cloth. As the conversation flowed he told Barnard that he had been to Harvard University and that he had a set of Wedgwood plates, telling him that it was a first set and that Wedgwood’s could not make anymore, believing that soon they would be very valuable, having already refused $3 a piece for them, and so on. Barnard concluded ‘I heard a few fairy stories before I disclosed who I was…it’s curious how the truth gets distorted’.
During the return trip the captain asked Barnard to give a lecture. This however coincided with extremely rough seas that caused the projector screen to fall flat twice, Barnard himself having to hang onto the Projector. The ship contained many seasoned travellers that had undertook the same journey a number of times, confessing that they had never known it as rough as the present crossing. He awoke in the night to find his baggage and everything else loose just careering about the floor. The following day was the same. The steward informed him that it was too dangerous for him to take his morning bath, and his usual walk upon the deck was not permitted. The dinning room had also suffered. During the night two portholes had burst open causing the room to be flooded ankle deep. It had taken all available hands three hours to bail out and clean up. Tables were concentrated into the driest part with only the bare essential laid upon them. Later, while sat in an armchair with a table companion, the pair were twice pitched from their seats, sliding across the floor, much to the amusement of fellow passengers. Most of the day was spent being propelled along the ship in a similar manner. However he arrived safely back in Liverpool on December 4th after 88 days, ‘each one full of interest, surprise and happiness’.
‘Successful Additions 1928’ records in detail a two-week holiday that he took at the end of May, along with his wife, sister Lilly and brother-in-law Fred. Like ‘My Trip to The West’ this 8” x 5” 153 page diary is also heavily illustrated with postcards and personal snaps. The diary’s subtitle ‘4 B’s join 4 C’s for 8 days’ is a pun on the two families joining ‘forces’ for the holiday. It is packed with personal observations from the moment the journey began with descriptions of the coach from Newcastle to London, the state of the roads and the route they took. The first week of the fortnight was mostly spent at his sister’s house in Finsbury Park with daily visits to the capital taking in exhibitions and catching up with old acquaintances.
The second week of the fortnight’s holiday the four of them travelled to Somerset in Fred’s Morris Oxford, through the ‘well-kept town of Reading’, breaking their journey at Glastonbury, ‘where the hemlock was so profuse that the hedges looked white, it grew in such abundance and so tall, with rose campion in large patches which added colour to the white’. They based themselves at Minehead, staying at The Glen Rock Hotel, a very comfortable place for which they all agreed that they had ‘drawn a trump card’.
The week was busily spent visiting many places on the coast and on the moors. At ‘the lovely quaint old village of Porlock and Porlock Weir I believe every cottage, stone and thatch is the same as I knew over 40 years ago’. Other destinations included Lynmouth, Lynton, Watersmeet, and Dunster, the four of them happy just to jaunt along the roads at an ‘average pace of 25mph, with spurts at 30, and even 45 when the straight road invited it’. He described the barren but beautiful expanse of moorland, senic valleys and picturesque coombs. The only exceptions appeared to be Weston-Super-Mare and Minehead that he found to be ‘a large flourishing resort of the Blackpool type, seeming very full. If this is what it is like on the last day in May I dread to think what it must be like at bank holiday time – folks must be packed like sardines’. Barnard often included the daily mileage and commented on Fred’s Morris Oxford stating that ‘these notes will be a great reminder of great joys experienced in the past, which a glance once more at the map will help to visualise’.
One day exploring the area around Bridgewater they came across a small pub called ‘The Sexey Arms’, its name causing much amusement among the party, even more so when they passed the Sexey School, Barnard concluding that this would be a good place for a honeymoon. He described in detail a trip to the caves at Cheddar Gorge, being a miniature of the caves under the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, and contrasting them to the caverns of the Derbyshire Peak District. The ride through the gorge was also ‘thrilling and awe-inspiring, the rocks of grand proportions that no camera could do justice to’. Reluctant to leave Minehead at the end of the week their return visit included a brief visit to the cathedral and close at Wells, where Barnard was appalled that some vandals had scratched their initials on the pulpit in the nave.
