In 1897, it was from the back streets of Burslem, the Mother Town of the Potteries, that a young ceramic designer emerged - a designer whose destiny was to take the world of chimneys and smoke. After employing young William as a manager in their art department, James Macintyre & Co's envy, knew no bounds when hard work, brilliant design and novel decorating and firing techniques brought William to the attention of high society in London. James Macintyre & Co. Ltd. almost brought the career of William Moorcroft to an abrupt halt when in 1913, they closed their art department. THankfully, high society came to the aid of William in the form of Libery & Co., the fasionable London store in Regent Street. In that same year, W. Moorcroft Limited was formed and a new Moorcroft factory in Sandbach Road, Burslem, was completed. Wiliam Moorcroft was back in business.
In 1913, London was in a state of flux. The storm clouds of war were gathering, yet the habits and traditions of a society in which everyone 'knw their place' were shaking but had not been destroyed. Tea and muffins were still taken by those people so accurately caricatured by Paul Hilditch in High SOciety. WOmen with their long dresses, large has and parasols and cripplingly tight corsets were often seen as little more than bored chattels owned by their husbands. By the time of Armistice in 1918, much of the coutry's high society had disappeared, as had many of the men and much of the wealth which had supported it.
In High Society, Paul Hilditch offersno sense of irony or ridicule. It is a sketch of the world in London just as a Moorcroft designer like WIlliam would have experienced it first-hand a hundred years ago. These were the people whose wealth made William's career and established his repuytation in the Arts and Crafts Movement. William Moorcroft was a truly great ceramic artist and Lberty & Co. as the controlling stockholders of W. Moorcroft Limited, provided much of the business acumen. Everything else, William did himself. He joined the high society of the time in London, dressed into it through a personal tailor and eventually married into it, not once but twice, first to his beloved Florence Lovibond and later as a widower, to Hazel Lasenby from the Liberty family itself.
HIgh Society is a designer's snapshot of a moment in time. If any irony exists, it lies in the fact that the once- mighty James Macintyre & Co. & Ltd. is now a company within the small family of Moorfroft companies. As a former British Prime Minister once famously remarked "it's a funny old world".
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