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Image courtesy of Lema Publishing Ltd, publishers of ‘Tableware International’ www.tablewareinternational.com
Last updated: 1st August 2011
1851–1968 (Inc. 1890)
Manufacturer of earthenware at the Eagle Pottery (1859-1970) and the Eastwood Works (1887-1958), Hanley. Brothers James and George Meakin took over the pottery manufacturing business of their father James Meakin in 1851, operating at Cannon St, Hanley. James Meakin junior died in 1885 and George Meakin in 1891, but the family business (incorporated as J. & G. Meakin Ltd in 1890) continued first under George Eliot Meakin (son of George Meakin), from 1891 to 1927 and then under Bernard Meakin (son of George’s brother James) from 1927 until his retirement in 1955.
Family control of the business ceased in about 1958 when management control was acquired by pottery entrepreneurs J. W. E. Grundy and A. Derek Jones. W. R. Midwinter Ltd was acquired through a friendly merger in September 1968 and the two companies continued to operate independently as subsidiaries of Meakin & Midwinter (Holdings) Ltd. In January 1970 Wedgwood made an offer for the whole share capital of J. & G. Meakin Ltd and Meakin (and its subsidiary Midwinter) became part of the Wedgwood Group. J. & G. Meakin Ltd continued as a quasi-independent entity within the Wedgwood Group until 1980 when it became part of Wedgwood’s Creative Tableware Division (with Midwinter, Johnson Bros, and others). Meakin shapes and patterns were subsumed into the Johnson Bros. earthenware brand from c.1991 and use of the Meakin brand name had been abandoned by 2000.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, J. & G. Meakin were important, large-scale producers of good quality, ironstone tableware (‘White Granite’ ware) that met a ready market in the United States, South America, Australia, and other traditional British markets and by the 1890s the company was one of the world’s largest earthenware manufacturers. Although export teaware and tableware was the factory’s staple, Meakin also manufactured toilet ware, kitchen ware and a wide range of fancy earthenware.
The company was amongst the first British pottery firms to experiment with modernist designs associated with the art deco period. The ‘Moderne’ range, introduced in 1929 was an angular shape decorated with geometric patterns and often highlighted with silver or gold. This range remained in production through the 1930s. Post-1945 the company introduced the streamlined Studio shape (1953) and Horizon shape (1955) both heavily influenced by the Russell Wright ‘American Modern’ tableware. In 1964 a new Studio shape was released with tall streamlined coffee pots used as the background for many contemporary patterns now associated with the 1950s and 1960s. Designs by Jessie Tate and Eve Midwinter, some originally found on Midwinter shapes, also appear on 1970s Studio ware.
The Studio range was one of Meakin’s most successful and continued in production until the late-1970s. The enormous range of floral, geometric, and abstract designs make Studio Ware collectible in its own right.
In the 1970s and 1980s as part of the Wedgwood Group Meakin produced contemporary products under the ‘Bull in a China Shop’ and ‘Creative Tableware’ names. ‘Sol’ (c.1912-1963), ‘Studio’ (1953 on) and ‘Royal Staffordshire’ (post 1968) were important J. & G. Meakin Ltd trade names. Meakin marks are numerous, but all include the J. & G. Meakin name.
Marks, C. (2007). J. & G Meakin Pottery—History in the Making. (SMP Ltd).
© Mike Perry 2010