Josiah Wedgwood History And Stratton Powder Compacts

Josiah Wedgwood History And Stratton Powder Compacts

The collaboration of Laughton & Sons Ltd. (owners of Stratton compacts & accessories) & Josiah Wedgwood & Sons Ltd. was one that worked so well. Laughton & Sons commissioned Wedgwood to make commemorative plaques to adorn their vanities and also purely decorative mounts.

Royal occasions were often marked by the crafting of limited edition Wedgwood Stratton powder compacts.


For example, the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and the marriage of HRH Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer. 

Wedgwood has a long association with European royalty.

Josiah Wedgwood was born in 1730 in the family pottery, known as the Church Yard Works, Burslem, as it was located next to St John's church. He was the fifth generation of potters.

Josiah Wedgwood was a potter who was credited with the vision to see the need for industrialisation of the pottery industry. Burslem is situated in an area known as The Potteries, in Staffordshire, England. Even when he was nine years old he was considered a skilled potter. When he was eleven years old he was struck down by smallpox. This illness left him with a tumour behind his right knee. Even though this disability made using the foot operated wheel painful this did not deter him from being involved with other aspects of making pottery. He focused his efforts on designing pottery, perfecting glazes and marketing. When he was in his twenties he began working with the well known & celebrated pottery-maker of the era - Thomas Whieldon.

Whieldon was so impressed with his hard work and talent that he offered him a partnership in 1754. 

In 1759 Josiah founded his own company.

In 1760 America was bereft of pottery manufacturers. America was to become Wedgwood's most important international market.

Great experimentation took place & large amounts of money were invested by Josiah Wedgwood, who had married a wealthy distant cousin, Sarah Wedgwood in 1764. His obsession was to create a glaze the colour of driven snow. The purity of his white pottery gained him great financial rewards.

Wedgwood was a founding father of the Industrial Revolution. He was the first person to buy a steam engine.

He was also the most remarkable inventor.



Josiah Wedgwood was very interested in the scientific methods that were being developed & how they may advance his business. His unique glazes began to make his pottery look different from anything else available at the time. This ‘look’ garnered him much business from European royalty, as well as the rich & famous. He is probably the most well known potter of this era. 


                                                                                                                                                                             Wedgwood partnered with Thomas Bentley.
In the 1760s they opened luxurious shops in the most prestigious areas, Soho (Greek Street), Mayfair and Bath.  The layout of the shops was different to others shops of this era, as much more space was given to the presentation of the goods for sale. The sight of the glass display cases and tables laden with the most splendid wares caused traffic jams.


In 1765 Wedgwood received a letter from St James' Palace. He, along with all the potters in Staffordshire, was invited to take part in a competition to make a tea service for Queen Charlotte. By this time he had perfected his lovely white glaze but he needed a tea service fit for a queen. After months of experimentation he discovered that mixing honey with 22 carat gold and firing this mixture onto his white pottery at very high temperatures created the most exquisitely embellished crockery. He won the competition.

Ever the salesman, Wedgewood gained Queen Charlotte's permission to name this line of pottery Queen's Ware.

This association was made very public as it featured on Wedgwood stationery & paperwork.

Naturally this royal appreciation gained Wedgwood much trade from the nobility of England.

In 1926 the firm was still trading on this name as the advertisement below shows.


                                                                                                                                                                               Although Wedgwood was not a scientist he constantly experimented to produce the perfect colours and glazes. 
Eventually the superiority of his wares made him a household name throughout the world.



  © The Hermitage Museum
Catherine The Great of Russia ordered the Green Frog Service from Wedgwood. The Green Frog Service is now on display at The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. It was made between 1773 and 1774. 
It gained its name as it has a little green frog motif painted on the edge of each item. It was made for Chesme Palace which Catherine had built near a marshy area of land known as La Grenouillere which means the frog marsh. This service is made from Queen’s Ware which is fine glazed earthenware. Queen's Ware was extremely popular in Europe.   

In 1766 Wedgwood bought a large Staffordshire estate (Etruria) where both his home & factory were situated. 

He needed to ensure that Staffordshire was connected to the canal system which served Manchester, Birmingham and London so well. It took him eleven years to achieve this aim. Products from The Etruria Works could be loaded directly onto barges and shipped cheaply all around Great Britain. 



After experimenting with kiln temperatures he perfected the skills needed to produce two new wares - Black Basalt & Jasperware. Jasperware was by far the most successful. It was made to look like ancient cameo glass. The inspiration for Wedgwood Jasperware was the Portland Vase.

© The British Museum


This Roman vase was made 5 - 25 AD & it can be seen at the British Museum in London.

Reproducing the Portland Vase became an obsession for Josiah Wedgwood who created the Portland Blue after experimenting with more than 3000 samples.

When Thomas Bentley died in 1780 Wedgwood was bereft but still determined to make improvements to his wares and the working conditions of his employees. He was one of the first to include a type of air conditioning system in his factories to help extract fumes which could make the workers ill.


© Royal Collection Trust

Wedgwood would often travel to the port of Liverpool, as many of his shipments were bound for America. Whilst at the port he saw slaves. He was distraught and determined to do whatever he could to stop this dreadful trade.

Wedgwood was passionately involved with the abolition of the slave trade.  Plaques embellished with moulded letters AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER crafted in his factories did much to promote this cause.

He gave many articles away free to promote the abolition of this abhorrent trade. Hat pins, brooches, bracelets, snuff boxes and watch chains were embellished with this design.

The plaques show an enslaved black man who is praying. His arms are chained to his legs. These plaques were modelled by William Hackwood or Henry Webber, modellers at the Wedgwood factory.

In 1788 Wedgwood sent a consignment of these medallions to Benjamin Franklin in the United States of America. Franklin ensured that they were distributed to campaigners and he remarked that they did much good for the cause.

This meticulous attention to detail ensured the success of the Wedgwood brand. Wedgwood & Stratton are two great British success stories.

More information about Stratton brand history.

Here are some Stratton brand Wedgwood compacts.




The collaboration between Wedgwood and Laughton & Sons Ltd. resulted in some gorgeous vanities. This is one of our favourities. This hard to find unused 1960s Stratton 10-Sided Convertible powder compact is fitted with a Black Basalt Wedgwood plaque featuring Aurora. The scene depicts the Roman goddess of the dawn driving her chariot, which is pulled by two magnificent horses who are rearing. Aurora wears flowing classical robes and a half moon diadem in her hair.
When Josiah Wedgwood originally created Black Basalt he wanted pottery which would enhance the appearance of the pale hands of the ladies in English society.
Josiah Wedgwood was finally happy with his creation of Black Basalt in 1786. His meticulous attention to detail is well known. Thousands of firings would take place before Wedgwood would be happy with the colour of his creations. He was inspired by ancient works of art and sought to replicate them. In the case of Black Basalt he wanted to create the appearance of ancient bronze. Initially the plaque would have been a reddish brown clay which was fired at high temperatures. Black salt was added to the material to strengthen it to such an extent that fabulous busts were created using Black Basalt. Black stoneware from the area of England named The Potteries was known as Egyptian Black. It was manufactured by other potters. Josiah Wedgwood added manganese to obtain a really dense black. 
Royal Collection Trust