The Factory

Historians may never agree the extent to which altruism played a part in Wedgwood’s decision to build a state of the art factory together with a village of a standard which would entice his workforce from Burslem to the rural site which he called Etruria. He had stated that he wished to make such “machines of men as will not err”.  The necessary combination of discipline and skill would occur naturally if the leader of such men (and women) provided them firstly, with an ordered way of working and secondly a decent place to live.

Designed by Joseph Pickford, the influence of the Birmingham Soho works of Boulton and Watt is very much in evidence.

Wedgwood’s factory would take years to complete but it is the front elevation of the finished building which conveys his intentions so clearly.  It is a symmetrical building which intimates that it has been designed to contain order. Indeed it is symmetrical to the point whereby only one of its circular domed buildings was designed with a purpose in mind – that of grinding colour. The other, built for the sake of presenting visual balance, enjoyed a variety of uses in its lifetime including stabling for the masters’ horses and a spell as a cottage for which another floor was inserted. The only remaining part of the original factory, the roundhouse has been relocated to the grounds of its current owners, the Evening Sentinel Newspaper.

Visitors who came from far and wide to marvel at this stunning example of 18th century technology would be greeted by an over-riding impression of orderliness and efficiency. This was enhanced by what Wedgwood had described to Bentley as a ‘lanthorn or cupola build in the middle over the gateway’ which was to hang the bell in and to ‘raise the middlepart so as to give it the air of a principal member of the whole  which I think it should have‘.

The bell, also used at the Bell Works was a constant reminder of the divisions of the day.  It would call the workforce to the factory and tell them when to take their mealtime breaks.  Finally it would tell them when their working day ended. Wedgwood had instigated on his works a regimented day and put an end to the irregularities of St. Monday – the unofficial holiday taken by potters worse the wear for the drunken excesses of the weekend. If the thrower and the turner, for example, worked more regular hours then so did their sub-contracted child assistants.

The factory would eventually front the Trent and Mersey canal and the wharfage used to unload raw material. This would progress logically from process to process on the works towards the finished article which would be reloaded and transported away by canal.

Behind the Palladian façade, Wedgwood’s workforce practised an increasing division of labour, each one specialising in a different process rather than seeing through the production of a particular piece from beginning to end.

This method of working decided the layout of the factory with separate workshops devoted to different stages of manufacture. In February 1767… Josiah set this out in a letter to Bentley: “E is to be a work for dishes and plates only and D the yard to it to hold sagar clay, rubbish etc. C. The work for every sort of goods and B the yard to it and A the ornamental work with a yard to it.”

Ultimately, when manufacture was moved from the Brick-House in 1773, the delineation was between ‘useful’ and ‘ornamental’ works – the latter including an area called the ‘black bank’ for the manufacture of black basalt and separated from the rest to avoid contamination from the dark clay.

In 1768, Wedgwood reported to Bentley that sagars were being made at Etruria – the first items of general production.  It would be almost 200 years before Etruria would produce its last pieces consisting of kiln furniture for the new works at Barlaston.

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  • Earliest surviving plan of Etruria from 1796, No 29 shows the layout of the factory; y and f show initial workers housing, © Wedgwood Museum

    Earliest surviving plan of Etruria from 1796

  • Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; illustration of old staircase and waterpump, Taken from Artes Etruriae Renascuntur: A Record of the historical old works at Etruria as they exist today, forming an unique example of an eighteenth century English factory. Told by Harry Barnard and drawn by James Hodgkiss, 1920. , © Wedgwood Museum

    Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; illustration of old staircase and waterpump

  • Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; illustration of ornamental works and lathe, Taken from Artes Etruriae Renascuntur: A Record of the historical old works at Etruria as they exist today, forming an unique example of an eighteenth century English factory. Told by Harry Barnard and drawn by James Hodgkiss, 1920., © Wedgwood Museum

    Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; illustration of ornamental works and lathe

  • Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of the wooden block on which ornamental moulds were made , Taken from Artes Etruriae Renascuntur: A Record of the historical old works at Etruria as they exist today, forming an unique example of an eighteenth century English factory. Told by Harry Barnard and drawn by James Hodgkiss, 1920., © Wedgwood Museum

    Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of the wooden block on which ornamental moulds were made

  • Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of the packing house doorway, Taken from Artes Etruriae Renascuntur: A Record of the historical old works at Etruria as they exist today, forming an unique example of an eighteenth century English factory. Told by Harry Barnard and drawn by James Hodgkiss, 1920., © Wedgwood Museum

    Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of the packing house doorway

  • Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of a workers pot stove , Taken from Artes Etruriae Renascuntur: A Record of the historical old works at Etruria as they exist today, forming an unique example of an eighteenth century English factory. Told by Harry Barnard and drawn by James Hodgkiss, 1920., © Wedgwood Museum

    Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of a workers pot stove

  • Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of the original flint crushing mill, Taken from Artes Etruriae Renascuntur: A Record of the historical old works at Etruria as they exist today, forming an unique example of an eighteenth century English factory. Told by Harry Barnard and drawn by James Hodgkiss, 1920., © Wedgwood Museum

    Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of the original flint crushing mill

  • Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of grindstone, old safe door and fireplace., Taken from Artes Etruriae Renascuntur: A Record of the historical old works at Etruria as they exist today, forming an unique example of an eighteenth century English factory. Told by Harry Barnard and drawn by James Hodgkiss, 1920., © Wedgwood Museum

    Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of grindstone, old safe door and fireplace.

  • Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of hand 'blunging' and mixing vat, Taken from Artes Etruriae Renascuntur: A Record of the historical old works at Etruria as they exist today, forming an unique example of an eighteenth century English factory. Told by Harry Barnard and drawn by James Hodgkiss, 1920., © Wedgwood Museum

    Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of hand 'blunging' and mixing vat

  • Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of hoist, ornamental works yard and round house (in use as , Taken from Artes Etruriae Renascuntur: A Record of the historical old works at Etruria as they exist today, forming an unique example of an eighteenth century English factory. Told by Harry Barnard and drawn by James Hodgkiss, 1920., © Wedgwood Museum

    Artes Etruriae Renascuntur; Illustration of hoist, ornamental works yard and round house (in use as

  • To Mr Bentley. Bentley’s  presence needed at the christening of the oven at Etruria. Page 1 of 4, E25-18247, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Bentley’s presence needed at the christening of the oven at Etruria. Page 1 of 4

  • To Mr Bentley. Bentley’s  presence needed at the christening of the oven at Etruria. Page 2 of 4, E25-18247, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Bentley’s presence needed at the christening of the oven at Etruria. Page 2 of 4

  • To Mr Bentley. Bentley’s  presence needed at the christening of the oven at Etruria. Page 3 of 4, E25-18247, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Bentley’s presence needed at the christening of the oven at Etruria. Page 3 of 4

  • To Mr Bentley. Bentley’s presence needed at the christening of the oven at Etruria. Page 4 of 4, E25-18247, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Bentley’s presence needed at the christening of the oven at Etruria. Page 4 of 4

  • To Mr Bentley. Burslem sacrificed to Etruria; Notice to leave Brickhouse works. Transcription, page 1 of 6, E25-18269, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Burslem sacrificed to Etruria; Notice to leave Brickhouse works. Transcription, page 1 of 6

  • To Mr Bentley. Burslem sacrificed to Etruria; Notice to leave Brickhouse works. Transcription, page 2 of 6, E25-18269, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Burslem sacrificed to Etruria; Notice to leave Brickhouse works. Transcription, page 2 of 6

  • To Mr Bentley. Burslem sacrificed to Etruria; Notice to leave Brickhouse works. Transcription, page 3 of 6, E25-18269, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Burslem sacrificed to Etruria; Notice to leave Brickhouse works. Transcription, page 3 of 6

  • To Mr Bentley. Burslem sacrificed to Etruria; Notice to leave Brickhouse works. Transcription, page 4 of 6, E25-18269, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Burslem sacrificed to Etruria; Notice to leave Brickhouse works. Transcription, page 4 of 6

  • To Mr Bentley. Burslem sacrificed to Etruria; Notice to leave Brickhouse works. Transcription, page 5 of 6, E25-18269, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Burslem sacrificed to Etruria; Notice to leave Brickhouse works. Transcription, page 5 of 6

  • To Mr Bentley. Burslem sacrificed to Etruria; Notice to leave Brickhouse works. Transcription, page 6 of 6, E25-18269, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Burslem sacrificed to Etruria; Notice to leave Brickhouse works. Transcription, page 6 of 6

  • To Mr Bentley. Busy with building of works at factory with Pickford. Page 1 of 2, E25-18311, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Busy with building of works at factory with Pickford. Page 1 of 2

  • To Mr Bentley. Busy with building of works with Pickford. Page 2 of 2, E25-18311, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Busy with building of works with Pickford. Page 2 of 2

  • To Mr Bentley. Pickford’s account settled; Moving last bits from Burslem to Etruria. Page 1 of 4, E25-18369, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Pickford’s account settled; Moving last bits from Burslem to Etruria. Page 1 of 4

  • To Mr Bentley. Pickford’s account settled; Moving last bits from Burslem to Etruria. Page 2 of 4, E25-18369, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Pickford’s account settled; Moving last bits from Burslem to Etruria. Page 2 of 4

  • To Mr Bentley. Pickford’s account settled; Moving last bits from Burslem to Etruria. Page 3 of 4, E25-18369, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Pickford’s account settled; Moving last bits from Burslem to Etruria. Page 3 of 4

  • To Mr Bentley. Pickford’s account settled; Moving last bits from Burslem to Etruria. Page 4 of 4, E25-18369, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Pickford’s account settled; Moving last bits from Burslem to Etruria. Page 4 of 4

  • To Mr Bentley. Additional building of two hovels, two ovens, and other buildings at the factory. Page 1 of 2 , WM-1441, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Additional building of two hovels, two ovens, and other buildings at the factory. Page 1 of 2

  • To Mr Bentley. Additional building of two hovels, two ovens, and other buildings at the factory. Page 2 of 2 , WM-1441, © Wedgwood Museum

    To Mr Bentley. Additional building of two hovels, two ovens, and other buildings at the factory. Page 2 of 2

  • Hand drawn map showing the Etruria factory and its individual departments. c.1928, Despite the map dating to 1928 the layout of the factory and its many different departments changed very little from the that of 1769., © Wedgwood Museum

    Hand drawn map showing the Etruria factory and its individual departments. c.1928