Step back in time and help to save iconic Wedgwood vase

Published: Tuesday, 13th June 2017

Local historian and broadcaster Ray Johnson will be making an entertaining presentation in character as Josiah Wedgwood to raise money for the First Day’s Vase appeal.

Ray, a documentary filmmaker, professional actor and writer, is dedicated to promoting local history and heritage in his plays, films  and one-man shows.

He will be appearing at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery on Thursday (June 15) for An Evening with Josiah Wedgwood, from 7.30pm to 9pm.

The event has been organised as part of a campaign to raise the £482,500 purchase price to keep Wedgwood’s First Day’s Vase in the city after it was sold at auction to an oversees buyer. A temporary export bar was placed on it by the Government in December, which was extended until July 14.

The vase is one of only four made by Wedgwood that survives from the first day at Etruria. It had been on loan to the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery for 35 years until it was withdrawn by its owner and sold at auction last year. Two of the other vases are owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum while the third remains in the Wedgwood family.

Wedgwood was born in the Age of the Enlightenment and was closely connected to some of Staffordshire’s greatest thinkers, creative writers, scientists, engineers and industrialists – including James Brindley, Erasmus Darwin, James Watt and Dr Johnson. His own career as a potter was equally remarkable, with ground-breaking achievements in the making and marketing of ceramics.

At the age of 39 he opened his purpose-built new works in the valley below Hanley, christening the area ‘Etruria’, after the Italian region where ancient Greek vases were being excavated.

On the opening day, June 13, 1769, Josiah held a huge celebration at the factory. He sat at a great wheel, turned by his partner Thomas Bentley, and threw six perfect copies of a classical Greek vase. Four survived the firing and were finished at Wedgwood & Bentley’s decorating studios in Chelsea, London. These became known as the First Day’s Vases.

Councillor Anthony Munday, Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, said: “The First Day’s Vase is a hugely important piece of the city’s culture and heritage and we have already received magnificent support from major funding bodies, businesses and the general public in our campaign to bring it back home.

“Thursday’s event will no doubt be highly entertaining, and I would urge anyone who can to come along for a great evening out, and to help raise money towards this very worthy cause.”

Ray Johnson added: “The vase is not only a historic pottery icon, but most importantly represents the moment that the pottery industry turned modern.

“Josiah – in incorporating ‘flow-line’ techniques, the latest technology, having craftsmen and women concentrating on specific stages of production in his new factory – consolidated his superb talents as an ambassador for the industry, a supreme scientist and a superb entrepreneur.

“One of the greatest minds of his day, he put the Potteries on the map as world leader in ceramics.”

On Thursday evening, as well as meeting ‘Josiah Wedgwood’, people will have a chance to hear local duo Jack’s Ramble play the popular music that he and his workers would have enjoyed, and to taste some 18th-century treats.

Tickets cost £20, with proceeds going to the acquisition and display of the First Day’s Vase. To book, call 01782 232323.

To find out more about the First Day’s Vase appeal visit www.stokemuseums.org.uk/savethevase.