Etruria Hall is located around 1 mile from the centre of Hanley in Stoke on Trent. It sits in the present-day Festival Park and was once home to the famous pottery magnate Josiah Wedgewood.
Etruria Hall was completed in 1771 on the doorstep of Wedgwood’s new recently built, Etruria works.
The majority of the ‘ceilings, ornamental friezes and chimney pieces’ were designed by John Flaxman between 1781-1787. An entry in the 1784-1785 Wedgwood company ledger indicates that at least one of the ceilings was designed by William Blake.
The hall has yet to be completed when Josiah reveals the discomfort of any ordinary human being, writing to Bentley in August 1780: “We are still open to the sky, in our kitchen, which though the weather is as fine as could be wished for is nevertheless an uncomfortable situation for animals whose nature urges them to go through the drudgery of eating three or four times a day – oh! For the sleep of a dormouse, or the life of a toad in a stone for a few weeks till our troubles are past – and we safely cover’d in from the wind, and open air again.”
Documentation relating to the building of his home captures Wedgwood’s vulnerability despite his incredible success as a pioneer and a business-man. Arriving home from a long and dirty journey in November 1769, He writes of his delight at having found Sally and the children “at Etruria to take possession of the Etruscan plains” to “sleep upon them for the first night”. They have saved Josiah the unenviable task of moving house.
The hall was the site of the innovative research into photography by Thomas Wedgwood in the 1790s.
The house was clearly visible from the other side of the valley, a conscious expression of the wealth and social standing of its owner. Wedgwood also built houses and a community for his workers called Etruria Village.
The middle section of the building is the original Hall; the two wings were added at a later date. The Wedgwood family moved into the Hall on November 11th, 1769; that same night Josiah entertained 120 of his workmen in the Town Hall at Burslem.
Many distinguished people of the period stayed at the Hall, and their various discussions probably played a significant role in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution. Josiah was considered one of the first industrialists, not dissimilar to a Steve jobs figure in today’s world. When he died at the Hall on 3rd January 1795, he left a thriving business and a fortune to his children.
Josiah II (1769-1843), who became an eminent member of Parliament, continued to live in the Hall after his father’s death in 1795. Charles Darwin would have stayed at the Hall (Josiah II was his uncle). Darwin married Josiah’s daughter and his first cousin, Emma on 29th January 1839 at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in nearby Maer.