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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

The leading make of British pottery from the mid-18C. Josiah Wedgwood (1730–95), a member of a long-established family of potters, set up in business on his own in 1759 in Burslem, one of Staffordshire's *Five Towns. He achieved rapid success with a cream-coloured earthenware; it was known as Queen's Ware from 1765, thanks to the patronage of Queen Charlotte. He next developed a black ware, which he called black basaltes. This was well suited to reproducing classical objects, such as urns, and with the addition of details in red encaustic it could imitate Greek red-figure vases (thought at the time to be Etruscan, which is why Wedgwood gave the name Etruria to the factory he built near Hanley in 1769).

Finally there was his most important discovery, a dense stoneware fine enough to rival porcelain. He called it jasper. Introduced in 1775, jasper became the most characteristic of Wedgwood's wares. It was made in various colours, usually with white decorative patterns or figures standing up in relief. This cameo effect was in keeping with the contemporary taste for *neoclassical decoration, and the range of colours in jasper ware was similar to those appearing on walls and ceilings in the new *Adam style. Wedgwood was now the height of fashion.

The most famous product of the Wedgwood factory was the Frog Service supplied to *Catherine the Great in 1774, now in the *Hermitage in *St Petersburg. It consists of 952 pieces, hand-painted with 1244 different British views. Each piece bears the crest of a green frog, because the service was intended for a palace near Petrodvorets at La Grenouillière (French for the Froggery). An equally distinguished production in jasper ware was Wedgwood's reproduction of the *Portland Vase.

Capable of achievements such as these, he did not need to compete with lesser manufacturers in the difficult quest for porcelain. The Wedgwood factory produced no porcelain until 1812, and then only for a few years; it did not become a regular product (in the English form of *bone china) until 1878.

The link with the Wedgwood family lasted until 1986, and production continued at Etruria until the 1940s; the factory then moved to its present site at Barlaston (part of *Stoke-on-Trent), where there is a comprehensive museum of the company's history and products.

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