J. B. Priestley visits Tunstall

An Artist’s Impression of Adams’ Greengates Factory in the 18th Century

Writer and broadcaster, John Boynton Priestley made his first visit to The Potteries in 1933 when he was writing English Journey, a personalised semi-documentary account of life in England.

A well built, good-natured, plain speaking, pipe smoking Yorkshireman, he visited towns and cities throughout the country collecting materials for his book.

Meandering northwards from Southampton, John made his way to The Potteries where he visited two 18th century potbanks – Adams in Tunstall and Wedgwood at Etruria.

John was surprised to hear the foreman at Adams call the workers “ladies and gentlemen” instead of “men and women”. He saw them making and decorating cups and saucers, teapots, butter dishes, dinnerware and tea services.

The “ladies and gentlemen” took pride in their work. John admired their skill and craftsmanship but was critical of the firm’s traditional designs that were not selling well in overseas markets.

Before leaving the factory, John unsuccessfully attempted to throw a large plate on a potter’s wheel. He could not control the wheel’s speed, and the plate kept spinning off it.

Unwilling to admit defeat, John decided to try again when he went to Wedgwood where he persuaded the company to let him throw a vase.

John’s skills as a potter were limited, and amused workers watched his futile attempts to shape the clay. Realising he did not have the ability to make a vase, John spent all afternoon trying to create a bowl. One disaster followed another. Eventually, he managed to produce something resembling a bowl which could be used as an ashtray.

Did you know that Adams had two potbanks in Tunstall? The one called Greengates was near Christ Church. The other called Greenfield was in Furlong Road. Both factories were demolished many years ago.

If you have memories of these factories or photographs of them and the ware they made that you would like to share with people living in Tunstall, please email David Martin at daymar727@talktalk.net or visit Memory Lane in Tunstall Market on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

BC/DM (2018)