The traffic in London meant that they arrived at Euston just 5 minutes too late to catch the intended 5.20 express home and had to wait for the next. By the time they reached Wolverhampton the ‘glorious sunset meant that this dismal looking country was not as unlovely as usual’. The diary ends with a 2-page epilogue of a poem summarising the holiday, not signed with his name or initials, but with a logo of his nickname ‘Dustie’
Etruscan Bread Winners
Of all the documentary evidence that Barnard has left us the most fascinating has to be the photograph album entitled ‘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 photographed by Barnard during July and August of that year. Furthermore, he also had the foresight to record the names of the individuals underneath each photo in his distinctive Tolkienesque scripture. The photographs themselves are an excellent source for revealing the dress sense of pottery workers at the end of the C19th, such as the common occurrence of males wearing caps; the collarless shirts and waistcoats of the manual workers; the shirts and ties of the decorators, gilders, throwers and turners; and the suits of the warehousemen and office staff, emphasising a hierarchy in terms of social structure among employees.
In all probability a wash and brush-up as well as a change of clothes took place prior to being photographed. The majority of females all appear in their ‘Sunday best’, as evidenced on the photos of ‘Printers and Transferers’, ‘Paintresses’, ‘Warehouses’ and ‘Slip Decorators’. ‘The Tile Makers’ although suitably dressed in working clothes appear spotlessly clean, which also applies to ‘The Glost Oven’. The ‘Jasper black basalt Throwers and Turners’ again appear wearing spotlessly clean aprons, but evidence of clay on the shoes and lower part of the trousers on the younger employees in the front row suggests a quick wash and brush-up. The one exception is the ‘Sliphouse and Mill’ who do look as if they’ve just taken a break during their shift. Also notice the presence of a young Kennard Wedgwood in the front row. Likewise Francis Wedgwood also appears on the group photo 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 of the different photos, 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, demonstrated that some of the photos 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 C19th, and no complete list of employees survives from this period. The nearest contemporary account is the list of hands drawn up by Cecil Wedgwood in 1883 that included 723 names. If this figure still held true fifteen years later it is a mystery as to why as little as only half of the workforce were recorded.
Although the photos obviously under-represent each department, it still reveals something of the age and sex structures of the workshops. The sliphouse and mill, biscuit oven and warehouse, e/w glost ovens and e/w potters were all exclusively male. This obviously also applied to the oddmen and oddest men which included bricklayers, joiners and engineers. So too 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, such as the throwers, turners, decorators and those at the Jasper oven, as well as the general warehouse and office staff. The thrower generally required 2 assistants (usually females or boys) one to turn the wheel and the other to ‘take off’. These departments usually included two or three females, as well as boys (assistants) and male teenagers (apprentices).
More of a female presence existed among the china potters, majolica department, and tile makers, the latter where half the workforce was female, the majority being in their late teens or early to mid-20s. Again it appears that young boys were also employed as assistants 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 rubbed or ‘transferred’ them onto the ware. The only departments to be exclusively female appeared to be the slip decorators, paintresses and apprentice paintresses.
Of the 347 employees captured, ¾ were male. Taking into account the general acknowledgement that men and boys made up 2/3 of the labour force and females the remaining 1/3 it would appear that the omissions included a higher number of females. Unless disguised under the general headings of china potters or e/w potters there was no mention of mouldmakers, dippers, saggermakers or placers. The lighting on some of the photos, such as the ‘Oddest Men’ suggests that these photos were taken in the early evening, after the day’s work had finished, which may help to explain the omission of some. Absent for more obvious reasons may have been the commercial and foreign travellers. If the photos were taken at the end of a working day, then possibly the wife may have returned home to prepare the evening meal. The smaller than expected number of boys (8% - whereas the age group 6-14 supposedly accounted for almost 20% of the labour force) suggests that some possibly preferred a game of football after work rather than having their photo taken.
It is easy to get carried away with wonderful material like this, and even though it is not a complete record of the Etruria workforce at the end of C19th it is still a unique source. One thing it does do is to act as a springboard for local history projects. By using hiring agreements and other records it is possible to build a picture of their life within the company. I’d like to finish with one brief example that of John Ridgway, 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’s paying travelling expenses, lodgings, and allowing a fixed rate for travelling time. He 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 latter 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’s dated April 18th 1896 advises Ridgway 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. However, whatever differences existed seem to have been settled because by September he had been working in Camarthan 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?’ Ridgway was still employed during the late 1920s when he appeared, along with Barnard, on a photograph of Etruscan veterans.
Local history easily has the humanistic element removed from it as it often relies heavily upon statistics for its base material. The more I have come to understand Barnard, his way of forward-thinking, the more I have realised that he did possibly understand what valuable documents he would be leaving for us, especially with the contribution of his photograph album.