Burslem History (4)

Named-room Inventories; Probate Documents – Case Studies – John Malkin 1671, John Wedgwood 1705, Thomas Wedgwood 1716, Richard Wedgwood 1719, Thomas Simpson 1720, Dorothy Wedgwood 1728, Aaron Shaw the younger 1737, Thomas Wedgwood 1737, John Marsh 1747, Joseph Warburton 1752, Thomas Stevenson 1756; Bibliography.


Named-room Inventories


It is important to emphasis that an inventory would not necessarily list every room of a building. Appraisers were not concerned with the layout or the rooms themselves, only the goods within. Furthermore there would be no need to count empty rooms, or those occupied by others. The inventory of Samuel Edge was the only dwelling not to mention a ‘houseplace.’ However, one did exist as one of the upper rooms was described as ‘the chamber above the houseplace’, the central chamber of the eighteenth century home. Why this was ignored may have been an oversight by the appraisers to record the name rather than the room being empty or furnished exclusively by offspring. The inventory begins ‘in the kitchen’ which instead gives the appearance of being a large and well-furnished multifunctional room rather than the traditional smaller room usually used for preparing food. This conclusion is further strengthened with the following chamber being listed as ‘the back kitchen.’


Another problem with named-room inventories is where a room is named, there can be no guarantee that all the items listed between that point and the occurrence of the next room actually appear in that room. Only entries stating ‘…in the same chamber’ or indented after the room name can items be placed with confidence.


It must be remembered that these inventories represent only a slight fraction of the wealthier testators of the parish. Many of the other dwellings would have been far less luxurious. The commonest type of dwelling usually had only four rooms: a combined hall and living room, referred to as the houseplace, a parlour bedroom, one service room, and one chamber on the first floor primarily for storage, but in the case of large families, doubled as extra sleeping space. This applied to a large part of the north-east midlands, especially in the clay valleys.[1] For the less fortunate the smaller two-room single-storied dwelling of cruck construction would have been home.[2] Floors, if not of earth, were either boarded or of stone and often strewn with rushes. A storage loft would probably have existed over one of the chambers, accessed by a ladder. If an upper chamber was used exclusively for storage it was sometimes more convenient not to fasten either the joists or the floorboards so that they could be moved to get bulky items into the chamber & therefore they may appear valued in inventories. Where boards were fitted they were often strewn with reeds or straw and then covered in puddled mud, clay or limestone.[3]


The number of rooms ranged from four[4] to seven. Only three dwellings exceeded this figure, one with eight, another with ten, and a thirteen-room property. Service rooms were included along with cellars, cocklofts and passageways, but outbuildings such as barns, stables and workhouses were not. Common to all but one of the buildings was a central hall or houseplace, flanked with parlours, chambers, or both. Long before the beginning of the eighteenth-century the conventional single hall had evolved with the introduction of these parlours and chambers on the ground floor emphasising the need for a family’s seclusion and privacy.[5]


Cooking was usually done in the houseplace, especially in the absence of a kitchen, it often being the only room in the dwelling with a fire. Wealth can be measured to a certain degree by the number of fireplaces that a dwelling possessed. All would have had a fireplace although these were regarded as a fixture and not counted by the appraisers. Their presence is only revealed through the appraisers listing items such as grates, fire irons or chimney irons, as well as other utensils such as tongs and fire shovels. Only five dwellings appeared to have two fireplaces.


An alternative to cooking over the fire was a furnace or boiler which were usually found in the kitchen, or less commonly the buttery. Some rooms were multi-functional such as the houseplace of Isaac Malkin that was also utilised as a buttery and brewery, as evidenced by the churn, large and small brewing tubs and a number of basins and bowls. All dwellings had a parlour, just under half of which had two, while only one could boast three. Where more than one occurred these were identified by the appraisers with such terms as the ‘large’ and ‘little’ or ‘old’ and ‘new’ parlours. In addition to these there were also six ‘parlour chambers.’ Unspecified ‘chambers’ were also found in eleven of the dwellings. Six of these were located directly off the central houseplace and known as the ‘house chamber.’ Only one property had more than one chamber, differentiated by the appraisers as the ‘nearer’ and ‘further’ chambers.


Kitchens were often built at a right angle to the houseplace to lessen the risk of fire.[6] Butteries were normally found on the north or north-west side of the building for the sake of coolness, lighted by a slatted window and furnished with shelves and benches on which stood the various utensils.[7] Kitchens were found in twelve of the dwellings, four of which had two and as before identified by the appraisers with terms such as ‘out kitchen’, ‘back kitchen’ and ‘kitchen chamber.’ Butteries were recorded in nine dwellings and other service rooms included butteries cellars (5), pantries (2) and a ‘backhouse.’ During the eighteenth century cellars were not necessarily below ground level and often could mean a chamber at the lower end of the house. There were also two passageways, one between the house and parlour and the other ‘to the stairs’, both being early versions of the modern-day hallway.


Six of the dwellings appeared to be single-storey structures. If there were upper rooms these may have been occupied by other members of the family with their own belongings or possibly empty, for which both instances would the appraisers not have needed to record them. However, the property occupied by Joseph Warburton contained a ‘house garret’, a room traditionally meant to be located directly under the roof which helps to confirm that his was a single-storey property.


The nineteen dwellings that contained upper floors usually consisted of two or three chambers. The most numerous were those above parlours (18) and the central houseplace (13). Other upper chambers were found over the kitchen (5) and also the buttery (3). One dwelling also had a chamber at the stairhead, the forerunner of the modern-day landing. Thomas Wedgwood (1716) had a chamber over the buttery although no mention of a buttery was made and indicates that this room was probably empty and therefore of no interest to the appraisers. The largest dwelling was the thirteen-room property occupied by John Wedgwood in 1705 and the same one occupied later in 1719 by Richard Wedgwood known as The Overhouse.


