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Josiah Wedgwood and Sons
Successor WWRD Holdings Limited
Founder Josiah Wedgwood
Number of employees
Parent Fiskars Corporation

Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, commonly known as Wedgwood, is a fine china, porcelain, and luxury accessories company founded on 1 May 1759 [1] by English potter and entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood. In 1987, Wedgwood merged with Waterford Crystal to create Waterford Wedgwood, an Ireland-based luxury brands group. The main assets of Waterford Wedgwood were purchased in 2009 by KPS Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, and the group became known as WWRD Holdings Limited, an abbreviation for "Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton". In July 2015, it was acquired by Fiskars Corporation, a Finnish consumer goods company. [2]

Josiah Wedgwood English potter and founder of the Wedgwood company  (1730–1795)

Josiah Wedgwood was an English potter and entrepreneur. He founded the Wedgwood company. He is credited with the industrialisation of the manufacture of pottery; "it was by intensifying the division of labour that Wedgwood brought about the reduction of cost which enabled his pottery to find markets in all parts of Britain, and also of Europe and America." The renewed classical enthusiasms of the late 1760s and early 1770s were of major importance to his sales promotion. His expensive goods were in much demand from the nobility, while he used emulation effects to market cheaper sets to the rest of society. Every new invention that Wedgwood produced – green glaze, creamware, black basalt and jasper – was quickly copied. Having once achieved perfection in production, he achieved perfection in sales and distribution. His showrooms in London gave the public the chance to see his complete range of tableware.

Waterford Crystal

Waterford Crystal is a manufacturer of crystal, named after the city of Waterford, Ireland. The brand is owned by WWRD Group Holdings Ltd., a luxury goods group which also owns and operates the Wedgwood and Royal Doulton brands, and which was acquired on 2 July 2015 by the Fiskars Corporation.

Waterford Wedgwood plc was a holding entity for a group of companies, headquartered in Ireland, which specialized in the manufacture of high quality china, porcelain, and glass. The group was dominated by Tony O'Reilly and his immediate family, as well as the family of O'Reilly's second wife, Chryss Goulandris, the two families together having had invested hundreds of millions of euros in it. The group's financial record was mixed, and significant cost-cutting had been ongoing for many years.



Typical Wedgwood blue Jasperware plate with white sprigged reliefs. Wedgwood.jpg
Typical Wedgwood blue Jasperware plate with white sprigged reliefs.
Wedgwood Portland Vase, c. 1790 Portland Vase V&A.jpg
Wedgwood Portland Vase, c. 1790
Detail of Wedgwood Portland Vase Portland Vase Detail.jpg
Detail of Wedgwood Portland Vase

At the outset, Josiah Wedgwood worked with the established potter Thomas Whieldon until 1759, when relatives leased him the Ivy House in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, which allowed him to start his own pottery business. His marriage to Sarah Wedgwood, a distant cousin with a sizable dowry, helped him launch his new venture.

Thomas Whieldon English potter

Thomas Whieldon was a significant English potter who played a leading role in the development of Staffordshire pottery.

Burslem town forming the city of Stoke-on-Trent, England

Burslem is a constitutional town that amalgamated to form the Federation of Stoke-on-Trent in 1910, along with Hanley, Tunstall, Fenton, Longton and Stoke-upon-Trent in 1925, following the granting of city status to become the City of Stoke-on-Trent.

A dowry is a transfer of parental property, gifts or money at the marriage of a daughter. Dowry contrasts with the related concepts of bride price and dower. While bride price or bride service is a payment by the groom or his family to the bride's parents, dowry is the wealth transferred from the bride's family to the groom or his family, ostensibly for the bride. Similarly, dower is the property settled on the bride herself, by the groom at the time of marriage, and which remains under her ownership and control. Dowry is an ancient custom, and its existence may well predate records of it. Dowries continue to be expected and demanded as a condition to accept a marriage proposal in some parts of the world, mainly in parts of Asia, Northern Africa and the Balkans. In some parts of the world, disputes related to dowry sometimes result in acts of violence against women, including killings and acid attacks. The custom of dowry is most common in cultures that are strongly patrilineal and that expect women to reside with or near their husband's family (patrilocality). Dowries have long histories in Europe, South Asia, Africa and other parts of the world.

In 1765, Wedgwood created a new form of creamware, a fine glazed earthenware, which impressed the then British Queen consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who gave official permission to call it "Queen's Ware". This new form sold extremely well across Europe. In 1766, Wedgwood bought Etruria , a large Staffordshire estate, as both a home and factory site. Wedgwood developed a number of further industrial innovations for his company, notably a way of measuring kiln temperatures accurately and new ceramic bodies including Black Basalt and Jasperware, both unglazed ("biscuit") stonewares.

