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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 22

Spode/Copeland Transfer-Printed Patterns Found at 20 Hudson's Bay Company Sites

by Lynne Sussman

The History of the Spode/Copeland Pottery

Josiah Spode was born at Lane Delph, Staffordshire, on 3 March 1733. By the age of seven he was put to work in a local pottery and in 1749, at the age of 16, he was apprenticed to Thomas Whieldon, at the time the most successful and enterprising potter in Staffordshire. During the following 20 years Spode married, had a son (Josiah Spode II) and became a master potter for William Banks of Stoke-on-Trent. In 1776 Spode purchased his own pottery in Stoke-on-Trent and two years later he opened, under the management of his son, a London warehouse for the sale of glassware and both his own and other manufacturers' ceramics. Around 1784 William Copeland, the son of a farmer near Lane Delph, joined the younger Spode as an apprentice and assistant in the London establishment.

During this time the English pottery industry was developing rapidly and among the most innovative and vigorous of the potteries was Spode's. The elder Spode pioneered the use of steam power for driving machinery in his pottery, mastered the art of underglaze transfer printing on earthenware and developed his recipes for bone china. The London business under the younger Spode was also extremely successful; expansion twice required a move to larger premises.

In 1797 Josiah Spode I died and his son inherited the large and flourishing business. In 1805 Josiah Spode II, his son William Spode and his experienced assistant William Copeland entered into partnership for the ownership and management of the London business, which then became known as "William Spode and Company." (Throughout this period and until 1833 the pottery itself retained the name "Josiah Spode" and all but two of the factory marks used only the name "Spode.")

Josiah Spode II then returned to Stoke-on-Trent to manage the factory, which continued to expand and prosper under his direction. In 1806, following a visit to the factory, the Prince of Wales appointed Josiah Spode II "Potter and English Porcelain Manufacturer to His Royal Highness." Spode perfected his production of bone china and transfer printing, and successfully introduced stone china in 1813 and feldspar porcelain in 1821.

The London firm continued successfully under the management of William Spode and Company. William Spode retired in 1811 and a series of partnerships were then formed among Josiah Spode II, William Copeland and the latter's son, William Taylor Copeland. The close association between the two families is reflected in the changing name of the London firm. From 1811 to 1823 it was called Spode and Copeland, "from 1824 to 1826 it was "Spode, Copeland and Son," and after the death of William Copeland in 1826 it was again "Spode and Copeland" (Whiter 1970: 206-9.)

Josiah Spode II died in 1827 and the pottery and London business were then run by his son, Josiah Spode III, and his partner, W.T. Copeland. Two years later Josiah Spode III died and Copeland assumed the management of the business for the trustees of the estate. In 1833 Copeland purchased the entire enterprise — factory, London premises, enormous stocks of material, goods and equipment, shares in a colliery and houses for the factory workers. He entered into partnership with Thomas Garrett the same year and the firm became "Copeland and Garrett."

The change in the company name in 1833 marked the end of an era that began in 1776, an era that is referred to as the Spode period. (The Spode period is described in detail in a number of excellent books [Hayden 1925, Whiter 1970, Williams 1943].)

Although the maker's marks and official titles were immediately changed in 1833 to reflect the new ownership, the old and by this time prestigious connections with Spode were not ignored. At least two Copeland and Garrett backstamps included the words "Late Spode" and the London firm was identified as "Copeland & Garrett, Late Spode & Copeland."

In 1835 W.T. Copeland became lord mayor of London and in the same year his firm began its long association with the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1837 he was elected member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent, a borough he held, with but a five-year interruption, until 1865. The Copeland and Garrett partnership lasted until 1847 when W.T. Copeland assumed sole ownership of the company, which then became known as "W.T. Copeland." In 1867, at the age of 70, Copeland took his sons into partnership and the company name was changed to "W.T. Copeland and Sons." Although W.T. Copeland died the following spring, his sons, and their sons, continued to operate the company under this name.

In 1932 the company was incorporated and the Copeland family ceased to be solely responsible for running the business. In 1966 the company joined the international group of Carborundum Companies and in 1970 the company's name was changed to "Spode Limited." In 1976 Royal Worcester Limited and The Carborundum Company merged their china and tableware interests into one company, known as "Royal Worcester Spode Limited." Today Robert Copeland is the only remaining family member actively involved in running the business.

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