The majority of upper chambers appeared to be exclusively designated as bedrooms. In addition many were also the main room for the storage of household linens and unused bedding. However some downstairs chambers and parlours appeared to be used as either entertaining or sitting rooms as well as being a bedroom, or indeed both. Some rooms also changed their use despite retaining their original names. Mentioned between the buttery and the kitchen of Aaron Shaw’s dwelling was the warehouse chamber which contained a long table and form. This may have originally been a workroom but due to both its contents and location in the otherwise methodical inventory it was probably now the main eating room, especially when taking into account the absence of a table in the houseplace.


One modern convenience lacking from all the dwellings, not because it was unknown, but because the average householder did not consider it a necessity was the bathroom. Most people, if they took a bath at all, contented themselves with a wooden tub before the fire or in one of the more private chambers. For everyday purposes a ewer and washbasin sufficed. If the idea of a daily bath had ever occurred it would probably have been met with a mixture of ridicule and intrepidation, being considered both finicky and detrimental to health. Some towns had public baths where cleanliness could be achieved without the trouble of heating a large quantity of water.


Although the water closet had been invented absent too was the privy or toilet and it is a curious fact that the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries lagged far behind the Middle Ages in this matter. In the earlier period almost every house of adequate size was fitted with a garde-robe. This was a small room with a shoot projecting from the outer walls and as a rule placed some distance from the main rooms. By Stuart times these had disappeared and only in the homes of the wealthy could be found a ‘house of office’ which served the same purpose. The usual method of passing bodily waste was simply into a commode, known as a close stool, or a chamber pot. These may have been emptied into a cesspool or simply had their contents thrown out of an open window onto the street below.


Fifteen dwellings had buildings that appeared to be utilised for pottery production. The most numerous of these were simply described as ‘workhouses’, appearing fifteen times, and both John Simpson and Aaron Shaw the younger had two. Eight people also had warehouses although only four appeared to have their own oven. Seven of the dwellings appeared to have agricultural buildings attached to them. These consisted of six barns and four stables, and John Malkin had one of each along with the only cowhouse mentioned. Only five people appeared to have buildings for both agricultural use and pottery production.


Both McPhayl’s map and that by Ryles was used, where possible, to establish the locations of those individuals mentioned in the case studies that follow. Only two could not be positively identified, Thomas Wedgwood (1737) and Thomas Stevenson.


Case Studies


John Malkin (1671)


John Malkin appeared to be fairly comfortably well-off and lived with a certain degree of comfort with an inventory totalling £91, and his home and furnishings can be thought of as being ‘typical’ (in the very broadest sense) of a late seventeenth/early eighteenth-century home. Considered by his appraisers to be a yeoman he was engaged in mixed farming on a modest scale and also made pots decorated with lead ore. His dwelling consisted of four downstairs rooms with four chambers above. The central houseplace was flanked with a parlour on one side and a kitchen and buttery on the other. Above were chambers over the houseplace and the ‘bigger chamber over the parlour’ and ‘little chamber over the parlour’ indicating that the downstairs parlour itself must have been of considerable proportions. In addition was also a ‘cockloft or store chamber.’


The houseplace was furnished with the traditional long table flanked by forms along with other chairs and stools. Also present in the room was a dishboard and salt coffer. The grates mentioned, along with tongs, fire shovels, broaches and potracks were appraised separately towards the end of the inventory rather than appearing in situ but it is highly likely that the main fireplace would have been found in this room.


Like the houseplace the parlour also contained a long table flanked with forms together with a little table, three chairs and an unspecified number of cushions. As well as being used for entertaining this room was also used for sleeping and contained a featherbed with blankets, coverings and curtains, in all probability a luxurious four-poster and a pair of jointwork bedsteads. The presence of beds and bedding in a sitting room disturbed nobody and the owner customarily sat upon the bed when entertaining friends, enjoying in the process what was probably the most comfortable seat in the room. Also present were a chest, coffer and little cupboard. The two remaining downstairs rooms, the kitchen and buttery, were modestly appraised as containing the household utensils of wood such as barrels and looms under the universal term of trene ware. It may have been here where some, if not all, of the household provision including corn and malt valued at £4 were stored.


It appears that the upper chambers were solely designated as bedrooms. The chamber over the houseplace appeared to be the principle bedroom containing two featherbeds complete with feather bolsters and pillows along with curtains and a valance again suggesting a four-poster. The room also contained a little table, three chairs and two stools with a number of cushions. Clothes were no doubt hung in the jointwork press or folded and stored in the trunk or either of the two coffers.


The larger of the two chambers above the parlour contained what the appraisers considered to be two old featherbeds and the absence of curtains suggests that these were of a more modest design than those of the principle bedroom, especially considering the value of the two beds being half the value of the two beds of the preceding chamber. Although ‘some’ chairs were mentioned their cushions were also described as being old and the furniture of the room more basic consisting of three coffers and two boxes. The smaller of the two chambers over the parlour contained only a bed, probably of chaff as the appraisers did not specify the material and its value was lower than the others, along with a solitary coffer.


There was no doubt that some form of deliberation occurred between the appraisers when they entered the ‘cockloft or store chamber.’ At first they had thought that there were two coffers in the room but the letter ‘two’ is crossed through and immediately followed by ‘one.’ It also appeared that there was a discrepancy of its size. Originally they had considered this to be little but then crossed this word out when no doubt realising it was not as small as they initially thought. The chamber also contained shelves on which were stored some dressed but coarse hemp and flax, a flasket of straw and ‘some other lumber.’


Malkin’s livestock consisted of five cows, four stirks, two weaning calves, two mares, two nags and two swine totalling just over a third of the whole value of the inventory at £33. He also had corn growing valued at £8. His outhouses of a barn, stable and cowhouse contained carts, wheels, gears, saddles, arks, troughs, ladders and a grindlestone along with an unspecified number of boards and other items of husbandry valued at over £3. This increased the agricultural element of the inventory to £46, half of the total value. This was more than ten times the value of the pottery element of the inventory which consisted of ‘clay to make potts and potts ready made with lead ore with all the boards and implements belonging to his trade’ at £3.


