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James Caldwell (1759-1838) of Linley Wood, Talke, Staffordshire.

We know about James from the following:


  1. Bourke's "Landed Gentry" which records the Caldwell family of Linley Wood.
  2. Books on early Staffordshire Pottery with references to "Wood & Caldwell". In particular the book "Wood Family of Burslem" by Frank Falkner" 1912.
  3. The book "Ten Generations of a Potting Family" compiled by Robert Nicholls, published 1931 (this book was founded upon "William Adams, an Old English Potter" by William Turner, published 1904).
  4. The book "History of the Adams Family of North Staffordshire" by Percy Walter Lewis Adams, 1914. Small mention of James Caldwell being one of the Vice Presidents of the North Staffordshire Infirmary.
  5. The book "Notes on Some North Staffordshire Families" by Percy Walter Lewis Adams. Small reference to James Caldwell.
  6. The book "John Henry Clive" by Percy Walter Lewis Adams, 1947. Small reference to James Caldwell.
  7. Books on the Wedgwood family including "The Wedgwoods, being a, Life of Josiah Wedgwood" by Llewellynn Jewitt, published 1865. "Life of Josiah Wedgwood, from his Private Correspondence and Family Papers" by Eliza Meteyard, published 1865. Also "The Wedgwood Circle 1730-1897" by Barbara and Hensleigh Wedgwood, published 1980.
  8. The book "The Trent & Mersey Canal" by Jean Lindsay, published 1979.
  9. The book "Spode, A History of the Family, Factory and Wares" by Barrie & Jenkins, 1970. Small reference to James Caldwell.
  10. The book Harecastle's Canal and Railway Tunnels, by Allan C. Baker & Mike G. Fell, Lightmoor Press 2019.
  11. A large number of documents in the Staffordshire Records.
  12. Documents relating to William Bent and James Caldwell.
  13. Heath-Caldwell Family Archive, containing a vast range of documents including James Caldwell's note books of the mid 1770s and his diaries for 1770-1808, 1813-1821, 1821-1825, 1825-1827, 1827-1829, 1829-1833, 1833-1838. Also his daughter Anne’s diaries.
  14. James Caldwell's missing diary for 1809-1811, held in the William Salt Library in Stafford.
  15. An extensive collection of over 100 documents held in the Wedgwood Collection at the Wedgwood Museum.
  16. Various articles in the Staffordshire Advertiser.
  17. Various family portraits by Joseph Wright of Derby, Daniel Gardner and a miniature.
  18. The Will of James Caldwell.

James Caldwell of Linley Wood was a remarkable man.  He was widely respected and by the end of his life he had become very rich however his childhood in contrast was probably relatively modest.  Very little is known about his parents except that his father had moved down from Scotland and had made a new home for himself in Nantwich in the mid 1700s.  He was also called James but is referred to as James Caldwell of Scotland (1721-1791).  He moved to Nantwich to work with his uncle Thomas Caldwell (1710?-1765) who appears to have been a trader buying and selling textiles. 

Of James Caldwell's life we know quite a lot due a remarkable collection of diaries and a large number of letters passed down in the family and now in the Heath-Caldwell Family Archive.  The earliest documents are some notebooks that indicate that James was recording the results of experiments for the famous potter Josiah Wedgwood and probably started working for him shortly after 1770, probably 1771 aged 12.  James's notes meticulously record the wide range of clays and mixtures used together with the methods of firing and the resulting quality of the pottery produced.  James earliest notes are written into a Bell’s Place Booked dated 1770 so we know the notes were started in 1770 or shortly afterwards.  The other clue regarding dates, was his hunting horn given to him by Josiah Wedgewood and on which James had scratched his name and the date 1776, so we do know that James was working for Josiah before 1776.  Sadly his hunting horn was stolen in a burglary in 2000 and its present whereabouts are not known.


We know that James was very tall possibly as much as six foot four inches in height however no actual measurement is recorded.  He was also very bright being both numerate and literate and must have made quite an impression with Josiah Wedgwood and with everyone else with whom he came in contact.  It would appear that from an early age, James became a protege of Josiah and as a result was able to make a number of very important contacts that were to be of great value to him in later life (Thomas Bentley, Thomas Stamford, Enoch Wood, Thomas Sparrow, Wedgwood family,  . . .).

