10 March 2011

Spode and The Old Bailey



Gibson's Road Map, 1766
In 1778 Josiah Spode II went to London. At the age of 23, this eldest son of the founder of the Spode company, Josiah Spode I, was already an accomplished master potter trained by his father and by now heavily involved in the family businesses.

This young entrepreneur was not off on a day trip or even a fact-finding mission. He was leaving rural North Staffordshire to go to the capital city with his wife and young family. He was travelling with wares made at the Spode factory to set up a new home and a separate retail business in London to sell Spode as well as other manufacturers' wares. Quite an adventure!

To work in London he needed to join a guild. As there was no guild connected to this new industry of potting, he joined the Guild of Spectacle Makers. Above you can see an 18th century road map of the style that Spode II perhaps used to find his way to London on this adventure. Once there he would continue the Spode business practice of selling to the wealthy and find, not only new customers, but also pick up and follow the latest trends, make important contacts and keep an eye on the competitors. It was a success from the start.
Old Bailey Online, report for 24 Feb 1790
Putting flesh on the bones of this fascinating part of the Spode story is difficult. As far as we know there is no Spode family correspondence but this is where the Old Bailey Online project comes to our aid. In February 1790 a record with reference to theft from Mr. Spode is recorded. At the suspect's house, amongst other things an oval black teapot is discovered.
Spode black basalt coffee pot, c1800
A very elegant engine turned, black basalt, Spode coffee pot is illustrated which gives some idea of the style of the teapot in question. (Shards of almost full size pieces have been discovered during random 'digs' on the Spode site and an example can be seen below). William Copeland, the first of the Copeland dynasty to be associated with the company, is giving this evidence. Also speaking at the trial, Josiah Spode II mentions fine blue painted goods hidden, ready for theft, and has them marked so he can see what happens to them to try to catch the alleged thief. The prisoner in this case was found Not Guilty.

Old Bailey Online' report for 24 Feb 1790
On the Old Bailey pages you can find more about Spode and of course other people too - perhaps even your ancestors.

For another eventful day in Spode II's life click on this date 9th September 1789 where you can read about a dramatic event which including the following items in a trunk being stolen from Mr Spode: 'one hundred and twenty-two guineas in gold; and bills of exchange; and a deal of linen'. The prisoner in this case was found Guilty and 'Transported for seven years'.
'Fine blue painted goods' c1790
Black basalt teapot, large shard, c1800
An interesting footnote to this story is that a grandson of Josiah Spode II's father, Josiah Spode I, emigrated to the penal colony of Van Dieman's Land (now Tasmania). He went with his brother Sam Spode and was yet another member of the Spode family named Josiah. He became Principal Superintendent of Convicts. He had nothing to do with the Spode company. He has descendants still living in Tasmania. 
'Distant view of Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land, from Blufhead' c1825