John Malkin was also owed money when he died. The debts owing, both those lent upon bond and those that the appraisers deemed ‘desperate’ or difficult to retrieve, were totalled together at £4 16s. This relatively low figure appeared unusual when credit was very much part of seventeenth and eighteenth century business. Malkin was engaged in both mixed farming and pottery production and this suggests that, at least for the pottery trade, credit was not an option.


John Wedgwood (1705)


John Wedgwood was baptised on May 2nd 1654, the eldest son of Thomas Wedgwood who had built the potworks attached to the Churchyard House. Rather than occupying that dwelling however his father resided at The Overhouse as is clearly stated in his will ‘The dwelling house wherein I now inhabit called the Upper or Over House with all barns, stables, outhouses, cowhouses, yards, folds, orchards and gardens thereunto belonging with the fishpond and fish.’[8] He bequeathed to John ‘the long table with the forms thereunto belonging in the hall place’ and ‘all rikes that are in the mill house below the entre where I now inhabit.’[9]


John married Alice Beech who died five years before him. Shortly after the death of his father in 1678 John went to live at The Overhouse while his younger brother Thomas (d.1716 and grandfather of Josiah Wedgwood I) took over The Churchyard House and Works. In March 1691 John leased to his cousin Richard Wedgwood, who was starting to make stoneware and red china pots, part of the service yard at The Overhouse twelve yards long and six yards wide. Later this Richard married John’s only daughter Katherine.[10] A slip-decorated jug signed ‘J Wedgwood 1691’ now in The South Kensington Museum was probably made by John.


John died at The Overhouse and was buried in Burslem churchyard on April 13th 1705.[11] His will, dated April 2nd stated ‘to my dear and loving daughter Katherine Wedgwood this capital messuage wherein I now do inhabit’ showing how her and her husband Richard came into possession of The Overhouse.


John Wedgwood of The Overhouse, also considered by his appraisers to be a yeoman, had the second highest inventory valued at £331. He also had the dual occupation of mixed farming and producing pottery, and like John Malkin the value of his agricultural element far exceeded that of pottery. The dwelling itself was the largest of the sample with thirteen rooms, and was the same property appraised fourteen years later upon the death of its then occupant Richard Wedgwood.


The central houseplace[12] was furnished with a long table and form (no doubt the same one bequeathed to him by his father), a little table, four turned chairs, two joined chairs and a buffet stool. Extra comfort was provided by seven couched cushions and the room decorated with four flower pots. The room also contained a screen to protect against draughts and to give a certain amount of privacy, as did the ‘hangings before the windows.’


In the parlour was a joined bed and a pair of plain bedsteads both complete with their respective bedding. The room also contained a folding table with forms and cushions, a press cupboard, coffer and trunk. Pictures decorated the walls and also present was an unspecified quantity of ‘London ware.’ This would have been either white tin-glazed earthenware or brown stoneware.


John had also been prosperous enough to afford an extension to his property as two of the rooms were regarded by his appraisers as being ‘new.’ The ‘new chamber’ had the dual function of being both a sitting room and a bedroom. As well as the joined bed were seven chairs, a press, two chests and three boxes. On the wall hung a looking glass and the room also contained five flower pots and a further unspecified quantity of ‘London ware.’ The ‘little new parlour’ appears to have been built to function exclusively as a dinning room and had been furnished with an oval table, six chairs and a looking glass and was probably used to entertain guests.


Cooking and the preparation of food took place in the kitchen. Around the grate and fender were arranged the necessary utensils for cooking over the open fire including a clock, jack, sways, potracks and broaches as well as a fire shovel, tongs ‘and other necessary ironwork belonging to the kitchen.’ The room also contained a screen, six chairs, two dressers of drawers, no doubt used to store or display the brass and pewter and possibly some of the cooking utensils present in the room such as the two frying pans, three dripping pans, two pairs of gobberts and a mortar and pestle. The attached ‘out kitchen chamber’ appeared to be empty apart from a pair of bedsteads with its associated bedding. This was probably the room in which the cook(s) slept. They, and any servants, probably ate separately from John and his family at the table and form in the Buttery. It may have been here where the trene ware of barrels, looms, tubs, kimnels, turnels and other wooden vessels were kept.


There were garrets over both the kitchen and the little new parlour. The former contained a little table, coffer, two boxes and two livery cupboards. The garret over the little new parlour was principally used as a bedroom being furnished with a joined bed, coffer, joined chair and three buffet stools.


As well as having a garret over the little new parlour there was also a separate chamber above it containing a pair of bedsteads, five chairs and a buffet stool. This would suggest that this chamber was considerably smaller than the one it was built over, if also taking into account the garret.


The chamber over the older parlour was considerably larger and was able to accommodate a bed, eight couched chairs, a desk, a little table and two chests. Above the fireplace in this upper room, the presence of which was indicated by a grate, probably hung the looking glass that was also mentioned.


The chamber over the kitchen was used solely as a sitting room containing nine cain chairs and a little table. This may have been used as an annex to the chamber over the buttery which contained a joined bed, two joined chairs and a chest.


John also had a number of items valued seemingly after the appraisers had finished visiting the individual rooms. These included six pieces of gold valued at £7, silver plate including silver spoons valued at £12 and all linen, cloth and napery ware at £40. His household provisions were valued at £5 and included beef, bacon, butter, cheese, meal and malt – the latter suggesting some form of involvement in brewing, probably for his own consumption. It also appeared that he was engaged in cheese-making due to the presence of a cheese press as well as cheese being listed among the provisions.


As already stated John had the dual occupation of mixed farmer and potter whose value of the agricultural element of his inventory was far in excess of that of pottery. His livestock that consisted of four cows, two twinter bulls, three calves, three mares, two horses, a foal and a swine were valued at £51. He had corn growing worth £10 with a further £7 worth of corn and hay stored in his barn. His carts, ploughs, harrows, chains, horse gears, saddles, bridles, stone cisterns and swine troughs along with other item of husbandry were valued at £10 increasing the total for agriculture to £78. This was considerably more than ‘all the materials in the workhouse belonging to the potting trade, and clay and ware’ valued collectively at £17. His clothing, together with money in his purse totalled £30, which was the same figure for money that was owed to him, although like Malkin, no clue is given as to why he had this credit.


