From the South Kensington Museum

Teapot and cover of Elijah Mayer's cane coloured stoneware, moulded in low relief; the cover is surmounted by a figure of the widow of Zarephath From the South Kensington Museum pupil, and Miss Meteyard, in her  Life of Josiah Wedgwood,  makes reference to this fact

Teapot and cover of Elijah Mayer's cane-coloured stoneware, moulded in low relief; the cover is surmounted by a figure of the widow of Zarephath From the South Kensington Museum pupil, and Miss Meteyard, in her "Life of Josiah Wedgwood," makes reference to this fact. The history of the Adams family, of the factory and its work, has been recorded in that beautiful volume "William Adams, An Old English Potter," edited by Mr. W. Turner, whose name is well known to my readers and to all collectors, by reason of his valuable works upon old china. From this history we can learn that the first potter of the name was John Adams, of Burslem, who married Mary Leadbeater in 1654. He was the first occupier of a house built entirely of bricks in that town, which was known as "The Brick House," and which was in after years occupied by Wedgwood.

Excavations under the old pottery works have of late years brought to light traces of black, mottled, and slip ware.

On his mother's side, William Adams came of a long line of potting ancestors. The lady was Petronella Adam, a descendant of Adam de Audley of the thirteenth century, a family who had large possessions and a tradition as potters from early times.

Hulton Abbey belonged to them, and here the monks manufactured ware and tiles for their own use. The abbey was founded in 1223, and according to Ward, in his "History of Stoke," its founder was one Henry de Audley, a descendant of Richard de Toeni, standard-bearer of Normandy and a relation of William the Conqueror.

The writer's grandmother, who was born in Staffordshire in 1800, and died in 1887, was related to the Adams family, and had many tales to tell of her "Aunt and Uncle Adams" and their household during the early days of the nineteenth century. Amongst these were some amusing anecdotes of a serving-maid who excelled in making what she pleased to call "cheeses." Spinning round rapidly, she sank upon the floor with her petticoats spread out round her like an inflated balloon, and jumping up suddenly, she would exclaim, "Six and four are ten, and round we go again!" and repeat the performance till she was exhausted. This woman made a will in my grandmother's favour, bequeathing her some silver spoons, but they were stolen by a rogue before she could lay claim to them. My mother remembered being carried as a child by her grandmother's black butler, "Mr. Sambo," to spend the day with some members of the Adams family at a beautiful house, then in rural surroundings, in what is now the heart of the "Potteries."

These reminiscences bring those early days of the potting industry and the habits and customs of the time very near, for my great-grandmother must have been acquainted with Josiah Wedgwood and other famous potters during the most interesting period of ceramic art in Staffordshire.

Cameo portrait, in white, of Lord Nelson, on blue jasper ground, the work of William Adams, whose jasper ware is of very high quality and often now sold as that of Josiah Wedgwood From the South Kensington Museum

Cameo portrait, in white, of Lord Nelson, on blue jasper ground, the work of William Adams, whose jasper ware is of very high quality and often now sold as that of Josiah Wedgwood From the South Kensington Museum

William Adams, of Tunstall, built the Greengates factory in 1787, and worked here till his death, in 1805, when the work was carried on, till 1820, by his son Benjamin.

The factory was built upon land known as "Botany Bay," and was very extensive, the wares manufactured becoming famous by reason of their beauty and quality.

William Adams must have been apprenticed to Wedgwood at the Brick House, and afterwards at Etruria. He had received a good education, was a student of chemistry, in which he made many useful experiments, and was an artist of no mean order.

It is said that Wedgwood made a confidential friend of this man, whom he considered to be his cleverest pupil, and who assisted him in improving his wares and the colour of the blue jasper.

A lamp by W. Adams of antique pattern in cane coloured glazed ware, with cameo figures in white in Wedgwood style

A lamp by W. Adams of antique pattern in cane-coloured glazed ware, with cameo figures in white in Wedgwood style

From the South Kensington Museum

Miss Meteyard gives an account of the last jasper vase made by Wedgwood with the assistance of William Adams. It was ornamented with white figures modelled by Flaxman, and had entwined snake handles. This vase he presented to his erstwhile pupil upon his deathbed, and it remained a treasured souvenir in the Adams family for many years, but has now, unfortunately, been lost sight of.

Much jasper ware and black ware made in the Greengates factory is in these days atributed to Wedgwood, even though it be marked Adams. Hogarth patronised William Adams, and it is recorded that he made a beautiful set of buttons for King George III., which were afterwards set with precious stones.

Those famous architects the Adams brothers, of the Adelphi, gave orders to the Greengates factory for plaques and cameos, which were inserted in their chimney-pieces, friezes, and furniture, and which are in these days sold as the work of Josiah Wedgwood. Although the designs upon his jasper ware are very similar to those of other firms, William Adams used a border composed of interlaced circles, and this may be looked upon as characteristic of his jasper ware.

A Staffordshire match pot, red ground, basket work pattern, in

A Staffordshire match-pot, red ground, basket-work pattern, in

Wedgwood style

From the South Kensington Museum

It is said that Horace Walpole - of whom it was written "china's the passion of his soul" - greatly admired the furniture of the Adams brothers inlaid with jasper plaques, and it is interesting to note that some of the borders found upon their bureaux and cabinets are identical with those used by the potter Adams.

In a letter to Miss Meteyard from a lady at Derby, mention is made of the large size of the "galleries" at Tunstall, which are described as stored with jasper vases, tea-services, plaques, "and every description of this beautiful fabric." The writer also relates that when visiting Mr. Adams he presented her with pieces of "his faultless jasper."

In addition to services made for use, and large ornamental specimens, William Adams manufactured delightful little cameos which were mounted in the cut steel of the day, and worn as bracelets, earrings, brooches, buttons, buckles, scent-bottles, etc. Necklaces were also made in bead form, and in delicate shades of blue, green, mauve, pink, and black, adorned with white tracery.

Such things are now roughly classed as "Wedgwood," being too small to bear the stamped name of the maker. I think they are as valuable as the work of William Adams, and have an added interest in being copies of the works of a great master executed by a devoted pupil. William Adams and his son also manufactured a fine stone-ware decorated with classic and other designs in relief in the style of jasper ware, and resembling the jug shown on page 4698.

This was chiefly used for jugs and mugs, which were ornamented at the bottom and round the neck with bands of brown glaze and were frequently mounted in pewter and other metals. The figures and reliefs, however, were higher and more clearly cut at the Tunstall factory than is generally the case with examples made elsewhere.

Staffordshire teapot in Wedgwood style in cane coloured ware with blue enamel bands From the South Kensington Museum

Staffordshire teapot in Wedgwood style in cane-coloured ware with blue enamel bands From the South Kensington Museum