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History of Adams China Co - England
Two hundred years before the Adams China Co. opened for business, a record of two brothers was filed in an English courthouse. In 1448, Adam and Richard Adams were fined for digging clay in the middle of an English street. Although we have been unable to find literature to support the claim that Adam and Richard were related to John Adams, the man who would later open Adams China, Adams Ironstone archives still reference this story as part of the Adams Ironstone legacy.
Two hundred years later, John Adams opened a pottery house in Staffordshire, England. The factory that he built became known as the Brick House Works. During the early years of production, the Adams Company primarily focused on reproducing designs that were being imported from the Orient. The English were fascinated by the beautiful floral and geometric designs that were finding their way to England from the Far East. The Adams Company specialized in making white pottery, ironstone, and cookware.
In 1779, William Adams, son of John Adams, opened a new factory in Tunstall, England. The new factory was named the Greengates Works. The Adams Company would remain at this location until their closing in the early 1990’s. William Adams was known as Josiah Wedgwood’s favorite pupil. William Adams worked with Wedgwood as the company developed its jasperware and basalt formulas. These unique clay formulas were two of Josiah Wedgwood’s crowning achievements and were the result of more than 10,000 experiments. As a result of his work with Josiah Wedgwood, William Adams began experimenting with clay formulas in an attempt to develop a more durable and chip resistant pottery. It was during this time, Adams developed the “ironstone” formula. For years, the production of English pottery was dominated by earthenware. Earthenware, although durable, was not as strong as ironstone. Ironstone was fired longer at higher temperatures and resulted in durable and easily decorated pottery. Ironstone china was an immediate sales success throughout England. Over the next century, Adam’s Ironstone continued to increase in popularity.
At the turn of the 19th century, the Adams Company began using the backstamp “William Adams and Sons, Ltd.” Using this name, they developed many of their bestselling shapes, including “Impress,” “Elgin,” and “Crown.” They also developed the “Ceres” shape, which featured an embossed wheat design. In Roman mythology, Ceres was the Goddess of Grain. She symbolized motherly love, flowers, and fruit. Like Wedgwood, Adams was heavily influenced by the Neoclassical art movement sweeping England. Neoclassicism sought to rejuvenate interest in the aesthetics and philosophies of ancient Greece and Rome.
Throughout the twentieth century, Adams Ironstone continued its tradition of excellence. Continuing in its tradition of excellence and experimentation, Adams Ironstone developed a more durable form of ironstone, called Microtex. Replacements, Ltd. carries many of Adams “Microtex” patterns, including Empress, Bluebell and Florida. Adams Ironstone remained in the hands of the Adams family for 11 generations. On January 1, 1966, control of the Adams Company shifted to the Wedgwood Group. Initially, Wedgwood wanted to use the Adams factory for production of giftware and a few traditional patterns. By the 1970’s, Adam’s giftware lines Adams proved unprofitable and the company began making hotelware. The hotelware produced by Adams proved relatively profitable through the 1980’s. By 1992, Wedgwood decided to close the Greengates factory and warehouse for good. When the Greengates factory closed, someone set fire to the property and it burnt to the ground.
Although Adams has since closed, the products remain highly valued. For more than three centuries, the Adams name has been associated with durability, value, and exception craftsmanship. Replacements, Ltd. continues to carry many of Adams most popular patterns, including Lancaster, Singapore Bird, and Lowestoft.
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