Thomas Wedgwood (1716)


Thomas Wedgwood was baptised at Burslem on August 20th 1660, a younger brother of John Wedgwood (d.1705) and grandfather of Josiah Wedgwood I. He occupied the Churchyard House and Works where he was producing black and mottled ware.[13] He married Mary Leigh on June 28th 1684[14] and had eleven children, the eldest Thomas being born on March 25th 1685.[15] Mathematicians will notice that this Thomas was probably conceived by his parents on their wedding night.


A plan of the seating in St John’s Church from about the year 1700 shows one of the best pews ‘sold to Thomas Wedgwood of the Churchyard for £7.’[16] Thomas died intestate and the administration of his goods was granted to his wife Mary on October 11th 1716. To act as apprasiers she chose her brother Thomas Leigh and Richard Wedgwood (d.1719). Mary died three years after Thomas.


Unfortunately the appraisers of Thomas Wedgwood simply stated the value of each room in his inventory rather than listing the individual contents. However, it may still be used to confirm the layout of the dwelling. The property consisted of a central houseplace, parlour and with a passage in between these two rooms. There were chambers above the houseplace and parlour, as well as the buttery which the appraisers neglected to mention, possibly on the account of it being empty.


The description of the layout given by the appraisers is not dissimilar to that given by Meteyard in 1865. From information based upon the memories of previous generations she described the small farmhouse of the late sixteenth/early seventeenth century as being typical of the houses in Burslem at that time. As previously stated, the dwelling was timber-framed filled with wattle and daub, with leaded casement windows and a thatched roof. A narrow strip of garden divided the cottage from the lane that extended to the churchyard wall and from this garden the visitor entered the large houseplace. In the gable of the houseplace was a large chimney place, while at the other end nearest the church was the separate parlour. There was no mention of the buttery but behind the houseplace was a back-house where the tasks of brewing, dairy-work and washing were performed. The upper floor contained two or three chambers used as bedrooms. The central houseplace, according to Meteyard, was likely to have been furnished with a settle by the fire along with chairs, tables and a shelved dresser no doubt on which was displayed brass and pewter wares. It was possible that hooked to the beams of the ceiling in the houseplace was a cratch for hanging bacon.


Thomas’s livestock consisted of three cows, a calf, a horse and a swine. There was £7 worth of corn and hay in the barn but no mention of any agricultural implements. Neither was there any mention of materials, tools or finished goods connected with the pottery trade, despite being described as a potter by his appraisers. These had possibly been bequeathed in his will as Meteyard stated that the oven and other areas designated for pottery production were outside at the rear of the dwelling.


The illustration in Meteyard was also made from the memories of others as the house was demolished in 1795. As previously stated it should be treated with caution as it appears somewhat larger than both the layout stated by the appraisers as well as Meteyard’s own description. The relationship between the lane, house and church differs considerably with the map drawn by McPhayl. Rather than identifying the dwelling that runs parallel with the lane that corresponds to the illustration drawn by Meteyard McPhayl chose a smaller dwelling to the left of this and nearer to the boundary of the churchyard. Beneath this dwelling, rather than the one nearer to the lane, McPhayl wrote ‘Jos. Wedgwood Born Here.’


Unfortunately no other probate inventory exists for the Churchyard House other than that of Thomas Wedgwood (1717). His eldest son, Thomas (d.1739; father of Josiah Wedgwood), then occupied the dwelling, although no inventory exists for this individual. His eldest son, also called Thomas (brother of Josiah Wedgwood), continued at the Churchyard House until succeeding to the Overhouse on the death of his cousin Katherine Egerton in 1757.


Richard Wedgwood (1719)


Richard Wedgwood was born in 1668 to Aaron Wedgwood, and was a younger brother to Dr Thomas Wedgwood of The Red Lion. Before producing pottery himself Richard had been in partnership with John Philip Elers. After leasing a portion of The Overhouse service yard from John Wedgwood (d.1705) in 1691 he went on to marry John’s only daughter Katherine on January 7th 1708 and went on to have a son born later that year. Richard died on November 8th 1718[17] and their son John died the following year. Katherine remarried in 1720 to her first cousin Thomas Bourne of Chell. They had a daughter, Sarah, born in 1722 but in 1729 Thomas died and Katherine was widowed a second time. She remarried again, her third husband being Rowland Egerton, who died without offspring in 1746. Katherine remained at The Overhouse until her own death at the age of seventy-three. She was buried in Burslem churchyard on February 19th 1756.[18]


Richard Wedgwood, described by his appraisers as a yeoman and with the highest value inventory of £408, occupied The Overhouse as his father-in-law John had done fourteen years earlier. His dual occupation was that of farmer-potter. As already stated this thirteen-room dwelling was the largest found among the sample of twenty-five inventories and many of the pieces of furniture within the rooms appear to have been the same as those recorded in his father-in-law’s inventory. The appraisers also followed an almost identical route to that taken fourteen years earlier. Beginning with livestock and husbandry items they entered the dwelling and began in the new chamber, chamber over the buttery, chamber over the (old) parlour, chamber over the kitchen, chamber over the little parlour before appraising the garret over the little new parlour and the garret over the kitchen. Moving downstairs they continued through the little new parlour, old parlour, houseplace, buttery, kitchen and out kitchen before recording items such as plate, linens, trene ware and household provisions.


The central houseplace contained two long tables and a form, four turned chairs, three joined chairs and a screen. Whereas before the old parlour had been used as a bedroom it had now been designated as a sitting room with an oval table, a little table, a chest of drawers and was large enough to accommodate thirteen chairs, the walls of the room being decorated with eight pictures and a looking glass.