On the 20th of February 1777, at the age of 18, James started a new job, working as a clerk for the lawyer John Sparrow (of Bishton Hall), in Newcastle under Lyme.  The agreement still exists confirming that James Caldwell's father paid John Sparrow the sum of £315 in return for which John agreed to take James on for a period of 5 years and to train him in the profession of an Attorney and Solicitor and to house him and feed and clothe him. Years later in his 1835 diary, James makes a reference to having first moved to Newcastle-Under-Lyme 58 years previously (1777).

John Sparrow was very active with many of the local industries and at this time he is recorded as being Josiah Wedgwood's lawyer.  John, together with Josiah, had been prime movers in setting up the beginnings of the Trent & Mersey Canal Company in 1766, a venture which prospered and brought great wealth to the Staffordshire potteries.  We can be fairly certain that Josiah Wedgwood had been instrumental in introducing James Caldwell to John Sparrow.

By 1783, at the age of approx 24, James is recorded as being a partner in the firm of Messrs Sparrow & Caldwell, Attorneys at Law.  Presumably he had been made a partner the previous year after the completion of his 5 years of training.  A document still exists confirming that James qualified as an Attorney, 22 April 1782.  James no doubt learnt a lot from John Sparrow and at the same time was also able to make a great many business acquaintances which were to serve him well in his later life.  This partnership only lasted for a few years as from 1788 to 1795 James was in partnership with John Martin Attorney at Law.  James had made a lasting impression on John Sparrow and despite no longer being partners they were to stay on very good terms.

In 1784 James married the heiress Elizabeth Stamford.  Her father was Thomas Stamford who was an Engineer of some sort and a close friend of Josiah Wedgwood.  Elizabeth's Aunt Mary was the widow of Josiah's business partner Thomas Bentley who had died only a few years previously in 1780.  Josiah Wedgwood was no doubt one of the guests and he gave them a Wedgwood dinner service as a wedding present.  James's marriage to Elizabeth is said to have brought him a fortune of £20,000.  We don't know how much money James had before the marriage but Elizabeth presumably saw him as a man with good prospects.  When they married James was about 25 and Elizabeth was about 30.  They produced a number of children and enjoyed a very happy life together.

In addition to gaining a wife James also gained a live-in sister in law.  Elizabeth's unmarried sister Hannah Stamford moved in and was to spend the rest of her life with them.  Three matching portraits painted around this time show James, Elizabeth and Hannah very much as a family group.  Both Hannah and Elizabeth were very bright and appear to have taken a financial share in many of the business enterprises that James was to enter into over the next 50 years.

In 1784 and 1785 James is recorded as living in a house at No 8 Red Lion Square, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, owned by John Sparrow.  Later in 1785 James is recorded as having moved to 3 King Street, and a few years later in 1789 he purchased the beginnings of what was to become the Linley Wood estate.  It had previously been known as Montpelier and consisted of a house right up on the top of a south facing hill with fantastic views over the county of Staffordshire.  It would appear that James did not move the family in straight away as he presumably set about the long project of rebuilding the house to better suit his needs.  In his diary he records moving the family to Linley Wood in 1794.

There is a wonderful pen sketch of his house on the inside cover of his book ‘A Botanical Arrangement of all the Vegetables Naturally Growing in Great Britain’, by William Withering, published by Cadel, London in 1776.

Through his wife Elizabeth James also came to own an estate near Derby (Cannon Hills, Quarndon) but I have not yet established the details surrounding this.  This may have come from Elizabeth’s father or from Elizabeth’s distant cousin Richard Harrison.

In 1791 James’s father died and with his inheritance, James went into a partnership with the potter Enoch Wood.  The firm was called Wood & Caldwell and was to prosper, the partnership remaining intact for 27 years until 1818 when Enoch decided to go it alone.  James had presumably first met Enoch in the mid 1770s when they both worked for Josiah Wedgwood.  Both men were similar in age and had similar religious beliefs as they were both sympathetic to, if not complete followers of, the Unitarian ideals of the time.  James brought a considerable amount of money into the partnership and immediately they set about building a large factory for the production of a wide range of pottery products including dinner services, jugs and ornamental 'Staffordshire Figures' of various kinds.  Although being a major enterprise at the time the firm itself is not so very well known amongst modern day collectors of china.  Most of the items produced by the company were not marked however Staffordshire Figures with the impressed mark of 'Wood & Caldwell' do turn up at auctions for time to time.  Many people assume that James was not very active in the company however this was not the case.  Without a doubt Enoch Wood ran the day to day business however James was certainly involved bringing to the partnership his knowledge of pottery manufacture, his contacts within the pottery industry and also his legal brain.  He is recorded as making occasional visits to London to successfully lobby the government of the day directly in support of the interests of the Staffordshire pottery industry.  There is a small reference in the book "Ten Generations of a Potting Family" which reads as follows: "There is an interesting list of manufacturers who in 1811 subscribed to a presentation of silver to Josiah Spode and James Caldwell for their services in opposing a proposed tax on manufactures.  J&J Davenport subscribed £3 3s. od., William Adams, of Stoke, £4 3s. 0d., Thomas Wolfe £7 5s 0d., William Adams, Cobridge, £8 5s. 0d., and so on".