Creamware cream-coloured, refined earthenware with a lead glaze over a pale body

Creamware is a cream-coloured, refined earthenware with a lead glaze over a pale body, known in France as faïence fine, in Germany as Engels porselein and Italy as terraglia inglese. It was created about 1750 by the potters of Staffordshire, England, who refined the materials and techniques of salt-glazed earthenware towards a finer, thinner, whiter body with a brilliant glassy lead glaze, which proved so ideal for domestic ware that it supplanted white salt-glaze wares by about 1780. It was popular until the 1840s.

Earthenware ceramic crockery and dishes

Earthenware is glazed or unglazed nonvitreous pottery that has normally been fired below 1200°C. Porcelain, bone china and stoneware, all fired at high enough temperatures to vitrify, are the main other important types of pottery.

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz Queen consort of the United Kingdom as the wife of King George III

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was the wife of King George III. She served as Queen of Great Britain and Queen of Ireland from her wedding in 1761 until the union of the two kingdoms in 1801, after which she was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until her death in 1818. She was also the Electress of Hanover in the Holy Roman Empire until the promotion of her husband to King of Hanover on 12 October 1814, after which she was also queen consort of Hanover.

Wedgwood's best known product is Jasperware, created to look like ancient cameo glass. It was inspired by the Portland Vase, a Roman vessel which is now a museum piece. The first jasperware colour was Portland Blue, an innovation that required experiments with more than 3,000 samples. In recognition of the importance of his pyrometric beads (pyrometer), Josiah Wedgwood was elected a member of the Royal Society in 1783. The Wedgwood Prestige collection sold replicas of the original designs, as well as modern neo-classical style jasperware.

Cameo glass

Cameo glass is a luxury form of glass art produced by cameo etching and carving through fused layers of differently colored glass to produce designs, usually with white opaque glass figures and motifs on a dark-colored background. The technique is first seen in ancient Roman art of about 30 BC, where it was an alternative to the more luxurious engraved gem vessels in cameo style that used naturally layered semi-precious gemstones such as onyx and agate. Glass allowed consistent and predictable colored layers, even for round objects.

Portland Vase Roman cameo glass vase, dated to between AD 1 and AD 25,

The Portland Vase is a Roman cameo glass vase, which is dated to between AD 1 and AD 25, though low BC dates have some scholarly support. It is the best known piece of Roman cameo glass and has served as an inspiration to many glass and porcelain makers from about the beginning of the 18th century onwards. It is first recorded in Rome in 1600–1601, and since 1810 has been in the British Museum in London. It was bought by the museum in 1945 and is normally on display in Room 70.

Pyrometer remote-sensing thermometer used to measure high temperatures

A pyrometer is a type of remote-sensing thermometer used to measure the temperature of a surface. Various forms of pyrometers have historically existed. In the modern usage, it is a device that from a distance determines the temperature of a surface from the amount of the thermal radiation it emits, a process known as pyrometry and sometimes radiometry.

The main Wedgwood motifs in jasperware – as well as in other wares like basaltware, queensware, caneware, etc. – were decorative designs that were highly influenced by the ancient cultures being studied and rediscovered at that time, especially as Great Britain was expanding its empire. Many motifs were taken from ancient mythologies: Roman, Greek and Egyptian. Meanwhile, archaeological fever caught the imagination of many artists. Nothing could have been more suitable to satisfy this huge business demand than to produce replicas of ancient artefacts. Many representations of royalty, nobles and statesmen in silhouette were created, as well as political symbols. These were often set in jewellery, as well as in architectural features like fireplace mantels, mouldings and furniture. Wedgwood has honoured American individuals and corporations as well, both historically and recently. In 1774 he employed the then 19-year-old John Flaxman as an artist, who would work for the next 12 years mostly for Wedgwood. The "Dancing Hours" may be his most well known design. Other artists known to have worked for Wedgwood include among others Lady Elizabeth Templetown, George Stubbs, Emma Crewe and Lady Diana Beauclerk.

British Empire States and dominions ruled by the United Kingdom

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.

Silhouette image

A silhouette is the image of a person, animal, object or scene represented as a solid shape of a single color, usually black, with its edges matching the outline of the subject. The interior of a silhouette is featureless, and the hole is typically presented on a light background, usually white, or none at all. The silhouette differs from an outline, which depicts the edge of an object in a linear form, while a silhouette appears as a solid shape. Silhouette images may be created in any visual artistic media, but were first used to describe pieces of cut paper, which were then stuck to a backing in a contrasting colour, and often framed.

