Barlaston - a garden suburb

At Etruria, Josiah I employed the architect Joseph Pickford to build a village to house his workers as separate as possible from the factory for health reasons. In the best Wedgwood tradition Josiah Wedgwood V planned a village at Barlaston. The designer and architect chosen was Louis de Soissons, who had worked with Ebenezer Howard to create Welwyn Garden City. The factory and village were adjacent but completely separated. For those still living in Stoke on Trent or to the south the station Wedgwood Halt was built with a path that led to the factory doors. The walk from village and station was designed so that his workers felt refreshed before starting work. This modest exercise combined with the centrally heated houses provided what were for Josiah with his ideal workers those with cool heads and warm feet! In 1938 at the foundation stone laying ceremony, Josiah had talked of how he: '…looked forward to the day when all the workers at our new factory and many others beside will not only have the benefit of exercising their craft in the pure air of the country, but will also be able to spend their leisure time in his own house'.

Unfortunately with the outbreak of war and restrictions on building materials, the village was not completed until the 1950s. In any case the war had also meant the need for air raid shelters, sufficient to protect the 1000 strong work force. Shortly after the end of the war Josiah wrote on the 23 September 1946 about the new factory and village: 'Mean streets, ugly over crowded houses, unattractive factories and workshops are not conducive to the production of beautiful things. Sometimes by a miracle, beautiful things do come out of such surroundings, but it is not wise to rely on a succession of miracles. Improve dwellings and work places and you will most surely improve the whole standard of industrial design'.

Josiah I was one of the first paternalistic entrepreneurs to provide decent workers' housing. Josiah V had maintained not only his great, great, great grandfather's commitment to the workers, but also carred into the Twentieth Century the concept of the model workers village. He came at the end of a long line of philantropists in the tradition of Robert Owen at New Lanark, Sir Titus Salt at Saltaire, Cadbury at Bournville and Lord Leverhulme at Port Sunlight.

The development of the garden suburb at Barlaston is described in detail in 'The Factory in a Garden' (1988), by Sharon Gater and David Vincent.

Images

Housing in Barlaston, © Wedgwood Museum

Housing in Barlaston
© Wedgwood Museum