Although the partnership of Wood & Caldwell was financially very successful it would appear that James and Enoch slowly became less friendly with each other and in the end their business relationship became rather acrimonious.  Enoch Wood was well known for not being an easy person to work with and in his diaries James makes a subtle reference to various disagreements which he puts down to misunderstandings.  Enoch bought James's share in 1818 for £27,000 which was a considerable amount of money for the time.  After this Enoch went into business with his sons.

In 1794 Josiah Wedgwood died and James was executor, together with Josiah's eldest son.  In his will Josiah left James "the sum of £100 which I desire he will accept as testimony of my friendship and esteem for him".  This shows the great level of respect and trust that Josiah must have had for James.

In 1797 at the age of only 38 James became Deputy Lieutenant for Staffordshire.  He notes in his diary taking the oath with Mr Mainwaring & Mr Headman.  This honour involved him in many public activities including addressing the Prince Regent on a visit to the area some years later.

In the late 1790s James also went into partnership with William Bent (and possibly also John Barrow) in a brewery concern.  It would appear that William was one of James's closest family friends and his diaries often note them having dinner together at their respective homes, Linley Wood and Stoneyfields.  William had previously been in a pottery business with James Bulkley however the business had not prospered and so William had decided to try his hand in the Brewery business.  The partnership between James and William was to last for more than 20 years and the company consisted of breweries in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Shrewsbury, Macclesfield and Liverpool.  One of the other backers in the business was Elizabeth Caldwell's distant cousin Dr Peter Crompton.  Unfortunately the business did not prosper.  James, probably due to his friendship, stuck with it all the way however William died unexpectedly in 1820, aged only 56.  The company lost James a lot of money and in his diary he noted that with hindsight he wished that he had never let his friend Mr Bent talk him into the venture in the first place.

In 1802 James was appointed Recorder for the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme.  The document still exists confirming that he was elected by the Mayor, Bailiffs and Burgesses of the Borough of Newcastle upon Lyme, 22nd April 1801, and that this was then confirmed at St James Palace in front of the King 22 June 1802.  He succeeded George Einbury Tollet.  I am not sure what duties this entailed but he seems to have been responsible for the running of the courts in Newcastle and presumably other associated duties.

James was involved in the setting up and or running of numerous public enterprises such as the library the hospital etc.  It would almost seem that anybody setting up anything, always attempted to have James Caldwell on the committee and in many cases he would be the chairman.

James was a founder of the Newcastle and Potteries Agricultural Society and was its President.  A silver salver passed down in the family records 'Premiums given by the NEWCASTLE and POTTERIES AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY to James Caldwell Esquire of Linley Wood, viz Ten Guineas for draining in the best Manner the greatest Quantity of Land in 1801, Seven Guineas for laying down Land in permanent Pasture in the best Manner in 1803, and Five Guineas for laying down Land for Pasture in like Manner in 1804'.  He records these events in his diary and also records many of his activities on the Linley Wood estate with the planting of trees, buying and selling livestock, catching fish, shooting pheasants, the weather, etc.  If anything was happening he seems to have always wanted to be directly involved.

James was Chairman of the Trent & Mersey Canal Company from the early 1820s through to 27 September 1836 when retired age 77.  In his diaries he makes reference to chairing the select committee and he notes many of the projects including the building of the second Harecastle Tunnel with Thomas Telford.  James enjoys putting in place the final keystone and also being the first person to travel through the tunnel in 1827.  It should be noted that two people who had been very active originally in setting the company up had been Josiah Wedgwood and Thomas Sparrow.  Presumably James had very much picked up from where they had left off.  James also meet Isambard Kingdom Brunel at one stage and James also funded the building of an early steam boat in 1830.