John Flaxman English artist

John Flaxman was a British sculptor and draughtsman, and a leading figure in British and European Neoclassicism. Early in his career he worked as a modeller for Josiah Wedgwood's pottery. He spent several years in Rome, where he produced his first book illustrations. He was a prolific maker of funerary monuments.

Modern Wedgwood Kutani Crane pattern, in bone china Wedgwood kpjas 003a.jpg
Modern Wedgwood Kutani Crane pattern, in bone china

Wedgwood had increasing success with hard paste porcelain which attempted to imitate the whiteness of tea-ware imported from China, an extremely popular product amongst high society. High transport costs and the demanding journey from the Far East meant that the supply of chinaware could not keep up with increasingly high demand. Towards the end of the 18th century other Staffordshire manufacturers introduced bone china as an alternative to translucent and delicate Chinese porcelain. [3] In 1812 Wedgwood produced their own bone china [4] which, though not a commercial success at first [3] eventually became an important part of an extremely profitable business.

China Country in East Asia

China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third- or fourth-largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

Far East geographical term

The Far East is a geographical term in English that usually refers to East Asia, the Russian Far East, and Southeast Asia. South Asia is sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons. The term "Far East" came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 12th century, denoting the Far East as the "farthest" of the three "easts", beyond the Near East and the Middle East. Likewise, in Qing Dynasty of the 19th and early 20th centuries the term "Tàixī (泰西)" – i.e. anything further west than the Arab world – was used to refer to the Western countries.

Staffordshire County of England

Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands of England. It borders with Cheshire to the northwest, Derbyshire and Leicestershire to the east, Warwickshire to the southeast, West Midlands and Worcestershire to the south, and Shropshire to the west.

Wedgwood Room with porcelain panels, in the palace of Archduke Albert in Vienna Wedgwood-Kabinett 2.jpg
Wedgwood Room with porcelain panels, in the palace of Archduke Albert in Vienna
Belt clasp designed by Lady Templeton and Miss Crew for Josiah Wedgwood's factory (The Walters Art Museum) Crew - Belt Clasp with a Female Making a Sacrifice - Walters 481770.jpg
Belt clasp designed by Lady Templeton and Miss Crew for Josiah Wedgwood's factory (The Walters Art Museum)

Josiah Wedgwood was also a patriarch of the Darwin–Wedgwood family. Many of his descendants were closely involved in the management of the company down to the time of the merger with the Waterford Company:

Enoch Wedgwood (1813–1879), a distant cousin of the first Josiah, was also a potter and founded his own firm, Wedgwood & Co, in 1860. It was taken over by Josiah Wedgwood & Sons in 1980.

In 1968, Wedgwood purchased many English potteries including Mason's Ironstone, Johnson Brothers, Royal Tuscan, William Adams & Sons, J. & G. Meakin and Crown Staffordshire. In 1979, Waterford Wedgwood purchased the Franciscan Ceramics division of Interpace in the United States. The Los Angeles plant closed in 1984 and production of the Franciscan brand was moved to Johnson Brothers in Britain. In 1986, Waterford Glass Group plc purchased Wedgwood plc, forming the company Waterford Wedgwood plc.

Waterford Wedgwood

In 1986, Waterford Glass Group plc purchased Wedgwood plc for US$360 million, with Wedgwood delivering a 38.7 million USD profit in 1998 (while Waterford itself lost $28.9 million), after which the group was renamed Waterford Wedgwood plc. From early 1987 to early 1989, the CEO was Patrick Byrne, previously of Ford, who then became CEO of the whole group. During this time, he sold off non-core businesses and reduced the range of Wedgwood patterns from over 400 to around 240. In the late 1990s, the CEO was Brian Patterson. From 1 January 2001, the Deputy CEO was Tony O'Reilly, Junior, who was appointed CEO in November of the same year and resigned in September 2005. He was succeeded by the then-president of Wedgwood USA, Moira Gavin, up until the company went into administration in 2009.

In 2001, Wedgwood launched a collaboration with designer Jasper Conran, which started with a white fine bone china collection then expanded to include seven patterns. In March 2009, KPS Capital Partners acquired the Waterford Wedgwood group assets. Assets including Wedgwood, Waterford and Royal Doulton were placed into WWRD Holdings Limited.

WWRD Holdings Limited

On 5 January 2009, following years of financial problems at group level, and after a share placement failed during the global financial crisis of 2008, Waterford Wedgwood was placed into administration [7] on a "going concern" basis, with 1,800 employees remaining. On 27 February 2009, Waterford Wedgwood's receiver Deloitte announced that the New York-based private equity firm KPS Capital Partners had purchased certain Irish and UK assets of Waterford Wedgwood, and the assets of its Irish and UK subsidiaries. [8] KPS Capital Partners placed Wedgwood into a group of companies known as WWRD, an abbreviation for "Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton".