The new chamber likewise had had its previous dual function of bedroom-sitting room altered to that of sitting room-study and now contained a desk, chest and box and eight chairs. The little new parlour, which appears to have originally been built solely as a dinning room had been used by Richard as a bedroom containing two beds, a box and a looking glass.


The kitchen had seemingly remained unaltered during the fourteen years since John’s death as all the items and quantities were the same. The six chairs, two dressers of drawers on which the pewter and brass was displayed, and the screen. Around the fire were still arranged the fire shovel, tongs, clock, jack, sways, potracks, broaches, frying pans, dripping pans and a pair of goleberts ‘with other necessary ironwork belonging to the kitchen.’ The out kitchen chamber that had previously been a bedroom had now become the brewing room equipped with a furnace, bakestone, malt mill, brass pan ‘and other lumber.’ The buttery had remained largely unaltered now with a form and two tables (rather than one).


The garret over the kitchen had changed from being a store chamber to a bedroom containing two beds, a form, chair, buffet stool, coffer, chest and a box. Similarly the garret over the little parlour was still a bedroom with a bed, two chairs, joined stool, chest and looking glass.


The chamber over the (older) parlour still appeared to be a room of large dimensions and still containing a bed. Whereas John had had eight couched chairs in this room Richard had replaced these with ten black ones. The desk had now disappeared (possibly to the new chamber) as had one of the two chests, but the little table and looking glass were still found in the room. The only other difference appears that their was no grate unless the appraisers had regarded this as a fixture, as they had also done downstairs in the kitchen.


The chamber over the kitchen still contained the nine cane chairs that had once belonged to John and the little table may also have been the same. These had been the only items in the room during John’s occupancy and it appears that Richard had been utilising this room to its full potential. In addition to the cane chairs and little table  were two chairs with no further description, a close stool, a chest of drawers, no doubt displaying ‘all glasses and whiteware’, one ordinary chest, two boxes and a bed. The whole room was valued at £18, considerably more than any other room with the exception of the kitchen[19]


The chamber over the buttery had differed only slightly in fourteen years. The room still contained a joined bed, a joined chair (previously two) and a chest, and were now augmented by a press, a joined stool and an unspecified number of flower pots.


After completing a tour of the house the appraisers moved on to recording items collectively such as his plate and silver spoons valued at £20, napery ware at £15, and trene ware including barrels, looms, tubs, turnels and kimnels at £6. His household provisions included bacon, butter, cheese, meal and malt which were valued at £5. Like his father-in-law, the fact that he possessed a quantity of malt together with a malt mill and an ample amount of trene ware suggests that Richard was also involved in brewing.


Although not with quite as much livestock as his father-in-law had possessed Richard still appeared to have an involvement with agriculture. His two cows, three horses, four mares and a single swine were valued at £27. ‘All manner of carts, ploughs, harrows, chains, horse gears and implements of husbandry’ (including hackney saddles, a pad and pillions) were appraised at £12, along with the two stone cisterns and four swine troughs that had been at the dwelling in John’s time. In the barn was corn and hay worth £18 which increased the agricultural total of the inventory to £57. This was almost double the £30 for ‘all materials belonging to the potting and pots ready made.’ However, this itself was almost double the pottery element in John’s inventory fourteen years earlier that had only been £17.


Richard’s clothing and money in his purse were valued together at £50.Unlike his father-in-law who had £30 owing to him at the time of his death Richard had £100 worth of debts and desperate debts amounting to almost a quarter of the total value of his inventory.


Thomas Simpson 1720


Thomas Simpson’s dwelling was located in a row of five terraced cottages towards the top of Bourne’s Bank. It consisted of five rooms - a houseplace, parlour and buttery on the ground floor, with a two chambers above. In the absence of a kitchen cooking was accomplished in the houseplace. Around the grate were the fire shovel, tongs and a pair of bellows, and hanging over the fireplace were pothooks for suspending the pots, along with other ‘iron things.’ Some of the cooking would also have been done on the furnace. His cooking utensils consisted of a frying pan, skillet, a pot and a kettle, probably all of iron. The room was furnished with nine chairs, two stools but only one little table. There were two dressers, one of which also contained drawers, on which no doubt was displayed the twelve plates and eight pewter dishes, and probably the ten spoons, salt and candlestick. There were also two glasses that would have been of dark green glass. Inside the dresser drawers may have been his ‘bible and some small books.’ The room also contained his trene ware that consisted of two barrels, a bouke, a piggin and a cradle. The buttery appeared to be empty apart from twelve trenchers and a basin.


The parlour appeared to have the dual purpose of both bedroom and sitting room. A featherbed and bedsteads were equipped with two pillows, two blankets and four pairs of sheets. The room was furnished with four chairs and a little table and decorated with four pictures. The room also contained a ‘reele.’


The chamber over the houseplace (which also probably extended over the buttery) contained two pairs of bedsteads with their associated bedding, a chest, a coffer, a trunk, a loom and two boxes. It would have been in one or more of these that the linen and napery ware was stored that consisted of two pillowbears, a pair of sheets, a board cloth, a piece of linen cloth and eighteen napkins, while the trunk may have contained the hackney saddle, bridle and pillion cloth. The room also contained two shovels, but with the absence of any other implements associated with the fire it is assumed that this room was unheated. If the chamber over the houseplace did also extend over the buttery then this would have been much larger than the chamber over the parlour which appeared more Spartan containing only a bed with its bedding, a chest and six chairs.


Although no outhouses were mentioned Thomas also had a cow, a mare and one swine with an unspecified quantity of hay. His appraisers also found, although neglected to mention the quantities, of clay and lead ore. Although they had described him as a potter there was no other mention of materials or tools connected with the potting trade suggesting that he was employed by someone else rather than working for himself.


