Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Astbury, John

ASTBURY, JOHN (1688?–1743), potter, was a clever mechanic, who introduced himself disguised as an idiot to the wworks of two brothers named Elers, of Nürnberg, who had settled at Bradwell, Staffordshire, about 1690. He discovered the secrets of their manufacture of red ware, and, obtaining his discharge on pretence of sickness, set up a rival establishment at Shelton, also in the potteries. He introduced the use of Bideford pipeclay, and in 1720, happening to notice an ostler blowing powder from a red-hot flintstone pulverised into the eyes of a horse as a remedy, hit upon the application of calcined flint in pottery, which greatly improved his ware. He died in 1743, aged 55, as his tombstone in Stoke churchyard testifies, having made a fortune, and leaving several sons. One of these, Thomas, had begun business at Lane Delpli in 1725, and was the first English manufacturer of cream-coloured ware. Samuel Astbury, also a potter, a brother of John Astbury, married Elizabeth, the sister of Thomas Wedgewood, father of Josiah Wedgewood, and was in 1744 one of the witnesses to the deed of Josiah's apprenticeship to potteiy-making. Wedgewood's latest biographer attributes his success to his adoption of the important inventions described above, with which she credits Samuel Astbury. Possibly Samuel Astbury contributed to John's improvements of his art, but there seems no reason for doubting that it was John and not Samuel who was their discoverer.

[Jewitt's Ceramic Art in Great Britain, passim; Eliza Meteyard's Life of Josiah Wedgewood, i. 140-56; Marryatt's History of Pottery, 194-5; Chaffers's Marks on Pottery and Porcelain, pp. 692-3; Shaw's History of Staffordshire Potteries, pp. 119-30, 141.]