Barlaston (1940- )

The old Etruria site suffered badly from subsidence and air pollution in the 1930s, and so the decision was made to relocate to a new greenfield site. The current factory occupies a 382 acre estate located near the village of Barlaston, Staffordshire. The land was purchased by the Wedgwood family in 1936 and the foundation stone was laid on 10 September 1938. Earthenware production was transferred from the old Etruria site in 1940, with production officially ending at Etruria on 13 June 1950. The new Barlaston factory was the most advanced pottery in Britain, and firing was powered by electricity in the Brown Boveri tunnel ovens.

Keith Murray and Charles White were appointed as architects for the new factory which was, and still is, the jewel in the crown of the pottery industry. The machinery to equip the factory was left to Tom Wedgwood and Norman Wilson, Production Director. Ultimately Barlaston would be the first all electrically-fired pottery factory in this country, a great step towards ridding the Potteries of the thick black smoke from the bottle ovens.

On 10 September 1938, amidst the uncertainty of whether the country would go to war, the foundation stone ceremony went ahead. In the best Wedgwood tradition, eight of the longest serving Etruria workers placed vases and cameos in a casket to be buried under the foundation stone. The casket was sealed by Alan Wedgwood, Tom's son, and Josiah V added a china plaque that read: 'Within this cavity are buried 8 pots to commemorate the founding of this factory in a Garden Village in the sixth generation of descendants of Josiah Wedgwood who founded his factory at Etruria Staffordshire,170 years ago. "By their works ye shall know them."'

The building of the Barlaston factory was the greatest achievement for the company this century, and on a par with the building and opening of the Etruria works by Josiah I in 1769. Barlaston went into production in 1940. Wartime production for the export market was allowed, and in addition the hand painting department at Barlaston manufactured aircraft rivets for the war effort. The 1000 workers at the new factory were also safe from Luftwaffe raids on the Potteries.

The new factory used modern materials in its construction. Steel and glass provided an ideal Modernist's working environment, giving air, space and light to Wedgwood's employees. Keith Murray and C S White had: 'In contrast to the jumble of small workshops and the exterior staircases to be found at Etruria, devised a simple building which allowed for the continuous and uninterrupted flow of materials from raw materials to finished product delivered at the railway sidings to the lorries at the other end'.

With the Barlaston factory using modern electrical firing methods, Keith Murray, on one of his drawings for the factory had added a number of birds flying out of the factory chimney!

Images

Barlaston, © Wedgwood Museum

Barlaston
© Wedgwood Museum