Dorothy Wedgwood (1728)


Dorothy Wedgwood (nee Malkin) had married William Wedgwood (1669-1727), master potter of Burslem in 1704. They had six children, the eldest dying in infancy. She died a year after her husband. Dorothy’s dwelling consisted of three downstairs rooms with two above. In the absence of a kitchen cooking was done in the house(place). Near the fire stood the fire shovel, two pairs of tongs, pothooks, a spring and a slice. Not all cooking was performed over the open fire for the room also contained an iron furnace, a bakestone and a bread iron. Her cooking utensils included a hacking knife, flesh fork, an iron pot, frying pan, skillet, an iron kettle and three brass ones, and a brass ladle. Nearby were a warming pan and a smoothing iron. On the dresser would have been displayed the thirteen pewter dishes, nine plates, three porringers, two candlesticks, two salts and ten spoons. In addition to these she also possessed twenty-nine trenchers and an unspecified amount of earthenware. No table was mentioned so meals were probably ate off the lap in the two chairs in the room, which was made more cosy with a screen. Her modest amount of trene ware was kept in the buttery.


The parlour served the dual purpose of bedroom and sitting room. The bed was furnished with a pillow, two bolsters, three blankets, a rug and hangings, suggesting a four-poster. The furniture consisted of two tables, two forms and two chairs along with one cupboard. The presence of a little wheel with twenty-two slippings of linen yarn, eight pounds of teer of hemp, a piece of black carsey and other flaxen indicate that Dorothy was involved in spinning and which is confirmed with the contents of the following room.


The chamber over the house(place) contained a featherbed, chaffbed, two pairs of bedsteads, two spinning wheels, two baskets and four coffers. The chamber over the parlour also contained a featherbed, chaffbed, two chests and a looking glass.


Although she had no livestock the appraisers noted hay in the barn along with a cradle and three bags. Likewise, although no mention was made of clay or finished earthenware she had a workhouse containing two potwheels and a lathe.


Aaron Shaw, the younger (1737)


Aaron Shaw’s dwelling consisted of five rooms, possibly of one storey. The anomaly is that one of these five rooms was ‘the passage to the stairs’, although no upper chambers were mentioned. The stairs may have led to a cockloft that the appraisers found to be empty and therefore not worth mentioning. Alternatively the upper part of the dwelling may have been inhabited by someone else, possibly a member of his family who had furnished these rooms himself and again would have been of no interest to the appraisers.


The central houseplace contained the fireplace equipped with fire shovel and tongs, and apart from ‘iron, brass and tin goods hanging in the corner’ and valued at a modest 10s no other items that could be thought of as cooking utensils were mentioned. The room was furnished with an oval table six, sedgen chairs, and a dresser displaying his pewter. On this may also have been the unspecified amount of ‘blue and white plates and dishes &c’. The room also contained a spice cupboard, a clock and case, a looking glass and a tin candle box and privacy and warmth were given by the window curtains.


The house chamber contained a four-poster chaffbed, a joined chest, and a joined box containing napery ware, along with a hackney saddle, saddle cloth, pillion and straps. The walls were decorated with ten pictures.


The parlour appeared to have the dual function of bedroom and sitting room. Along with the featherbed and chaffbed were six joined chairs and six sedgen chairs with a joined square table. Also in the room were eight blue and white plates, two large pictures and five small ones, with comfort and privacy supplied by the curtain rods and window hangings.


The parlour chamber contained three barrels and ‘a hundred dozen of flint ware (guessed) at £5 – 0 – 0.’ In the passage to the stairs stood a plain dresser with twelve trenchers and six knives and forks along with the trene ware. This consisted of a tub, a barrel and a bouk. The appraisers also noted two grid cages and a pair of coal panniers. In the stable was a yellow mare, a brown nag and a white nag, each with their own saddles and gears, and also an unspecified quantity of thrashed and unthrashed oats and straw.


In the throwing house the appraisers found seventeen balls of clay at 11d per ball totalling 15s 9d, along with 5s of beaten clay and 6s of ‘mixed slip ready to drying.’ There was also nine pecks of ground flint at 9s and the room also contained a stone cistern and five tubs (13s) and five sieves and lawns (7s 6d). In the warehouse was ‘burned flint ware at (guessed) £35.’


The workhouses contained ‘a sallie bench and wheel’ (£1 – 5 – 0) a wire riddle (1s 4d), and a short poker (8d) along with forty-nine boards (£1 – 4 – 6). ‘At the oven’ were planks for scaffolding (2 s 6d). Elsewhere the appraisers noticed four lawns (5s 10d) and a shovel and paddle (1s 6d). The total amount for pottery, including the £35 of burned flint ware was £44 – 4 – 0, just over half of the total value of the £82 inventory.


Thomas Wedgwood (1737)


Thomas Wedgwood was baptised on June 25th 1695, the eldest son of Dr Thomas Wedgwood of The Red Lion. Sometimes referred to as Dr Thomas Wedgwood junior he became a celebrated master potter although it appears that his potworks were rented from a Mr Rushley. In the list of working potters in Burslem 1710-1715 compiled by Josiah Wedgwood he appears as one of the most industrious potters producing £6 worth of brown stoneware decorated with salt glaze a week. William Burton in his ‘History of English Earthenware’ described him as ‘a man of intelligence and commercial aptitude, as well as one of the best practical potters of his day, he would naturally adopt new ideas. From the fragments of drab salt glaze stoneware that have been found on the site of his old works in the centre of the town it has been attributed to him many of the finest pieces of this type, such as a drab salt-glazed teapoy [sic] three and a half inches high.’[20] His drab stoneware was the lightest that could be made before the introduction into the body of calcined flint or south country white clays. He probably used the lightest burning local clay mixed with fine white sand from Baddeley Edge or Mow Cop[21] and was described by Burton as ‘probably the best of these salt-glazed potters.’[22] He married Catherine, daughter of Thomas Wedgwood of The Churchyard Works (grandfather of Josiah Wedgwood I) on May 7th 1715 and had seven children. He died on February 20th 1737 without making a will and administration of his estate was granted to his widow Catherine.


