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Barlaston mug - 1940

The Barlaston mug, ©  Wedgwood Museum
    The Barlaston mug
    © Wedgwood Museum

One of the most deceptively simple but nonetheless important commemorative pieces ever designed for Wedgwood was the 1940 Barlaston mug by Eric Ravilious. It was made to celebrate the momentous move of the factory from the over-industrialised Etruria site, to a new location in the garden village of Barlaston.

For over 180 years Wedgwood continued to do business from Etruria in the heart of industrial Staffordshire – but in 1936 Josiah Wedgwood V, took the momentous decision to relocate the works to the garden village of Barlaston in Staffordshire. The creation of the new factory, which had been designed by the architectural practice of CS White and Keith Murray, was a great innovatory leap forward. It was also essential as Etruria was suffering from subsidence. The new factory was opened in 1940 - in the midst of World War Two – and was a move towards the use of new technology Wedgwood - renowned for its commemorative wares - commissioned this deceptively simple but nonetheless important celebratory Barlaston mug from the designer Eric Ravilious. The piece features a head and shoulders portrait of Josiah Wedgwood with impressions of the kilns used to fire ware appearing on either side of the portrait. Their stylised nature points to Ravilious’ background in book illustration.

  • Type of object: Teaware/mug
    [Printed in green]
    Design by Eric Ravilious
    [Printed In black]
  • Year produced: 1940
  • Body: Bone china
  • Glaze: clear glaze
  • Material: ceramic
  • Decoration: lithographed
  • Accession number: 11616
  • Dimensions: 103 mm (height), 150 mm (width), 103 mm (breadth)

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Related people

  • Keith Murray Designer

    Keith Murray - Designer (1892 - 1981)

    Born in New Zealand, Murray later graduated from the Architecture Association School of Art in London in 1921. Unable to find architectural employment, he turned his attention instead to the design of silver, ceramics and glass.Keith Murray is one of the stars of Wedgwood’s 20th-century design story. First employed on a free lance basis in 1932, three years later, he had designed a number of surface patterns and an enormous range of tableware and ornamental shapes - many of which would remain in production until well into the 1950s. The establishment of Murray’s style signalled the beginning of Modernism and a design renaissance for Wedgwood. Only a few years previously in 1930, the next generation of Wedgwoods had taken the helm with with many new notions of how the business should succeed. Most significantly, the decision had been taken to relocate the entire factory from Etruria to a new green-field site at Barlaston. Keith Murray and his partner, CS White, were invited to be the architects for the challenge. In preparation, Murray and Works Manager, Norman Wilson (also responsible for the glazes which enhanced the modernistic appearance of his work) journeyed around America casting a critical eye over the most up-to-date manufacturing plants. When Murray admired spacial features, Wilson demanded to know what manufacturing equipment would economically fit the space. Finally, the building was complete – ultra-modern, all-electric, concrete-clad and with all the facilities required for a healthy working life in the pottery industry. Murray and Josiah V had developed such a close relationship that each became godfather to the other’s child and Murray was almost accepted as an honorary Wedgwood.The experience taught Murray much about the social obligations of architecture. In the late 1940s, in collaboration with various others, he went on to specialise in the construction of airport, commercial and industrial architecture.

  • Eric Ravilious Designer

    Eric Ravilious - Designer (1903 - 1942)

    Eric William Ravilious was born in west London and trained at the Eastbourne School of Art, winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in 1922. He studied engraving, illustration, colour printing and mural painting. Ravilious was introduced to Tom Wedgwood in about 1935 by Lady Cecilia Sempill, and worked for the Wedgwood firm between 1936 and 1940. His first design to go into production was the commemorative mug originally produced for the Coronation of Edward VIII, and adapted for that of George VI in 1937. His work for Wedgwood not only included these designs for commemorative wares, but also incorporated patterns for dinner and tea ware, lemonade sets and nurseryware. Because of wartime restrictions on the production of decorated ware, many of his designs were not put into production in any quantities until the 1950s. In 1940, Ravilious was made an Official War Artist, but was lost on active service in 1942. His designs for Wedgwood included 'Afternoon Tea', engraved in 1937. 'Garden' designed about 1939 and put into production during the 1950's. 'Persephone' designed around 1938 and 'Travel' pattern, designed about 1937.

  • Josiah Wedgwood I

    Josiah Wedgwood I (1730 - 1795)

    Josiah was born in 1730, the youngest of twelve children born to Mary Wedgwood and her husband, Thomas. His father was a potter who lived and worked at the Churchyard Works, Burslem. This town was still connected by rough roads to the other five towns which made up the area of North Staffordshire known as the Potteries. By the time of his death, Josiah Wedgwood I not only improved the variety and quality of pottery produced, but he also opened up the area as an important centre of commerce with the rest of the world through his involvement in the development of canal and road networks. He went on to become one of the most influential ceramic manufacturers in the world, and earned the title 'The Father of English Potters'. His direct descendants are still involved in the factory which bears his name today.Much of Josiah's development as a successful businessman, philanthropist and potter can be accounted for by the ill fortunes he suffered. At the age of 9 when his father died and he had to abandon his formal school education in order to work in the family business. Then at around eleven years old he contracted smallpox and was left with a knee-infection which constricted his use of the kick-wheel on which the pottery shapes were formed. From that time onwards he focused on affecting the perfection and marketing of Burslem's main product.Another spur to Wedgwood’s success was his growing affection for his distant cousin, Sarah whom he had met at the home of his wealthy uncles, John and Thomas. Whereas Josiah came from a poor background, Richard, his future father-in-law, was a prosperous cheese-merchant from Cheshire who apparently insisted that the young potter achieved a certain level of wealth before he could marry his daughter. Wedgwood entered partnerships with other potters, most notably Thomas Whieldon, and established himself as an independent potter in 1759. He moved to superior premises at the Ivy House Works where he perfected his Queen’s ware body and then to the Brick House Works. His reputation was rapidly spreading farther afield and finally, Richard was convinced of his suitability as a husband for his daughter, Sarah.There is no doubt as to Josiah’s love for Sarah when, on the eve of their wedding in 1764 he wrote to his partner, Thomas Bentley: 'I yesterday prevailed upon my dear Girl to name the day, the blissful day! When she will reward all my faithfull services and take me to her Arms!'.


  • Bone china

    Bone china

    A porcelain made from clay and feldspathic rock with the addition of about 50 percent of calcined animal bone. Josiah Wedgwood II introduced bone china at the Wedgwood Etruria factory in 1812.