Etruria homes

Josiah Wedgwood's original village was built in 1769-70. It consisted on 76 houses built an average cost of £45 each. The majority of houses originally had two downstairs rooms, a living room and a kitchen scullery, with two bedrooms above. They had earth floors, plain board doors, and casement windows of green leaded glass. The living room was the only room with a fireplace and would have been the focal point of family life, with cooking, eating and entertaining all taking place in this room. The kitchen scullery was considerably smaller, housing a dogleg staircase to the bedrooms above. Most dwellings opened out directly into the street or to a yard at the rear. They were not built back to back, like the dwellings constructed in towns and cities to house the working population, and were a huge improvement on most people's homes at that time – in both cities and rural areas.

An estate plan dating from shows Etruria had grown to 121 houses, with all but eight having either a rear garden or yard, and the majority had their own individual outdoor privy.

In 1850, a reporter from 'The Morning Chronicle' (28 January.1850) described the interiors of the working class houses in the Potteries, the best examples of which he found in Etruria:

'The lower apartments were paved with bricks, the upper were floored with boarding. The living room, I could see, was generally used for cooking, the kitchen being appropriated to the purposes of a scullery. There was a capital range, containing boilers, ovens and apparatus for roasting, all as clean as hard brushes and black lead could make them. I may mention also that in a great number of these cottages the doorstep was brightly black leaded. In almost every house in the village a handsome eight day clock ticked in a corner and one side of the living room was accompanied by a sofa, perhaps not very elegantly shaped, but ample, and covered with glazed calico. In the kitchen was a good store of pots, pans and tea and dinner ware; and behind the house was a garden about twenty yards by six or seven…[in another house] a carpet was spread over the brick floor, a roaring fire danced and flickered upon the perfectly polished range and fire-irons; there was a clock and a large and handsome chest of drawers in the room, a central table, and several smaller ones, a sofa and a comfortable easy chair…Upon the several ledges and ridges of the old fashioned chimney piece were set a profusion of little china ornaments – dogs, vases and shepherdesses tending their flocks beneath very green crockery trees. There was also a bookcase, very fairly stocked, and newspapers and cheap serial publications lay in the broad window sill…In the next house…the floor was at least partially carpeted, and a horse covered with good white crisp linen was airing before the fire. Among a number of portraits and engravings hanging upon the walls was a very fair copy, executed in oil, of David’s picture (I think it is) of Napoleon crossing the Alps. The brass candlesticks which were ranged upon cupboard and shelf were as bright as a Dutch housewife could wish them; and at the end of the garden was a small greenhouse. These gardens were one and all provided with proper private accommodations. The fences were formed of old ‘saggars’; and a fair quantity of kitchen vegetables were, as I was informed, produced by each patch of land.'

People were very proud of Etruria. When King George V and Queen Alexandra visited Wedgwood in 1913, the Queen asked one of the elder workmen if he was from the Potteries, to which he replied ‘No Ma’am, I am an Etrsucan’.

Most of the Wedgwood houses at Etruria were demolished in the late 1950s.

This section is drawn from 'A History of Etruria', by Kevin Salt, 2006 (available for purchase from The Wedgwood Museum).

Images

Plan and elevations of houses at Etruria, © Wedgwood Museum

Plan and elevations of houses at Etruria
© Wedgwood Museum