Wedgwood and artists
Plaque depicting Etruria Hall
When Josiah I built his new factory at Etruria, at the same time he asked his architect Joseph Pickford of Derby, to design a fitting residence suitable for his status as a ‘Master Potter’, and also to house his growing family. This Wedgwood biscuit earthenware plaque shows the resulting home, Etruria Hall, and its close proximity to the Trent & Mersey Canal. Josiah carefully planned that this inland waterway would pass not only by the new Etruria factory, but that it would ‘terminate’ his lawns with water. The horse-drawn narrow boat in the foreground is thought to be the earliest known representation of this mode of transport. A similar view showing Wedgwood’s residence and the canal was featured on an oval platter that formed part of the famous ‘frog’ service, sent to Catherine the Great of Russia in 1774.
The plaque is decorated in polychrome enamels, and was originally attributed to the hand of Edward Stringer. Later research suggests that the actual artist was James Bakewell. In a letter written from one Benjamin Mather at the Wedgwood’s Chelsea decorating studio to Josiah on November 5 1774 it is mentioned that – ‘…Jas. Bakewell would be glad to do Landscape ware; if you think proper to imploy [sic] him in that Work – he has just finished a Tablet painted with a Landscape in Colours, which succeeded very well in the Colour, & in Workmanship the best that has been done yet…’
Wings were added to the Hall in 1780, to accommodate Josiah and Sarah’s growing family – the last child, Mary Anne, was born in 1778.
The plaque was recorded as having been found – ‘on the works’ – at Etruria in 1905. Around this time many pieces were –re-discovered prior to being housed and displayed in the first Wedgwood Museum that was opened at Etruria on 7th May 1906.
This unique biscuit earthenware plaque from about 1773 shows the Wedgwood family home, Etruria Hall from across the banks of the newly-constructed Trent and Mersey Canal. The view was thought for many years to be the work of Edward Stringer, but recent research indicates that James Bakewell was probably responsible.