Emma Wedgwood was born 2 May 1808, at Maer Hall in Staffordshire, in the district known as the Potteries. She was the eighth and last child of Josiah II (1769-1843) and Elizabeth Allen Wedgwood (1764-1846). She married Charles Darwin 29 January 1839 at St. Peter's Anglican Church in Maer. Emma died 7 October 1896 and is buried at Downe, in Kent, near the grave of Charles' brother Erasmus.
Josiah Wedgwood, Founder of Wedgwood Pottery, and Sarah Wedgwood
The Wedgwood dynasty began with Josiah I (1730-1795), who was born in Burslem, Staffordshire, into a family of undistinguished potters. Although the area had many potteries, they made relatively primitive wares and were unable to export them any distance, given lack of roads and transportation. However, unlike his relations in the pottery business, Josiah possessed a passion for creating new and interesting wares, and would go on to great success as the founder of one of the most prestigious pottery firms in the world.
In 1764 he married Sarah Wedgwood (1734-1815), his first cousin. Josiah was the son of Thomas Wedgwood (1685-1739) and Mary Stringer. Sarah was the daughter of Richard Wedgwood (1701-1780) (Thomas’s brother), and Susan Irlam (d1760).
Josiah and Sarah had five children:
- Susannah (1765-1817) (married Dr. Robert Darwin and became the mother of Charles Robert Darwin)
- Thomas (1771-1805) (unmarried)
- Catherine (1774-1823) (unmarried)
- Sarah Elizabeth (1776-1856) (unmarried)
- Josiah II (1769-1843) (married Elizabeth/Bessy Allen)
Josiah Wedgwood II and Elizabeth Allen
Josiah II married Elizabeth Allen (1764-1846) of Cressely, in Pembrokeshire. Elizabeth (or Bessy, as she was known), was the daughter of John Bartlett Allen (1733-1803), who acquired an estate in Pembrokeshire, Wales, following his marriage to Elizabeth Hensleigh (1738-1790), only daughter and heiress of John Hensleigh of Panteg, Pembrokeshire, who was a successful attorney and a Burgess of Carmarthen.
Josiah II and Bessy produced eight children:
- Sarah Elizabeth (1793-1880) (called "Elizabeth" unmarried)
- Josiah III (1795-1880) (married his cousin Caroline Darwin, sister of Charles Darwin)
- Charlotte (1797–1862) (married Charles Langton (1801–1886) in 1832. After her death Charles Langton married her cousin Emily Catherine Darwin, daughter of Robert Darwin and sister of Charles Darwin.)
- Henry Allen (1799–1885) (married his cousin, Jessie Wedgwood, daughter of John Wedgwood, brother of Josiah I)
- Francis (Frank) (1800–1880)
- Hensleigh (1803-1891) (etymologist, philologist, barrister, and author of A Dictionary of English Etymology. He married Frances (Fanny) Mackintosh.)
- Frances (Fanny) (1806-1832) (died age 26, unmarried)
- Emma (1808-1896) (married Charles Robert Darwin, son of her uncle Robert Darwin)
The Wedgwood-Darwin Relationship
Josiah Wedgwood I developed a close friendship with the physician Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802); the two were members of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, a group of intellectuals, industrialists, and natural philosophers who met regularly between 1765 and 1813. When Erasmus’ son, Robert Darwin (also a physician) married Josiah’s eldest daughter Susannah, it’s doubtful that either knew they would be starting a new intellectual and innovative dynasty.
For more information on Emma Wedgwood, read A Brief Biography of Emma Wedgwood Darwin. For information on the family history of Charles Darwin, read the Ancestry of Charles Robert Darwin.
Barbara and Hensleigh Wedgwood, The Wedgwood Circle 1730-1897. Eastview Editions, 1980
Peter Brent, Charles Darwin. Harper & Row, 1981