Unsuitable Girl

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  1. Getting over the South East!

    We moved away from our family home in Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, on 2nd September, and after three weeks of discombobulation of varying degrees, the dust is beginning to settle and the wide skies and landscapes of Staffordshire are gradually  soothing our ruffled feathers.

    One huge difference is the friendliness on all sides of whomever happens to cross our path, when out for walks. The eyes looking at the ground habit doesn’t exist here! Most folk will engage and chat and it feels so warm. Sometimes, in the evening, Jean, down the road, will be out pruning her shrubs. We stop and chat for at least twenty minutes, and end up laughing. And she’s offering some teasels as a house warming present when we eventually have a home again!

    Small families out walking in nearby Shugborough Estate smile and see us, as opposed to our invisibility down south. 

    And who knew that Staffordshire was stuffed to the gunnels with interesting places, wild life sanctuaries, intriguing industrial histories, and has kept its character, holding on to its architectural identity from way back, and even now the next annual Staffordshire Cycling Festival, the fourth, is being planned! See www.ridestaffs.co.uk and their FB page Ridestaffs.

    We visited the new Wedgwood Museum, opened six weeks ago, where we did the factory tour and saw artisans throwing pots, painting gold lines on edges of spoons and plates, marveled at the ingenuity of the technology of a tunnel furnace, presses, moulds, learned potteries words like fettling, sponging, biscuit firing,  took delicate tea from bone china cups in the Tea Emporium, along with warm scones,  and on another visit, went into the Josiah Wedgwood story all meticulously curated. 

    The man was a remarkable human being. He was a visionary entrepreneur. The youngest of twelve siblings, he was born into a potter’s family. He did his apprenticeship in the potteries. He saw the potential for bettering bone china, and set about improving everything. Faced with the problem of deeply muddy roads, impassable in winter and probably not much better in a wet summer, he turned to developing a canal system to distribute his wares. Meanwhile he experimented, meticulously noting each color, each batch he tried, developing the now world famous Jasper ware. His china products were taken up by the Royals. Fashion and the rising middle classes did the rest. 

    His fortitude in the face of difficulties was immense. His knee gave him much pain, due to having had smallpox as a youngster. He decided in later life to have his leg amputated, without anaesthetic and at great risk of death from infection. He survived and even went on to have a wooden leg made for him. 

    Perhaps the most telling aspect of Josiah’s character was his vociferous campaigning against slavery. He had medallions struck showing African people in chains, and he published pamphlets arguing that Africans were people like us and that slavery was utterly wrong. It seems like an eighteenth century change.org campaign, with the badges becoming a fashionable item to wear and thus spreading the message among the chattering classes. 

    All this story is set out among a beautifully curated collection of the wares of Wedgwood from the eighteenth century to the present day. History interwoven with artisanship, art, entrepreneurial vision and the social changes for the workers lucky enough to work in Wedgewood’s factories.

    I do urge anyone passing through Staffordshire to stop off at Barlaston. As the website says, it is an exceptional day out. Go to www.wedgewoodmuseum.org.uk to get directions. The food is very good too! The staff are lovely, chatty, helpful and all possessed of that Staffordshire quiet humour. 

    And don’t miss the  Tea Emporium, where you can taste delicate teas, then have an elegant sit down, to sip from bone china cups, eat wickedly pretty cake, and contemplate the wondrous story of Josiah Wedgwood. 

     

 


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