2010 saw the bicentenary of the birth, and the centenary of the death, of Shropshire’s Grand Old Man. John Randall.
John Randall was born at Ladywood, Broseley, on September 1, 1810. His uncle, Mr. Martin Randall, had a pottery works at Madeley, and “young John” was apprenticed to him at the age of 18. After mastering the art of painting on porcelain he spent two years at the Royal Rockingham Works in Yorkshire, and then in 1835 joined the famous Coalport firm. He remained in that employ for 46 years, giving up in 1881, when he was 71 years of age, owing to failing eyesight. His chief art lay in the painting of birds on china.
He then was appointed postmaster at Madeley. He opened a post office at 3 Park Avenue which he continued to run until his death, latterly with the assistance of his daughter Sarah. He also ran other businesses from the premises, including his own printing works and sold books & stationary. He was actively involved in local affairs, such as re-establishing the market in Madeley. After a couple of failed attempts, he was elected to Wenlock Borough Council in 1874 and continued to serve as a local councillor for six years until the age of 70. His contribution to local politics resulted in being made the first honorary freeman of the Borough at the age of 99.
He was also a keen geologist, and was led to take up the study by the reading of a series of articles which appeared in” “Chambers’ Journal” in 1832. He wrote a most interesting book entitled “The Severn Valley”.which brought him to the notice of Professor Ramsay, and in 1863, he was made Fellow of the Royal Geological Society. At the great exhibition- in 1851, he received a bronze medal for his collection of minerals and fossils, and in 1867 he was sent by the Society of Arts to the Paris Exhibition to report on pottery and iron manufacture. Shortly after he was offered a post at the British Museum, but preferred to stay in Shropshire. Mr. Randall was an authority on the coalfields of Shropshire and read many papers before the South Midland Institute of Mining Engineers. He was asked for advice by a number of mine owners about the best locations to sink new pits.
He was also a prolific writer. As well as “The Severn Valley”, which ran into two editions, his other works included “A History of Broseley”, “Old Sports and Sportsmen”, “History of Madeley”, “John Wilkinson, Father of the Iron Trade”, “Clay Industries”, “Shifnal and its Surroundings”, and a volume on the arts and industries of Shropshire for Constable’s “Victoria History”. In addition to these works he wrote between two and three hundred newspaper articles on the “Ancestral Homes of Shropshire”. In 1879 he also founded “The Wrekin Echo”, a weekly newspaper which was eventually purchased by the Liberal party, and incorporated with the “Shropshire Guardian”.
He was twice married, and had eight children- three sons and five daughters. His first wife was Anne, daughter of Thomas Harvey of Coalport (married 1838) , and his second was Louisa, second daughter of Mr. Brassington of Cheddleton, near Leek, Staffordshire (married 1860). He was buried in St Michael’s churchyard with his two wives and daughter Mary.
To mark the event, a day school was held on Saturday 4th September 2010 which covered various aspects of his life. Speakers included George Baugh, Neil Clarke, Roger Edmundson, Shelagh Lewis, Hugh Torrens and Barrie Trinder.
It was held at the John Randall School in Queen Street, Madeley. It was renamed John Randall County Junior School in 1976 when a new infants school was built next to the existing Hills Lane County Primary school.
A copy of the proceedings of the day school can be purchased from Jubilee House at a cost of £5 plus P & P.