In addition to being a Lawyer, an Estate Owner and a very shrewd businessman, James appears to have taken an unusually active part in bringing up his children.  He notes in his diary the regular visits of the Children's tutor Mr Allcott and also visits by other tutors to teach French and Drawing.  He plays with the children, on one occasion falling over and suffering quite a bad sprained ankle.  He also reads to them and has them read to him.  Three of his children died and his record of these events in his diary are quite moving (Francis aged 5, Catherine aged 20 and Mary aged 24).  His other children Anne, Hannah and James Stamford were all very bright.  James Stamford went on to Cambridge.  Anne later became a writer of women's novels and was very popular in her time.

James Caldwell read very widely and built up a considerable library of books at Linley Wood.  Most of these were dispersed in 1949 however some still exist in the Heath-Caldwell Family Archive and in many cases bear his bookplate or bookplates of other relatives or associates.  Luckily a full list of the contents of the library has survived and this indicates a family with a diverse range of interests.


James Caldwell's diaries span from the mid 1770s right through to his death in 1838.  The early entries are sporadic but from the late 1790s the diaries are regular and complete.  He records numerous business meetings and activities involving everyone in the Potteries community.  Every page is full of names (Wedgwood, Spode, Devenport, Wood, Bent, Heathcote, Sneyd, Holland, Roscoe, Crompton, Sir George Chetwynd of Brockton Hall and Grendon Hall, John Sparrow of Bishton, Thomas Sparrow of Newcastle, Martin, Darwin, Skerrett, Sherrat, Penlington of Rode Heath, Stamford, Kinnersley of Clough Hall, Tollet of Betley Hall, Wilbraham of of Rode Hall, Lawton of Lawton Hall, Tomlinson of Cliff Villa, Lord Stafford of Trentham. . . etc).  Also recorded are family events, dinners with close friends such as the Wedgwoods and every now and then he records his own thoughts about politics, industry and society in general.  From reading his notes we can see that he was always facing difficult challenges but no matter what comes in his direction he just keeps moving on.

James worked all his life and died Tuesday 16 January 1838, the event being recorded by his daughter Anne in a letter to his grandchildren as follows:

Your poor Grandpapa expired at 14 past six this morning.  He had been in the art of dying for nearly 24 hours, the first part of the time he knew us all, gave his directions about mourning matters to be done after his death to your Uncle Stamford, enquired for his three sons in law.  Mentioned his grandchildren, recommended family love & union to us all, spoke as a good Christian should upon his past life & his humble hope of a better & in short had prepared himself for this long agony as a wise & good man should.  He has been evidently much employed in self preparation and . . .  prayer for the whole time that I have been here.  His speech forsook him yesterday evening & he then lay quietly breathing until he breathed his last without the faintest struggle, so that I who sat close by his head was in doubt some minutes whether all was over. . . .   Your grandpapa had many bright & shining virtues extreme parity of conduct to the most perfect & beautiful . . . great integrity just self denial & the most indefatigable industry.  A very strong desire to make his great talents . . . & an abhorrence of  . . .  , all his little imperfections of temper he in the greatest & kindest manner as had forgiveness for even from his very man servant, giving as a beautiful example of that humility of mind, that readiness to acknowledge ourselves in the wrong & that readiness to atone for it which you know I so often recommend as the true basis of the . . . character.  Such a death to be 11 days hourly expecting it, without the hope of escaping must indeed be an awful thing to everyone.  He took evidently great pains to endure the wearying hours with . . . and never to allow the slightest hasty word to escape him amid the many . . . difficulties of his illness, & almost the last word he said was "I am afraid I have been impatient".    . . .

A memorial plaque in the local parish church of St.Martins, Talke O'Th'Hill, records that he was not buried at Talke but was in fact laid to rest in the neighbouring church of St.James in Audley.  Inside St.James church there is a very large plaque to James (and many members of the Caldwell family) however no gravestones exist outside so presumably he is entombed in the crypt which will be somewhere under the floor.  By his will he left approx £70,000 predominantly to his son James Stamford Caldwell.



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(Linley Wood)  (Diaries and Letters)  (Will of James Caldwell)  (Wood and Caldwell)  (William Bent)  (Stolen Hunting Horn)