• Find out how the First World War had an impact on Wedgwood, both as a company and as a family.

Wedgwood and the First World War

  • by Jordan Muncaster

Photograph of Etruria

Theme

The First World War had a big impact on the Etruria Works. In contrast to 1913, where electricity had been installed for the first time and sales reached record levels of £66,932, 1914 and the outbreak of war meant that economising was necessary.

The war caused continental markets to close and there was a huge cancellation of orders. Salaries were reduced and the works were closed for two days a week, whilst all single men under the age of 30 were urged to enlist and fight in the war. In March 1915, the works closed down. An increase in coal prices, materials and other circumstances made it hard to produce quality work.

10% of the workforce had enlisted and there was a high probability of further enlistment from more workers, which meant that a serious labour shortage looked likely. By 1916, 102 of the 185 eligible men had enlisted and the rate of production was falling. July 1916 also saw the death of Cecil Wedgwood, one of the partners in the company. He was killed at the Battle of the Somme and he was largely reponsible for the gradual improvement in Wedgwood before the war. Focus was shifted to the American markets, although in 1917 they themselves joined the war and the demand for Wedgwood slackened even more.

 During the war itself, despite the problems, Wedgwood did continue to produce new work. For example, Daisy Makeig-Jones' "Ordinary Lustres" were introduced. Later, in the aftermath of the war, things such as Fairyland Lustres were introduced, which were filled with colour to indicate that there was a need to escape from the war and its horrors.

Catalogue

Photograph of the Etruria Factory