Hard times at Etruria

Life at Etruria was not without incidents of hardship and tragedy. 1783 was a year of food shortages throughout the Potteries caused by crop failure during the preceding harvest, with feelings intensified due to unemployment and inflation. In that year a narrowboat laden with provisions at Etruria Lock was looted, a riot broke out, and attempts were made to set fire to some of the houses belonging to wealthier landowners. At the Wedgwood factory the crate shop became a victim of arson and four men went up to Etruria Hall (Josiah Wedgwood's home) demanding food and drink. As Josiah Wedgwood was away on business in London, his wife Sarah and seventeen-year-old son John gave them what they requested after attempting to reason with them. Eventually the Militia were summoned to restore order and the two leaders, Joseph Boulton and Stephen Barlow, were taken to Stafford prison. Boulton managed to escape with a public flogging although Barlow was hanged for the offence.

Punishments were sometimes severe for what today would be considered trivial offences. In 1800 a boy living at Etruria was convicted of stealing a sixpence (2.5p) and was subsequently hanged.

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

Images

Etruria, © Wedgwood Museum

Etruria
© Wedgwood Museum