Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Copeland, William Taylor

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COPELAND, WILLIAM TAYLOR (1797–1868), alderman of London, and porcelain manufacturer, was born 24 March 1797. He was the son of William Copeland, the partner of Josiah Spode, and after the decease of his father and the retirement of the latter he was for a long period at the head of the large pottery establishment known as that of ‘Spode’ at Stoke-on-Trent, and also of the firm in London. In 1828–9 he served the office of sheriff of London and Middlesex, and during the year was elected alderman for the ward of Bishopsgate. He became lord mayor in 1835, and was seven years president of the royal hospitals of Bridewell and Bethlehem (1861–8), and member of the Irish Society, upon which devolves the management of the estates in Ireland belonging to the city of London. In 1831 and 1833 he as a liberal contested unsuccessfully the borough of Coleraine, but was seated on petition in both years, and retained his seat until the general election of 1837. He was then returned as a conservative for Stoke-on-Trent, which seat he held until 1852, when he was defeated, and again from 1857 to 1865. He was a moderate conservative after abandoning the liberal party, and although he did not take an active part in the debates of the House of Commons, he was a useful member of committees, and a watchful guardian of the interests of the important district of the potteries which he represented. He also took an active part in civic affairs, maintaining with chivalrous zeal the ancient rights and privileges of the city of London whenever any of these were objects of attack. Copeland's name will rank along with that of Minton and one or two others as the real regenerators of the industry of the potteries. Though not possessing the knowledge of art which distinguished Wedgwood, he chose as his associates men of unquestionable taste and judgment, among whom was Thomas Battam, with whose aid the productions of his manufactory gained a world-wide renown, and in all the great international exhibitions of recent times obtained the highest commendation both for their design and execution. But the branch of ceramic art which Copeland carried to the highest degree of perfection was the manufacture of parian groups and statuettes, in which he secured the co-operation of some of the most eminent sculptors of the day, including Gibson, Calder Marshall, Foley, Marochetti, and Durham. Copeland was in early life a keen sportsman, keeping a stud of race-horses, and always identifying himself with those who sought to maintain the honour of the sport as an old English institution. He died at Russell Farm, Watford, Hertfordshire, 12 April 1868.

[Times, 14 April 1868, reprinted in Gent. Mag. 1868, i. 691; City Press, 18 April 1868; Art Journal, 1868, p. 158.]

R. E. G.