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William Adams and Sons (Potters)

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William Adams and Co Makers of Earthenware of every description, also makers of semi-porcelain, &c., for all countries, Greenfield and Greengates Potteries, Tunstall, Staffs.

of Greenfield and Greengates Potteries, Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Telephone: Hanley 7504 and 7561. Cables: "Adams, England". (1929)

of Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. (1947)


Specialities: Jasper Ware, a reproduction of the original " Adams Jasper Ware," introduced by William Adams in 1780, specimens of whose productions are in the British Museum, South Kensington, and all important museums. Also reproductions of their early Printed Ware.

Contractors to H.M. Government (Admiralty, War Office, India Office, Public Works). Telephones Nos. 561 and 504. Telegraphic and Cable Address: " Adams, Tunstall." Bankers United Counties Bank, Ltd. (Tunstall).


Earlier titles: W. Adams; W. Adams and Co; W. Adams and Son. [1]

1448 William Adams and Richard Adams were working Potteries and Coal Mines at Tunstall (vide Tunstall Court Rolls). They were descended from William Adams, who had held lands in Tunstall 1299 (vide Inquis. 1299 and 1307 concerning Thomas & Nicolas, Lords Audley), and from the William Adams who was Headborough of Tunstall 1373. They worked potteries at Tunstall and Burslem in 1584 (" Chancery Proceedings," Record Office).

The Will of William Adams (which name occurs in nearly every generation) was proved in 1617, wherein he is described as a Master Potter.

The Adams family had potteries in Staffordshire as early as 1650. At that date two brothers, William and Thomas, had separate ventures in Burslem. Such family activity continued to the present day. William Adams and Co, with large potteries in Tunstall is managed by members who are the 11th and 12th generations in direct descent from the original 17th century Adams of Burslem. [2]

Established in 1657 by John Adams at the Brick House Potteries, Burslem, Staffs., at that date the most important town in the Potteries. Continued by John Adams (d. 1757) (great-grandson) and William Adams (son).

During the minority of the heir in 1759 the works were let to Josiah Wedgwood, the eminent potter, for some years before the celebrated Etruria was built. At this period other factories were founded by other branches of the family.

Of the major potteries in the district the Greengates Works seems to have had the earliest origin since it grew out of a pottery owned by George Booth, in 1745, as part of an estate in Furlong Road. [3]

1784 The works then passed with the estate through various hands and was sold to William Adams, earth-potter of Burslem and tenant since 1779.

1786 Within two years Adams had rebuilt the factory, then the largest in the Tunstall area, and in the period up to his death in 1805, he produced there blue-printed ware, fine stone ware, jasper, Egyptian black (basalte), and, for the first time, 'mocha' (white or cream ware).

Attributing examples of china marked Adams to a particular man can be complicated and confusing because so many of them bore the same given name, William. This is particularly true with collectible Adams china.

In the latter part of the 18th-century and continuing into the 19th, there were three William Adams. All were cousins and operated their own large potteries independent of the others. Further, with one exception, they were succeeded by sons of the same given name who, in the main, continued making the same kinds of wares. They were:

  • William Adams (I) 1745-1805, of Greengates, Tunstall
  • William Adams (II) 1748-1831, of Brickhouse, Burslem and later Cobridge Hall, Cobridge
  • William Adams (III) 1772-1829, of Stoke-on-Trent. Important also was:
  • William Adams (IV) 1798-1865, of Greenfield, Tunstall, son and successor to William Adams III

1805 Benjamin Adams, William's youngest son and heir, was only 17; the works seems to have been run by his managers and his elder sister Mary until he took over in 1809.

The manufacture of jasper ware was a family secret and therefore ceased during these four years; it was not resumed on a large scale and Benjamin concentrated on stone, blue-printed, and useful ware.

Not as gifted as his father, and, though never enjoying the best health, very fond of sport, he spent less time in the factory; it was also a period of general decline in the pottery trade.

The main branch, Richard Adams (d. 1811) (sixth in direct descent from Richard Adams of 1584), William Adams (son) (d. 1829), joined by William Adams (d. 1865), Edward Adams (d. 1872), Lewis Adams (d. 1850), and Thomas Adams (d. 1863) (sons), extended the business to five separate works at Stoke-on-Trent and one at Greenfield, Tunstall, for the manufacture of China and Earthenware, trading for many years as William Adams & Sons, Stoke-on-Trent, Tunstall, Liverpool and New York; and were probably the largest producers of pottery in Staffordshire.

1822 He sold the Greengates Works and estate to John Meir who already had a small pottery in Tunstall, and the property remained in the hands of the Meirs until 1896.

1827 and 1834 William and then Edward Adams, sons of William Adams of Bagnall and Fenton, married two daughters of the late John Breeze, who owned the Greenfield works.

1834 The works was first let to Wood and Challinor of Brownhills, but in 1834 it was added to the Adams's family business.

The main product until the time of William's death in 1865 was white granite ware (ironstone china), first made at Greenfield in 1842; other products were sanitary ware, printed ware, and sponged and painted ware for the East.

Stoke factories were closed in 1863, and the Tunstall Potteries carried on by William Adams (b. 1798) to 1865, and William Adams (son) (b. 1833) to 1905. Worked in conjunction are the Greengates Potteries, founded by William Adams, 1746 to 1805, the eminent Staffordshire Potter in 1780.

1896 The Greengates Works was bought by the senior branch of the Adams family.

1914 William Adams (since 1892) and his youngest brother Percy Walter Lewis Adams (since 1902). There have been altogether twelve of the name of William Adams known to have been Master Potters. Premises: Cover eight acres equipped with the latest appliances. Staff: About 600. Branches: London, Gamage Buildings, Holborn, E.C.; Paris, 72, Rue d'Hauteville; New York, 43 to 51, West Fourth Street; Melbourne, 17, Russel Street; Dunedin, P.O. Box 64.

1925 Incorporated as William Adams and Sons (Potters) Ltd. [4]

1929 The pottery, still worked by William Adams and Sons (Potters) Ltd, was largely rebuilt and was enlarged to accommodate the production of the Greenfield factory which was transferred there in 1956.

1929 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Earthenware of every description for all markets. Freehand Painted Titian Ware (Registered) Blue Printed, White Granite, Semi-Porcelain, Jasper Ware, Badged Ware for Hotels, Institutions, etc. (Stand No. G.23) [5]

The making of jasper ware, which ceased again when Benjamin Adams sold the works, was revived soon after the Adams family regained possession.

1947 Advert in British Industries Fair Catalogue as Exhibiting Member of the British Pottery Manufacturers' Federation of Federation House, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Composite Exhibit. (Pottery and Glassware Section - Olympia, Ground Floor, Stand No. A.1211) [6]

1956 The factory was closed and production transferred to the enlarged Greengates Works.

1959 The Greenfield premises were sold for development purposes.

1966 William Adams was acquired by the Wedgwood Group - they continued to manufacture ware with the Adam name, sometimes also with the Wedgwood Group name.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Potteries[1]
  2. [2] The Potteries
  3. [3] British History Online - Tunstall
  4. [4] Blue and White
  5. 1929 British Industries Fair p4
  6. 1947 British Industries Fair Adverts 398 and 399; and p6