Peter Roden. Copyhold Potworks and Housing in the Staffordshire Potteries, 1700–1832. Cumbria, Eng.: Wood Broughton Publications, 2008. 433 pp.; b/w illus., appendixes, glossaries, bibliographies, indexes. £25.00 (softcover).
It has taken Peter Roden fifteen years to compile Copyhold Potworks, a lengthy publication containing many reproductions of maps and document excerpts. It examines the copyhold tenure of potworks and housing within the manor of Newcastle-under-Lyme and is therefore divided into three manageable parts: Part 1, Copyhold Tenure; Part 2, Potworks; and Part 3, Housing Developments.
Part 1 explains the process of copyhold tenure. In short, copyhold dates back to medieval times and was how land was tenanted within a manor. Records of the manor court dealt with changes of ownership and the mortgages of land and buildings by tenants (or copyholders). Roden’s methodology has been to transcribe fully the court minutes (preserved in the National Archives, Kew) from 1700 to 1799. Owing to the daunting quantity of records from 1800 to 1833, Roden has transcribed two-thirds of these, selected on the basis of continuity with and relevance to the eighteenth-century records.
To familiarize readers with Newcastle-under-Lyme’s medieval and copyhold tenure boundaries, a clear map and explanation are provided. The potworks and housing developments included are within the districts of Hanley, Shelton, Stoke-upon-Trent, and Penkhull. The copyhold manor did not include Burslem, Tunstall, Fenton, or Longton; still, the book refers to more than fifty different potworks, and nearly two thousand people are indexed.
It has often been pointed out that there are few comprehensive or accurately dated lists of Staffordshire potteries before Allbut’s directory and map of 1802. Likewise, the Staffordshire Advertiser (usefully indexed by Rodney Hampson) began only in 1795, leaving Simeon Shaw’s Rise of the Staffordshire Potteries of 1829 to provide more insight into earlier times. Therefore, one value of Roden’s Copyhold Potworks is the significant contribution it makes to understanding the eighteenth-century activities of pottery families such as Astbury, Twyford, Palmer, Minton, and Spode. While the book does not reveal information about the actual types of wares produced (beyond references to earthenware, china, or both), the book enhances what is known about the ownership of potteries, dates of production, growth of factories, various property transactions, and other business activities. Roden usefully applies colored lines to highlight key points or boundaries when reproducing original maps and documents.
A real triumph of Part 2 of this book is the documentation of many lesser-known individuals. For example, in the case of Yates, potters of Shelton from at least the 1780s, Roden notes:
It is surprising that no research yet seems to have produced any paper devoted to them in the ceramic literature. The manor court records contain a significant number of transactions involving them and other members of the Yates family and they involve a relatively small number of first names. (p. 148)
Copyhold Potworks attempts to index individuals separately, but, as Roden candidly admits, ambiguity in the records necessarily limits the results. Intermarriages and repetitive Christian names make it hard to distinguish between certain individuals. Nevertheless, ceramic historians can appreciate the complexity and interconnections of these family dynasties, which helped shape the pottery industry of the nineteenth century: included in the Taylor family, potters in Shelton, for instance, are George and John Taylor, described as “potsellers” in Edinburgh in the 1780s (p. 155).
Roden’s inclusion of a “Bibliography of Potworks” shows which manufacturers have been extensively researched and which have not. Apparently nothing has been written about Joseph Turner, a potter in Hanley working in the early eighteenth century; Moses Glass, potter on Marsh Street, Shelton, active until the end of the 1760s; or the Ratcliffe family (listed in Allbut’s 1802 directory as Mrs. Ratcliffe of Stoke-lane). One of Humphrey Ratcliffe’s sons was described as Thomas Ratcliffe, potter of Warrington (near Liverpool). When Humphrey Ratcliffe died in 1798, his wife was given life interest in the pottery, which accounts for Allbut’s reference to Mrs. Ratcliffe (pp. 60, 98, 176–77). This cross-referencing of factory sites with Allbut’s directory of 1802 is invaluable.
Part 3 of the book deals with “Housing Developments.” Roden argues that, in the main, it was speculators rather than pottery entrepreneurs who built housing, attempting to attract workers (p. 227). Nevertheless, these piecemeal transactions are equally intriguing. John Ridgway, manufacturer of earthenware, sold a plot of land on George Street, Shelton (now Hanley), to “Anson Floyd of the City of Kikenny in Ireland, Dealer in Delph and China” (p. 306). Was this transaction a reflection of trading networks, or perhaps Floyd returning to Staffordshire after a period in Ireland, selling ceramics?
Due to the existence in museums of black-printed creamware (often with American-related themes), we know of Staffordshire engravers such as F. Morris, T. Baddeley, and Bentley, Wear and Bourne. Roden’s book lists William Wear and William Bentley, engravers in Shelton, purchasing plots of land on Vine Street in Hanley in 1819. There are a number of other references to engravers and printers working in the 1810s. These include James Wooldridge of Stoke-upon-Trent and Richard Meigh and Samuel Wooliscroft of Shelton, all listed as printers on earthenware (pp. 296, 308, 339). Obviously, there are opportunities to use this impressive publication to research other aspects of the ceramic industry.
It is worth emphasizing that Roden has compiled useful appendixes, glossaries, bibliographies, and indexes of people, places, streets, fields, and organizations, all of which help readers navigate their way around the material. And if a researcher wants to pursue a line of enquiry, the “Surviving Records” appendix indicates by date which volume to consult at the National Archives, Kew.
Copyhold Potworks will serve as an invaluable reference, but it can just as easily be read systematically. By drawing attention to this wealth of fascinating material, Roden has created many opportunities not only to enhance existing knowledge but to pursue other avenues of research. It is meticulously researched, and the author must be congratulated for making such an extraordinary range of material accessible to ceramics scholars who are far removed from the Kew archives.
Senior Lecturer, Design History, University of Sunderland
Previous publications by Peter Roden have included research on the Spode business, published in Peter Roden, “Josiah Spode (1733–1797), His Formative Influences and the Various Potworks Associated with Him,” Journal of the Northern Ceramic Society 14 (1997): 1–43. Roden is currently the treasurer of the Northern Ceramic Society.
Rodney Hampson, Pottery References in the Staffordshire Advertiser, 1795–1865 (Hanley, Eng.: Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Northern Ceramic Society, 2000).
Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent, or the S. Robert Teitelman Collection at Winterthur Museum, Delaware.