Josiah Wedgwood V (1899-1968)

Josiah Wedgwood V was a true visionary who was responsible for Wedgwood’s resurgent success in the Twentieth Century. He joined the firm in 1927, and on the sudden death of Frank Wedgwood in 1930, leadership of Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Ltd fell to his nephew in the next generation of Wedgwoods - a very young Josiah V (the great-great-great grandson of Josiah I). He became Chairman and Managing Director, and in 1967 became first Honorary Life President.

A promising young economics graduate, 'Siah' (as he was known to distinguish between him and his father, Josiah lV or 'Jos') was to revolutionise the company in every way. First of all, he rationalised the number of patterns and shapes being produced. However, the decision he took, with the support of his cousins, Tom, John and Hensleigh, to relocate the Wedgwood factory was a crucial turning point in the history of the company. The Etruria factory first built in 1769 had become obsolete. Furthermore, not only had the entire works sunk considerably due to mining subsidence, but the very ware it produced was being polluted by air-borne specks of iron from Shelton iron and steel works. The decision to move to a green-field site outside the main Potteries area was taken with the actions of the founder very much in mind. When he chose Etruria, it too was a rural area. By 1935, it was a dirty, polluted built-up area. Josiah V, showing the streak of philanthropy present in the Wedgwood family, wished to build a brand new, state-of-the-art factory with housing, schools, shops and a public house for their convenience, out in the countryside. He did not see why the pottery industry should always be associated with grime and dust and accordingly, the Wedgwood factory at Barlaston was the first all-electrically fired pottery factory to be built in the area. He envisaged that one day, all other potters would follow suit but sadly, the Second World War began in 1938 and such building projects had to be shelved.

Nevertheless, the construction of the new factory at Barlaston was allowed to continue due to its importance to the export market and to the fact that aircraft rivets were manufactured there, and also since it was safer to bring employees out from Stoke-on-Trent where they stood a higher risk from enemy bombing. Following the war, Josiah was quick to involve Wedgwood with a variety of modern designers, ensuring its place once more in the first league of ceramic manufacturers. He was also responsible for the introduction in the 1950’s of 'Wedgwood Rooms' which were Wedgwood outlets within major retail stores, revolutionising yet another aspect of company business. In addition to his Wedgwood interests, Josiah was also a Director to the Bank of England and Chairman of the Royal College of Art.

Josiah V was the last member of the family to hold executive control of the company. On his retirement, he chose as his successor Arthur Bryan who was later knighted for his services to exports. This would be the first time that the company had been headed by someone from outside the Wedgwood family.

In 1919, Josiah V married Dorothy Winser, and they had three children.

Images

Josiah Wedgwood V, © Wedgwood Museum

Josiah Wedgwood V
© Wedgwood Museum