In May 2015 Fiskars Corporation, a Finnish maker of home products, agreed to buy 100% of the holdings of WWRD. [9] On 2 July 2015, the acquisition of WWRD by Fiskars Corporation was completed, including the brands Waterford, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Royal Albert and Rogaška. The acquisition was approved by the US antitrust authorities. [10]

Wedgwood Museums and the Museum Trust

Wedgwood's founder wrote as early as 1774 that he wished he had preserved samples of all the company's works, and he began to do so. The first formal museum was opened in May 1906, with a curator named Isaac Cook, at the main (Etruria) works. The contents of the museum were stored for the duration of the Second World War and relaunched in a gallery at the new Barlaston factory in 1952. A new purpose-built visitor centre and museum was built in 1975 and remodelled in 1985, with pieces displayed near items from the old factory works in cabinets of similar period. A video theatre was added and a new gift shop, as well as an expanded demonstration area, where visitors could watch pottery being made. A further renovation costing £4.5 million was carried out in 2000, including access to the main factory itself.[ citation needed ]

Adjacent to the museum and visitor centre are a restaurant and tea room, serving on Wedgwood ware. The museum, managed by a dedicated trust, closed in 2000 and on 24 October 2008, it reopened in a new multimillion-pound building.

In June 2009, the Wedgwood Museum won a UK Art Fund Prize for Museums and Art Galleries for its displays of Wedgwood pottery, skills, designs and artefacts. [11] In May 2011, the archive of the museum was inscribed in UNESCO's UK Memory of the World Register. [12] [13] [14]

The collection with 80,000 works of art, ceramics, manuscripts, letters and photographs faced being sold off to help satisfy pension debts inherited when Waterford Wedgwood plc went into receivership in 2009. The Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund, various trusts and businesses contributed donations to purchase the collection. [15] On December 1 2014, the collection was purchased and donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The collection will continue to be on display at the Wedgwood Museum on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum. [16]

Minton Archive

The Minton Archive comprises papers and drawings of the designs, manufacture and production of the defunct pottery company Mintons. It was acquired by Waterford Wedgwood in 2005 along with other assets of the Royal Doulton group. [17] At one time it seemed the Archive would become part of the Wedgwood collection. In the event, the Archive was presented by the Art Fund to the City of Stoke-on-Trent, but it was envisaged that some material would be displayed at Barlaston as well as the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. [18]

Wedgwood locality

Wedgwood railway station was opened in 1940 to serve the Wedgwood complex in Staffordshire, England.

Notes and references

  1. "Pottery firm marks 250th birthday". BBC. 1 May 2005. Retrieved 1 May 2009.
  2. "Fiskars Corporation has completed the acquisition of WWRD and extended its portfolio with iconic luxury home and lifestyle brands". Press Releases. Fiskars Corporation. 2015-07-02. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  3. 1 2 Brian Dolan, Wedgwood: The First Tycoon, Viking 2004, p335
  4. The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, ed. Campbell, OUP 2006, Volume 2, p547
  5. "Belt Clasp with a Female Making a Sacrifice". The Walters Art Museum.
  6. Michael Davis, William Blake: A New Kind of Man, University of California Press, 1977, pages 140–141
  7. "Wedgwood goes into administration". BBC. 5 January 2009.
  8. "Waterford Wedgwood bought by US equity firm KPS Capital". The Irish Times . 27 February 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2009.
  9. Bray, Chad. "Fiskars Agrees to Buy Owner of Waterford and Wedgwood". New York Times. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  10. "Fiskars Corporation has completed the acquisition of WWRD and extended its portfolio with iconic luxury home and lifestyle brands". NASDQ Global News Wire. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  11. "Wedgwood wins £100,000 art prize". BBC. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 5 November 2009.
  12. "2011 UK Memory of the World Register", United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO, 2011. Accessed 4 June 2011.
  13. "Wedgwood Museum archive recognised by UNESCO," Wedgwood Museum. Accessed 4 June 2011.
  14. "Unesco recognises Wedgwood Museum archive collection", BBC, 24 May 2011. Accessed 4 June 2011.
  15. "Wedgwood collection 'saved for nation'". BBC. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  16. "Loan of Wedgwood Collection to Barlaston finalised". Save the Wedgwood Collection. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  17. "Art Fund helps save the Minton Archive for the nation" (PDF). Art Fund. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  18. "Minton Archive saved for the nation" (Press release).

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Etruria Hall in Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England is a Grade II listed house and former home of the potter Josiah Wedgwood. It was built between 1768–1771 by Joseph Pickford. The hall was sold by the Wedgwoods in the 19th century and is now part of a hotel.

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