• A business is after all a business and Josiah I was a great entrepreneur. Find out about how Wedgwood both made and exploited the market.

Made to sell

  • by the Wedgwood Museum team

Bedford Grape Set - gravy dish & cover

Theme

Although Josiah I made many branches of his ware to be ‘fit for purpose’, in the early days of his production he had a low opinion of the possibilities of armorial or crested wares. Wedgwood complained to Thomas Bentley in 1766 that ‘Crests are very bad things for us to meddle with…’ – Josiah was concerned that if during the firing process in the kilns that large batches of armorial wares were misfired, that he would be left with unsaleable ‘seconds.’ Wedgwood said – ‘Plain ware, if it should not happen to be firsts, you will take off my hands as seconds, which, if Crested would be as useless as most other Crests and Crest wearers are.’

By 1776 however Wedgwood had to eat his words and admitted to Bentley – ‘The painting of Arms has now become a serious business.’ Wedgwood also kept crest books for the use of his hand painters – as well as being a convenient way of recording orders received from the gentry.

This Queen’s ware gravy tureen, lid and stand, is from part of a much larger service decorated in brown with the ‘Bedford Grape’ pattern and the crest of Lord William Russell, the Duke of Bedford.. The ware was originally ordered by the Duke through Clewes of Edinburgh, and was despatched on 25th July 1815.

Although the gravy or sauce tureen in its plain undecorated state would have appealed to the general markets, here it has been very much personalised for an illustrious and well-known member of the aristocracy.

Catalogue

Although Josiah I was extremely dubious about the business of producing armorial wares, by 1776 he had realised that this section of production was highly lucrative. As with other branches of his manufacture Wedgwood kept meticulous records for his factory artists, which also documented orders past and present, in this case in a series of crest books. This creamware gravy, or sauce, tureen with Bedford grape pattern and armorial device of the Dukes of Bedford dates to 1815.