Thomas Wedgwood’s dwelling consisted of five rooms on the ground floor with two above. The majority of the cooking was done in the houseplace over the fire on the jack with the spit and gridiron. The room was large enough to contain an oval table and a square table along with twenty-four joined chairs, two cupboards, a salt box and a pepper box. Cooking utensils included a brass pot and cover, two brass kettles, skimmer, ladle and a dripping pan. Thomas also possessed twelve pewter dishes and sixteen plates. Beside the fire stood the fire shovel and tongs, a warming pan and ‘other irons in the chimney’, and from the roof hung a bacon rack. The room also contained a clock and case and three pictures.


Some cooking was also done in the kitchen on the two small boilers and a baking stone, along with a churn, a salting tub and two barrels. Thomas also possessed a malt mill although this was appraised towards the end of the inventory and its location not stated. The house chamber was utilised as a bedroom with a bed, two chests, two chairs, a table and a looking glass.


The little parlour was Thomas’s private study. The room contained three desks, one of which was described as being used for reading, eight chairs, two little tables, a chest, corner cupboard and a bookcase. The looking glass and weather glass probably hung on the walls, as would have done the four pictures, and the room also contained three maps.


The upper parlour was a bedroom with bed, five chairs (one of which was described as ‘easy’), a close stool, table, chest and a large cupboard. A looking glass and two pictures decorated the walls. The chamber over the upper parlour was also a bedroom with three beds, a chest, coffer, chair and a little table. The chamber over the kitchen was a more Spartan bedroom containing only a pair of bedsteads, a coffer ‘and some other odd lumber.’


Although Thomas possessed a cow no other mention of agricultural implements was made. His workhouse was equipped with a wedging board and throwing wheel (15s), two lathes and checks and a handling table (£5), and thirty-four long boards and twelve short ones (16s). No mention of debts was made and the money in his pocket, together with his apparel was valued at £3.


John Marsh 1747


John Marsh’s dwelling was located at the bottom of Hill Top close to Locket’s Cob. It consisted of six rooms, four on the ground floor with two above. The standard layout of hallplace, kitchen and parlour was augmented with a cellar. This however would not necessarily have been below ground level and may simply have been one of the rooms towards the back of the house. On the first floor were chambers over the houseplace and parlour.


Around the fire in the houseplace besides the fire shovel and tongs, were a jigging iron, a pair of cobberts, two spits, a gridiron, a dedger and two hanging plates. Other utensils included a fleshfork, frying pan, chafing dish, warming pan, salt box and six trenchers. The room was furnished with an oval table, seven sedgen chairs, a child’s chair, and a three-footed stool. On the dresser of drawers would have been displayed the seven pewter dishes, twelve plates and a tin cover and a pewter pint and a pewter quarter. Light was provided by a brass candlestick and two iron ones and a pair of snuffers also lay nearby. Extra comfort and privacy was provided by an old screen.


Although meats would have been roasted over the fire in the houseplace the kitchen contained an iron furnace on which stood two iron pots, a saucepan and a brass kettle. Along with a little table the room also contained a pail, piggin, a cleansing sieve and an old quilting frame. It may also have been here where the appraisers also found three brewing tubs although which they listed out of sequence at the end of the inventory. The cellar contained four shelves, six barrels, three dozen bottles and eighteen shillings worth of drink.


The parlour served the dual function of being both a bedroom and a sitting room. A featherbed and chaffbed, along with bedsteads were equipped with pillows, bolsters, sheets, blankets, a quilt and hangings, suggesting that at least some of the bed were of the four-poster style. The room was furnished with a little table and an old safe cupboard, together with five joined chairs, a square stool and a close stool. In this room, the walls of which were decorated with two looking glasses and ‘a few old pictures’ John would sit and read his bible.


The chamber over the houseplace appeared to be the main bedroom with two featherbeds, two chaffbeds and two pairs of bedstocks, equipped with pillows, bolsters, blankets, quilts, and hangings, again suggesting that some were four-posters. The room was furnished with a square table and five sedgen chairs along with a trunk, coffer, chest and two boxes. The chamber over the parlour was less luxuriously furnished containing a chaffbed, a pair of bedsteads, with sheets, blankets, rugs and hangings, and three chairs, two boxes and a trunk. Although described by his appraisers as a potter, neither materials, tools nor finished items associated with the trade were mentioned within the inventory.


Joseph Warburton (1752)


Potter Joseph Warburton occupied a ten room dwelling slightly out of the town at either Hot Lane or Cobridge.[23] In the houseplace surrounding the fire was a fender, fire shovel, tongs, jack, spit, gridiron and bread iron. Displayed on the dresser of drawers may have been the thirty pewter plates, seven pewter dishes, two pairs of brass candlesticks and two pairs of iron candlesticks. Although the room contained no table there were six chairs, a clock, two screens and a map of England. Joseph was also the only person to possess a ‘cofea mill.’


The majority of the cooking was done in the kitchen which contained both a brass and an iron furnace. Utensils included an iron pot, a dripping pan, a brass kettle and an iron kettle, a brass saucepan, frying pan and a bakestone. Along with a trestle, wash tub and cooler the room also contained other trene ware including a churn, brewing tubs, dashin, a high tub with hoops, two pails, a small iron pail, a trestle and three stools with a small brewing tub.


The parlour appeared to be the main dining room and was possibly used to entertain guests. The room was furnished with ten chairs, a round table, an oval table, a buffet table and an unspecified table along with corner cupboard. It may have been on this that some of the plate, valued at £12 10s, was displayed. The room also contained a looking glass. The pantry contained a writing desk, book case and a chair and shows a change in use as the room still retained its original name. In the cellar were two horses, eight barrels and two brass cocks.


Five of the ten rooms were used as bedrooms and like the pantry they also appeared to retain their original names. The buttery contained a bed and a chest, while the buttery chamber was furnished with a bed, chair and looking glass. The house chamber contained two beds, a table, two chairs and a close stool, as well as being the store place for linen and napery. All rooms appeared to be on the ground floor. This may or may not have included the house garret which was furnished with a flockbed, bedsteads, two chests and a hamper with ‘some other lumber.’


