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 went to 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 then 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 which were not selling well in overseas markets. Before leaving the factory, he unsuccessfully attempted to throw a large plate on a potters wheel. John could not control its speed, and the plate kept spinning off the wheel.
Unwilling to admit defeat, he decided to try again when he visited Wedgwood. John 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 that 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 which you would like to share please email David at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Memory Lane in Tunstall Market on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.