Acquisition of the Ridge House Estate

From the inception of Wedgwood's idea to expand his manufacturing activities and build a new factory, outside the main pottery conurbation of Burslem, progress was slow. Josiah had various difficulties to overcome including the purchase of a suitable site. He was attracted to a parcel of land known as the Ridge House Estate which occupied a long ridge overlooking the valley towards Newcastle. On 6th March 1765 Wedgwood wrote to Thomas Bentley; 'I do not intend to make this ware at Burslem & am therefore laying out for an agreeable & convenient situation elsewhere '. 

During the next twelve months Wedgwood was heavily involved in the development of The Grand Trunk Canal, (better known as the Trent and Mersey Canal), the line of which was to pass through the 350 acre Ridge House Estate owned by Mrs Ashenhurst. The details of the purchase were prematurely anticipated with Josiah commenting in a footnote to a letter to Bentley, dated 18th July 1766; 'I have now bot. the Estate. I mention'd to you, for which I am to pay £3000 at Michaelmas next'. There was one stipulation in the agreement that a life interest should be paid to the tenants. 

The detailed negotiations were started to acquire the land and Wedgwood dispatched his friend Mr Hodgson to Ireland to discuss the potential purchase with Major Ashenhurst, the son and heir of the aged Mrs Ashenhurst to whom the estate would revert on her death.  The actual purchase proved to be protracted and frustrating with Wedgwood writing on 20th May 1767, ' At present indeed I am not in possession of the Land you know to build you either a House or Works, but am now in treaty with the old Lady's Steward, & you have furnished me with a very strong inducement to comply with allmost any terms they shall propose'. Two months later, on 6th July, Josiah is complaining that; ' Mrs Ashenhurst has wrote a most violent letter to her agent, complaining of my ill usage in not turning a proper answer to her proposal by Mr Hodgson 6 months since, & threatens, if I do not immediately comply with her demands (wch. Is only double what she ever made of her Estate) She will let her Estates to some other Person, & has had advantageous offers from Staffordshire for that purpose.- She scolds & huffs away at a large rate, & seems to be in a good way for making me a hard bargain.

I have wrote to Her by Mr. Hodgson, & instructed him to treat with her - if she succeeds, I hope yet to be able to build a Vase work the latter end of this summer'. 

The entire matter was not to be easily concluded Josiah commented in August, ' Mr Hodgson has been with the old Lady (Mrs. Ashenhurst) & says I must form no dependence upon her, so I must build Elsewhere, for build I must'. By November Sarah, Josiah's wife, was writing a short note to Bentley informing him that her husband had gone, ‘In a great hurry' to Derby, ' finally, to settle the plans with Mr Whitehurst & Mr Pickford'. Whilst there Wedgwood discussed in detail his plans with Pickford for the new buildings although the acquisition of the estate was still not concluded satisfactorily. 

The final negotiations for the acquisition of the Ridge House Estate were completed in December 1767, on the death of Mrs Ashenhurst, with her son who had inherited the estate. In November Bentley had been urged to come to Staffordshire to choose the location for his house, to be known as Bank House, as part of the plans for the new works and houses to be constructed at what was to become known as Etruria. 

Josiah extended his land holdings in October 1771 when he purchased some additional land on the south side of the Etruria road which belonged to Mr Egerton of Tatton in Cheshire. He had first contemplated the acquisition of this land as early as December 1767 when he commented to Bentley; ‘I believe you will think me almost out of my senses for thinking of buying more Land, & indeed it is not because I shall have money to spare that I wod. make this purchase, but firstly (for I have many reasons) it is full of Limestone... secondly, I wod. have the wharf on that side of the lane, and perhaps my works too, & thirdly if I do not buy it for those purposes somebody else will who may be very disagreeable neighbours’, all of which were sound commercial reasons for the purchase. Finally in October 1771 he wrote to Bentley on the conclusion of the transaction, ‘Last night I bought a part of the Estate opposite to me at Etruria amot. 3910! [Three thousand nine hundred and ten pounds] It is a prodigious price, but I have bought it & must pay for it in March next’. 

