04 March 2011

Recommended Reading 4: 'Copyhold Potworks ......' by Peter Roden

'Copyhold Potworks & Housing in the Staffordshire Potteries 1700-1832' by Peter Roden; published 2008; ISBN 978-0-9559317-0-3
For my recommended reading number 4 I have chosen an important book. Whilst not Spode specific, it is hugely significant for anyone interested in the history of Spode. It contains fascinating new research by author Peter Roden, a descendant of Josiah Spode I, with a special interest in Spode history.

I have found Roden's research of invaluable use when putting flesh on the bones of the early Spode businesses. This book brings us detailed new information about these businesses. It gives a more detailed look at property owned by the Spode family and helps to date more accurately the beginnings of the Spode business rather than the oft-repeated phrase 'established 1770'.

During the period covered by this book, 1700-1832, the copyhold business in the court of the manor of Newcastle under Lyme provides a unique record of the development of the central area of the Staffordshire Potteries. Over 50 different potworks sites are mentioned in these records; fields can be followed into housing developments; and for many of the thousands of people involved in the developments, there are details of their family history and financial affairs. Who knows, this might be where you find that missing link in your family history researches.

When you learn that there are over 12,000 pages of minutes in these old manor court records then it is not surprising that Roden describes it as his '15 year gestation period' for this book! The amount of diligent and careful research that has gone into this publication is astounding.

Don't be fooled into thinking this book is just a list of potworks and businesses. It is a very enjoyable read and for anyone unfamiliar with these types of records, like me, the first part of the book explains the complexity of interpreting the archaic formalities found in copyhold records. It concludes with several appendices, including a description of how the manor court operated, who ran it, and what other business it was still doing at this time as its wider medieval functions declined. The book is extensively indexed, including the names of almost 2,000 people.

There are maps and diagrams, tables and annotated plans. The illustration on the cover is of Spode's 'Meadowe and Potworks potovens pothouses...' of the late 1700s. It's worth buying it just for that if you are a Spode enthusiast.

The Meadow name was still in use on the site up to its closure in 2009, by then relating to a modern building. Maybe any commercial development on the site in the near future will keep this name alive. I like the idea of a Meadow Café!

I admit to a definite bias towards Spode but every time I pick this book up I learn something new about The Potteries, its industry, associated properties and people. For anyone who thought a complete record existed of all the businesses connected with the famous pottery industry in Stoke-on-Trent at this formative time, think again, for here are new businesses and names previously unknown.
The Manor Court records title and also signatures
of Josiah Spode I and his sons
Josiah Spode II and Samuel Spode

This is a must-have book for anyone with a love of Spode history and of the ceramic industry in general.