Sir Josiah Wedgwood was arguably the finest businessman this country has ever produced.
He mastered every aspect of the pottery business from manufacture to design, from marketing to logistics.
As an example, bad road surfaces created breakages in transportation from Burslem, the first factory in the Five Towns, so he lobbied hard and successfully for a canal to Liverpool known as the Trent Mersey.
He was also a social reformer, benevolent employer, non conformist and dissident.
He was an abolitionist of slavery and supported the American side in the War of Independence.
Tristram Hunt, who was MP for Stoke for 31 years and a history lecturer at St Mary’s University, provides a detailed account of this extraordinary man.
Sometimes he allows his political beliefs to interfere.
He is critical of the role a private equity fund played in the final demise of Wedgwood but the damage had already been done by the disastrous merger with Tony O’Reilly’s Waterford Crystal group.
In any event you could argue that the demand for high quality pottery had already gone before that and that Wedgwood remained a family business after Josiah without any of his successors having anything like his competence.
The ability of foreign potteries to produce cheaper product was also fundamental to Wedgwood’s decline.
It’s ironic that Stoke’s most famous famous and richest family are now the Coates, who made their fortune in Internet betting.