In the barn was a malt mill and this coupled with the brewing tubs found in the kitchen are indicative that Joseph was brewing. A cow and a horse together with a quantity of hay were also found, although with no location stated. However, it is likely that these were also in the barn.


The contents of his workhouse demonstrate the equipment of the eighteenth century potter:

                                                                                      £       s        d

          ‘stock of clay ……………………………………………        18     12     0

          ‘4 lathes …………………………………………………        8       7       0

          ‘3 wheels ………………………………………………..        2       14     0

          ‘3 paddles (and other odd things) ……………………….   0       13     0

          ‘a squeezing box ………………………………………...      0       4       0

          ‘an iron crow …………………………………………….        0       3       0

          ‘2 chairs, one table and one old coffer ………………….   0       7       0

          ‘a beating board, slip tub and lawns, &c ……………….    1       8       6

          ‘iron bonds, slugs, pokers &c …………………………..      6       0       0

          ‘boards ………………………………………………….         2       10     0

          ‘goods in the warehouse ………………………………..     90     0       0


This total figure of £131 accounts for three-quarters of his £171 inventory.


Thomas Stevenson (1756)


Rather unusually, earthen-potter Thomas Stevenson’s inventory was appraised by his widow Hannah. Their seven-room dwelling contained five rooms on the ground floor with two above. The fireplace contained all the necessary ironwork and the room was furnished with a white table and two stools. A dresser with shelves would have displayed the eight pewter dishes and fourteen old pewter plates.


Cooking was performed in the kitchen on the furnace and this room contained an iron pot, a frying pan, a tea kettle and a hooped iron kettle. The cellar contained a barrel and tub and other trene ware listed separately towards the end of the inventory included two tubs, a bouk, churn, milking pail, bottle rack and bottles and hair and splent sieves along with an undisclosed number of stools.


The larger parlour was a bedroom and sitting room and contained a fireplace, the presence of which is indicated by a grate. The room was furnished with a pair of press bedsteads, an oval table, nine chairs, two stands (one described as small), a cupboard, a clock and case and six pictures. The little parlour simply contained an old bed.


The chamber over the parlour also contained an old bed, along with six chairs, a chest, maps and pewter weights and was furnished with window curtains. The chamber over the kitchen contained both a large and small bed, a dressing table, two chests, ‘boxes and bottles’ and ‘wheels and lumber.’


Thomas had a cow, a small parcel of hay and a small rick of oats collectively worth £7 5s. But the room that Hannah appraised in most detail were those of workhouse and warehouse and again these throw light on the working potter in mid-nineteenth century Burslem:

                                                                                      £       s        d

          ‘clay in Burslem about 50 loads …………………………   2       10     0

          ‘clay in the field, 50 loads ……………………………….     1       5       0

          ‘flint and Chester clay and unfired ware ………………… 1       5       0

          ‘lawn, hair sieves and paddle …………………………….  0       2       6

          ‘salt bag …………………………………………………..      0       1       6

          ‘boards in the workhouse ………………………………...   1       0       0       ‘2 tables, 2 stools and a tressit …………………………..       0       4       6

          ‘saggers and oven ……………………………………….     5       0       0

          ‘poker, tongs, iron rod, ladles and shovels ……………… 0       3       6

          ‘closing ladder …………………………………………..       0       0       6

          ‘3 bands of iron to the oven …………………………….     2       0       0

          ‘a scaffold for the oven …………………………………      0       5       0

          ‘warehouse goods in the deceased’s way of trade as an

           earth potter of various sorts valued and appraised at ….         15     0       0


Although occupations within the parish have already been established through the marriage register, the recording of occupations did not become a legal necessity until the introduction of Hardwicke’s Marriage Act in 1754. Before this date the registers seldom mentioned occupations. For establishing occupations before this date the information can be taken from the appraisers’ description of the deceased in probate inventories. It must be remembered that the total of 133 that exists for the parish of Burslem between 1661 and 1761 are representative of only a small proportion of the population, being biased towards wealthier males. Potters and yeomen both accounted for 30%. The term yeoman, like that of Gentleman, who accounted for only 3.8%, are descriptions of social status rather than occupation and may disguise any trade such as potter or husbandman. Tradesmen accounted for 14.3% and included carriers (7), carpenters (4), blacksmiths (4), cordwainers (2), and a brickmaker and kettleman. Husbandmen accounted for 8.2%, and retailers, including butchers (3), shopkeepers (2), a baker and a victualler 5.3%. The single incidences of a tailor, weaver and clothworker representing textiles accounted for a further 2.3%.




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[1] Barley, ‘Rural History in England’, 742.

[2] Barley, ibid., 752.

[3] Barley, ibid., 727.

[4] This discounts the inventory of William Simpson which listed only the houseplace.

[5] Barley, ibid., 700-701.

[6] Steer, Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid Essex, 9.

[7] Christina Hole, The English Housewife in the Seventeenth Century (1953), 105.

[8] Wedgwood, Josiah C, ibid., p111.

[9] Wedgwood, Josiah C, ibid., p114.

[10] Wedgwood, Josiah C, ibid., p118.

[11] Wedgwood, Josiah C, ibid., p119 & tombstone inscription.

[12] Recorded as ‘hall place.’

[13] ‘List of Potworks in Burslem about the year 1710 to 1715’ Compiled by Josiah Wedgwood I in Wedgwood, Josiah C, A History of The Wedgwood Family. St Catherine’s Press, London (1908). p124-126.

[14] Parish Register.

[15] Parish Register.

[16] Meteyard, vol I, p193.

[17] Wedgwood, Josiah C, ibid., p120 & Parish Register.

[18] Burslem tombstone.

[19] By comparison the value of the contents of the old parlour and new parlour were £5 and £6 respectively.

[20] Burton, William, History of English Earthenware, p86-87. Illustrated on plate III and now in the South Kensington Museum.

[21] Wedgwood, Josiah C, ibid., p149.

[22] Burton, ibid., p118.

[23] Wedgwood, Josiah C, ibid., p124-126 and ‘Map of Burslem about 1750.’