What’s on : Lectures

Josiah Wedgwood: the Arts and Sciences united

11 Apr 2017
Start time
7:30 PM
Tempest Anderson Hall
Dr Gaye Blake Roberts

Event Information

Josiah Wedgwood: the Arts and Sciences united

by Dr Gaye Blake Roberts, Director of the Wedgwood Museum Trust

Josiah Wedgwood was a potter, pioneer, and philanthropist, who was deservedly called ‘Father of English Potters’ by the Prime Minister, William Gladstone. Wedgwood was born in Burslem, the mother town of ‘The Potteries’, in Staffordshire in one of the most exciting eras in English history, a period of change and development dominated by the industrial revolution.  This lecture will explore the influence of fashion, taste, commerce and culture on Wedgwood ceramics of the 18th century.  It will also discuss Josiah Wedgwood‘s importance as a leading manufacturer during a time of dramatic change within the consumer society in Britain. It will examine his pioneering endeavours to improve pottery manufacturing technology and the development of his ceramic bodies including his unique invention, Jasper. It will also look at Josiah Wedgwood as a scientist and his role within the most influential group of men living in the Midlands, The Lunar Society.

An Art and Science lecture jointly with YEDFAS

Member’s report

Dr Blake Roberts gave such an impressive talk, with superb illustrations, that she was even applauded during audience questions. In it she described Wedgwood’s pioneering interest in, and his own very detailed experimenting to find, the right ingredients for his many glazes. Unfortunately, because of the lead content of the glazes, the average life expectancy of a potter was 35. Apart from his own technical expertise and the excellence of his products, Wedgwood was an astute businessman and is recognised now as the Father of marketing. He used orders from Royalty to promote his product not just to high society, but to the middle classes, taking advantage of the new tea-drinking habit. In the 18th century he pioneered direct mail, money-back guarantees, free delivery, illustrated catalogues and even buy-one-get-one-free.  Wedgwood died a very wealthy man. It is somewhat ironic that Waterford Wedgwood went into receivership in 2009. It jeopardised the collections at the Wedgwood Museum, which first opened in 1909. Happily, a major fundraising campaign secured the collections, which are now housed in a new museum in Stoke-on-Trent.

Ken Hutson