Josiah Spode (23rd March 1733 to 18th August 1797)

 

Potter Josiah Spode was one of the greatest drivers of the Industrial Revolution and here I am in Stoke-On-Trent at the family graves. I thought they might be in a church in the grounds of a mansion once owned by the Spode family but they’re in a cemetery with a church on one side and roads on the other sides.

 

Though the pottery became stupendously successful by exporting its ware across the world Josiah Spode started from nothing. He was a pauper’s son born in a village that is now part of Stoke-on-Trent. Aged six his dad died and was given a pauper’s funeral. Aged 16 Josiah was apprenticed to one of the best potters in the area Thomas Whieldon (not a fluke – his sister married a man who obtained the lease of the Caughley porcelain factory near Broseley.) Josiah worked under Thomas’s wing until he was 21 and, at this age, married Ellen Finley at Stoke on Trent. After this he worked for and in partnership with other potters in the area.

 

Aged 34 he established a business in Stoke-on-Trent and rented a factory in Church Street, Stoke-on-Trent. His financial partner William Tomlinson was a solicitor but it was Josiah’s experience as a potter that made the business work. Aged 39 business was so healthy they took on a larger pottery factory at Shelton.

 

Huge success came from creamware and in pearlware (a fine white-glazed earthenware). Josiah had learned to fine-tune the blue underglaze and customers worldwide bought it. This lifted the business to a new level. Aged 43 bought the old pottery works at Stoke (this would become the huge sprawling Spode factory) and he became the outright owner for the first time. About age 50 he drastically improved the formula to make a new kind of soft-paste porcelain by adding a high proportion of calcined ox-bone. This was called Stoke China but so much bone was added it became what the world now calls “bone China”. Other potteries didn’t produce this and it became a world standard.

 

Away from the company Josiah was a family man and there were seven children.  He died in 1797 aged 64 and his wife Ellen died in 1802, aged 76. They are buried together in in a churchyard in Stoke-on-Trent.

 

Josiah Spode II must be given credit for his business skills. Though his dad had established the business Josiah II was magnificently prepared for the role as a salesman and potter. He had married a potter’s daughter and had contacts in London where he lived. In keeping with his financial and social positions he had a mansion built not far from the factory - The Mount, a massive neo-classical mansion which still stands today. Nowadays the Spode name is now owned by the Portmeirion pottery company.

 

 

 

He’s here somewhere…

 

At the Spode graves…

 

Pointing to Josiah I who built the company and his son Josiah II who made it bigger…

 

With the Spodes

 

 

 

 

 

Josiah is in the middle. The Mount, the Spode family home, is to the left/right…