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  • Ridge House sketch, © Wedgwood Museum

    Ridge House sketch

  • E 18070 25 - To John Wedgwood. Confabulations of the Triumvirate – T. Byerley’s Return to Burslem – , © Wedgwood Museum

    E 18070 25 - To John Wedgwood. Confabulations of the Triumvirate – T. Byerley’s Return to Burslem –

  • E 18123 25 - To Mr Bentley. Business and Canal matters; Purchase of Ridgehouse estate for £3000 , Pa, © Wedgwood Museum

    E 18123 25 - To Mr Bentley. Business and Canal matters; Purchase of Ridgehouse estate for £3000 , Pa

  • E 18123 25 - To Mr Bentley. Business and Canal matters; Purchase of Ridgehouse estate for £3000 , Pa, © Wedgwood Museum

    E 18123 25 - To Mr Bentley. Business and Canal matters; Purchase of Ridgehouse estate for £3000 , Pa

  • E 18123 25 - To Mr Bentley. Business and Canal matters; Purchase of Ridgehouse estate for £3000 , Pa, © Wedgwood Museum

    E 18123 25 - To Mr Bentley. Business and Canal matters; Purchase of Ridgehouse estate for £3000 , Pa

  • E 18123 25 - To Mr Bentley. Business and Canal matters; Purchase of Ridgehouse estate for £3000 , Pa, © Wedgwood Museum

    E 18123 25 - To Mr Bentley. Business and Canal matters; Purchase of Ridgehouse estate for £3000 , Pa

  • E 18351 - letter to Mr Bentley 23rd October 1771, © Wedgwood Museum

    E 18351 - letter to Mr Bentley 23rd October 1771

  • 18181 - Delayed letter – Dantzig planks for canal – Coventry canal bill in Parliament; further canal, © Wedgwood Museum

    18181 - Delayed letter – Dantzig planks for canal – Coventry canal bill in Parliament; further canal

  • 18181 - Delayed letter – Dantzig planks for canal – Coventry canal bill in Parliament; further canal, © Wedgwood Museum

    18181 - Delayed letter – Dantzig planks for canal – Coventry canal bill in Parliament; further canal

  • 18181 - Delayed letter – Dantzig planks for canal – Coventry canal bill in Parliament; further canal, © Wedgwood Museum

    18181 - Delayed letter – Dantzig planks for canal – Coventry canal bill in Parliament; further canal

  • 18160 - Unable to meet Bentley at Derby owing to illnessDifficulties with Mrs. Ashenhurst about purc, © Wedgwood Museum

    18160 - Unable to meet Bentley at Derby owing to illnessDifficulties with Mrs. Ashenhurst about purc

  • 18160 - Unable to meet Bentley at Derby owing to illness. Difficulties with Mrs. Ashenhurst about pu, © Wedgwood Museum

    18160 - Unable to meet Bentley at Derby owing to illness. Difficulties with Mrs. Ashenhurst about pu

  • E18161 25- Unable to visit Liverpool owing to sprained knee. Bentley’s proposed visit to Paris page , © Wedgwood Museum

    E18161 25- Unable to visit Liverpool owing to sprained knee. Bentley’s proposed visit to Paris page

  • E18161 25- Unable to visit Liverpool owing to sprained knee. Bentley’s proposed visit to Paris page , © Wedgwood Museum

    E18161 25- Unable to visit Liverpool owing to sprained knee. Bentley’s proposed visit to Paris page

  • E18161 25- Unable to visit Liverpool owing to sprained knee. Bentley’s proposed visit to Paris page , © Wedgwood Museum

    E18161 25- Unable to visit Liverpool owing to sprained knee. Bentley’s proposed visit to Paris page

  • To Mr Bentley.  Ridgehouse estate bought; Page 1 of 4, E25-18123, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Ridgehouse estate bought; Page 1 of 4

  • To Mr Bentley.  Ridgehouse estate bought; Page 2 of 4, E25-18123, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Ridgehouse estate bought; Page 2 of 4

  • To Mr Bentley.  Ridgehouse estate bought; Page 3 of 4, E25-18123, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Ridgehouse estate bought; Page 3 of 4

  • To Mr Bentley.  Ridgehouse estate bought; Page 4 of 4, E25-18123, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Ridgehouse estate bought; Page 4 of 4

  • To Mr Bentley. Pressing invitation to view the Ridgehouse estate: Page 1 of 3 , E25-18127, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Pressing invitation to view the Ridgehouse estate: Page 1 of 3

  • To Mr Bentley. Pressing invitation to view the Ridgehouse estate: Page 2 of 3 , E25-18127, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Pressing invitation to view the Ridgehouse estate: Page 2 of 3

  • To Mr Bentley. Pressing invitation to view the Ridgehouse estate: Page 3 of 3 , E25-18127, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Pressing invitation to view the Ridgehouse estate: Page 3 of 3

  • To Mr Bentley. House (Etruria Hall) must be built In the Stone-pit field; Page 1 of 2, E25-18134, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. House (Etruria Hall) must be built In the Stone-pit field; Page 1 of 2

  • To Mr Bentley. House (Etruria Hall) must be built In the Stone-pit field; Page 2 of 2, E25-18134, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. House (Etruria Hall) must be built In the Stone-pit field; Page 2 of 2