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Ceramics

The closing decades of John Wesley's life coincided with the development of the Staffordshire pottery industry. On one of his visits to the area, probably in 1781, he gave five sittings to the young and gifted Burslem potter Enoch Wood. Many factories from the early nineteenth century to the present day have copied the resulting bust. One of the earliest potters to represent Wesley was Josiah Wedgwood with basalt intaglios and jasper portrait medallions produced around 1775. Around 1840 Minton produced both bisque, parian and earthenware figures of John Wesley. From the time of the WM Centenary in 1839 potters in Staffordshire, North East England, Yorkshire and South Wales produced not only busts but representations of John Wesley on plaques, crockery and figures, e.g. in a pulpit. (There were also ceramic money boxes in the shape of a WM chapel, medals, Stephengraph silk bookmarks, silk pictures, love-feast cups, chapel crockery with transfers of John Wesley, ceramic and metal silhouette figures of Wesley standing by his mother's grave, a large parian representation of the same subject, iron door stops, ceramic window stops, scent bottles, profile pictures in wax, ivory or metal, letter seals, prints, etc.)

In the National Portrait Gallery is a marble bust of John Wesley attributed to Roubillac (d.1762) which was reproduced in parian a century later. Wesley items are still being made, some from early moulds, copies of early figures and busts, and others newly modelled.Other Methodist figures commemorated in ceramic include Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Adam Clarke, John Fletcher, Hugh Bourne, William Clowes and John Bryan.

The only other Methodist denomination to produce a significant number of ceramic busts, crockery and commemorative ware was the PM Church. Plates were produced only 20 years after the denomination was founded, with special commemorative plates and other crockery for the centenaries of the first camp meeting (1907) and of the PM Connexion (1910), along with busts of Hugh Bourne and William Clowes.

Important displays can be seen at the Museum of Methodism, Wesley\'s Chapel, London, and at Epworth Old Rectory (both of which include items from the Botteley collection); also the New Room, Bristol, Mount Zion, Ogden, Halifax (the Horace Hird Collection), and Parc Howard, Llanelli.

Sources

  • Joseph G. Wright, in WHS Proceedings, 7 pp.97-99
  • Horace Hird, 'An Unpublished Wesley Picture and Pottery', in WHS Proceedings, 38 pp.72-74
  • Oliver A. Beckerlegge, 'Wesley Prints on Pottery', in WHS Proceedings, 38 pp.103-5
  • Roger Lee, Wesleyana and Methodist Pottery (1988)
  • David J. Jeremy, in Brands Plucked from the Burning (2013) pp.50-4
  • Stephen Duckworth, 'Preacher ceramics: figures and plaques', in English Ceramic Circle Transactions, vol.24, 2013, pp.63-87
  • Stephen Duckworth, Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Religious Figures: Stories on the Mantlepiece (2018)

Entry written by: DHR
Category: Subject

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