IronbridgeGeorge Maw
1832-1912
 
 
 
George Maw was an extraordinary man. Not only an extremely successful 19th century businessman, but someone who had many interests and achieved recognition for his accomplishments in many of them – in other words, he was a polymath.
 
His occupations included manufacturing tiles and art pottery, chemistry, geology, botany, archaeology, watercolour painting and gardening.
 
Most of George’s business working life was spent in Shropshire where he and his brother founded the famous Maw & Co Tile Works at Broseley in the Ironbridge Gorge. Trained in the art of making encaustic tiles, the Maw Brothers made their company world famous and became one of the major employers in the Gorge.
 
George was born on the 10th of December 1832 in London and was christened on the 25th of December in St Mary the Virgin church, Aldermanbury, London.
 
He was sent away to school at the RA College in Cirencester. Here he was trained in the art of encaustic tile manufacture.
 
In 1850, when George Maw was 18, he and his younger brother Arthur purchased a run-down tile-making business from the Worcester Porcelain Company. Getting suitable clays was both difficult and expensive so in 1852 they transferred their business to Benthall near Ironbridge, and moved again, to purpose-built works at nearby Jackfield in 1883.
 
Maw and Company were particularly well known for their encaustic and other tiles which were exported all over the world, providing decorative and easily-cleaned surfaces for walls and floors in public and domestic buildings.
 
However, the company also produced Art Pottery, some of which involved the employment of well-known designers such as Walter Crane.
 
The company won many awards at International Exhibitions including those in London 1862, Paris 1867, Philadelphia 1876 and Adelaide 1887.
 
An excellent website with further information is  Web:  Shrewsbury Museums Service
 
Botanist 
Around 1860, George Maw and his brother Arthur, moved into a handsome 16th century house situated on a plateau above the gorge of the River Severn. While living there George created a magnificent garden. A writer on subjects including agriculture and geology, Maw was a notable botanist, amassing 3-4,000 distinct species of plants, principally alpines, at the Hall.
 
Benthall Hall in Broseley is still lived in by the Benthall family and opens to the public seasonally. It is managed by The National Trust.
 
Despite being busy building his Tile Company and Art Pottery into a world famous business and fulfilling his civic duties as a Magistrate, this energetic man had time to pursue his many other interests, get married and father a large number of children.
 
In July 1861 George married thirty-one year old Frederica Mary Brown. Their first child, a son (George Hornby) was born ten months later in April, 1862 at Benthall in Broseley, Shropshire. A further eight children were born between 1865 and 1875. Caroline Mary (1865-1888); Helen Alice (1866); Louisa Jane (1867); Charles David (1869); Margaret Lucy (1870); Frederick Davy (1872); Mary Frederica (1874-1875); and Francis Reginald (1875). After a long and productive life in Shropshire, George’s wife died at Kenley, Surrey on the 6th of February 1894, aged 64.
 
George Maw’s Accomplishments
- Archeology
His archaeological activities included the recording of mosaics at the excavations of Viroconium/Uriconium at Wroxeter near Shrewsbury in the 1860s. Unfortunately, in those days excavations were not as well cared for as these days and some of the mosaics were subsequently destroyed by souvenir-hunters.
 
The mosaics, however, no doubt, inspired George Maw’s designs for Roman-style tiles. His watercolours of some of these mosaics are held in the collections of Shrewsbury Museums Service.
 
Geology
George Maw took an early interest in geological science and its practical application in the manufacture of pottery and porcelain. He wrote numerous geological papers and was made a Fellow of the Geological Society in 1864. He was a valued contributor to the pages of the Geological Magazine, from the first volume in 1864 to 1878.
 
His first communication, read before the Geological Society in 1864, was on the drift-deposits of the Valley of the Severn, and it was followed by one on the potter's clay of Fremington near Barnstaple, a deposit which Maw was disposed to regard as of Glacial age. In 1865 he described in the Geological Magazine some deposits of “Chert, White Sand, and White Clay”, which occurred in pockets in the mountain-limestone of Llandudno.
 
In 1867 he brought before the Geological Society observations "On the Sources of the Materials composing the White Clays of the Lower Tertiaries", and in the following year a paper “On the Disposition of Iron in variegated Strata", illustrated by coloured plates and many diagrams and analyses. This undoubtedly was his most important contribution to geological science, and arrested the attention and won the warmly expressed admiration of Professor Euskin, who was enchanted with the beauty of coloration and variegation in arrangement and banding displayed in the sections illustrating this very valuable work.
 
In 1870 he drew attention to the occurrence of Rhsetic beds in North Shropshire and Cheshire.
 
In 1876 he published in the third edition of the Catalogue of Specimens of British Pottery and Porcelain in the Museum of Practical Geology, an instructive and practical appendix on a series of specimens which he had collected in order to illustrate the Clays and Plastic Strata of Great Britain.
 
Botany
George Maw was also a most accomplished botanist and plant hunter. In 1871 he accompanied Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker on a plant-hunting expedition to Morocco and the Atlas Mountains and was a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London.
 
He became an expert on Crocus and published 'A Monograph of the Genus Crocus' in 1886 - illustrated by his watercolours of which the Art Critic, John Ruskin wrote that they were “most exquisite … and quite beyond criticism”. Maw's original drawings for this folio are now at Kew Gardens in London. Great Flower Books refers to this monograph as "The most important work on the genus ... the plates ... are wonderfully detailed and accurate."
 
The monograph with an appendix by C. Lacaita is remarkable. It was the result of over 10 years of inquiry and is regarded as one of the most complete works on Crocus. It is illustrated with coloured figures of every species from actual specimens grown and flowered at Benthall. To obtain these and to study their geographical distribution, George travelled over the whole of Europe and North Africa as far as the genus extended.
 
The many plants and bulbs collected on these trips still survive and can be seen growing at Benthall Hall.
 
Death
In 1886, on account of ill-health, George Maw gave up his business, and lived in retirement at Kenley in Surrey. He died on 7th February 1912.
 
Google Map - Benthall Hall, Broseley