The Wedgwood story began in 1759, when Josiah Wedgwood, aged just twenty-nine, started as an independent potter in Burslem, Staffordshire, England. He began to experiment avidly with clay, exploring its many possibilities. He is today remembered as the “Father of English Potters”. His pioneer spirit, his vigorous design policy, his commitment to exacting standards of quality and his efforts to create affordable luxury products remain the values at the heart of the brand today. Fast forward over 260 years and they’re still producing many of the materials he invented, such as Jasper, Queen’s Ware and Black Basalt. Discover the full story of Wedgwood and their unique history on this page.
Wedgwood’s enduring appeal among the world’s Royal Families and Heads of State began with Queen Charlotte, who ordered a set of cream-colored earthenware that pleased her so much that Josiah Wedgwood was granted permission to style himself ‘Potter to Her Majesty’ and call his innovative cream ware ‘Queen’s Ware’. Since the time of Queen Charlotte, Wedgwood collections were to grace the tables of British monarchs and many other illustrious Heads of State, such as in the Vatican, the Kremlin and the White House. It was also the brand of choice for some of the world’s most prestigious hotels. In 1995, Wedgwood was granted the Royal Warrant, a mark of recognition of those who have supplied goods or services to the Royal Households for at least five years, from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
This year we celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. To mark the occasion, and celebrate 70 years of dedicated service, we take a journey back into the Wedgwood archive. Join us as we travel back to 1955, when Queen Elizabeth visited the Wedgwood factory in Barlaston.
Queen Elizabeth’s 1955 Visit to Barlaston
Here Queen Elizabeth watches the iconic Jasper material during the crafting process. The man in the picture is ornamenting – he is delicately laying the white figures on a Jasper plate.
If you take a closer look, you will see vases in the background with the Dancing Hours relief, this is another example of how ornamentation can be applied to create a beautiful and timeless Jasperware piece.
Barlaston is still home to our world-renowned Jasper material, which was created by our founder Josiah Wedgwood at the start of the Wedgwood journey all those years ago.
The pattern being worked on in the forefront of this archive image is a hunting scene, and if you pay close attention to the square dish and plates being decorated in the background, you will see the Appledore pattern. The Appledore pattern was gifted to the Queen during this 1955 visit. See the full Appledore set below in all its glory, along with Sir John Wedgwood.
History with the Royal Family
Wedgwood shares a rich history with the world’s Royal families, beginning with Queen Charlotte who ordered Wedgwood creamware, which coined the phrase ‘Queensware’.
Fast forward to 1995, and Wedgwood was granted the Royal Warrant from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. A mark of recognition of those who have supplied goods or services to the Royal Households for at least five years.
Over the years Wedgwood has taken pride in commemorating significant Royal occasions, take this delightful example from 1953. Eric Owens modelled this portrait medallion of the Queen, in Jasper material, to commemorate her Coronation.
Many of the techniques pioneered by Josiah Wedgwood are still used today by skilled artisans at Barlaston. Using unique heritage materials, Jasper, luminescent Queen’s Ware and fine bone china, Wedgwood continues the tradition of beautiful handcrafted works of art, made with respect for the past and an eye to the future.
The journey of a decorative plate
Each fine bone china expressive plate requires thirty six hours of handcraft by four craftsmen and takes over three days to create from start to finish.
Stage 1 : Jigger
A revolving mould shapes the front of the plate from a bat of clay placed on it. It is used in conjunction with a shaped profile which forms the shape of the back. The excess clay is removed.
Stage 2 : Sponging
Seam marks in the moulding process are removed, excess clay is cut away and the surface is sponged and smoothed by hand before the piece is ready to be fired.
Stage 3 : Glazing & Firing
Once fired, a fine mist of glaze is sprayed onto the piece. Excess glaze is wiped from the foot of the piece before firing again. At this stage, white pieces are complete.
Stage 4: Pattern Decorating
Print designs are applied either by meticulous hand painting or via lithographed designs carefully transferred onto the piece before a third firing.
Stage 5: Prestige raising & Enameling/h3>
Further decoration is applied by hand. Liquid gold is carefully applied to the surface to create a relief. Different colors can also be applied, creating enameled designs.
Stage 6 : Selection
The finished piece is checked, with only perfect pieces selected for shipment.
Stage 7 : Delight
The Wedgwood plates are ready to grace the tables worldwide.
260 years of Creation and Innovation
2019 marked over two centuries since Josiah Wedgwood decided to plant our roots into the clay-rich soil of Stoke-on-Trent, inspiring generations around the world to be creative and colourful when it came to styling their tables and their homes. Steeped in this rich heritage, over 260 wonderful years later Wedgwood continues to be renowned for high-quality and innovative British design, bringing a timeless eclecticism to today’s modern home. Josiah’s legacy lives on at our factory in Barlaston as we continue to craft the highest quality fine bone china dinnerware and tea ware, re-imagining archival patterns and innovating with brand-new colourful designs. We continue to create contemporary collections that make each day that little bit more beautiful.