Piers Wedgwood, 59, British lord

Posted: February 01, 2014

Piers Wedgwood, 59, of Chestnut Hill, a British lord and fifth-generation great-grandson of Josiah Wedgwood, creator of the distinctive blue and white pottery that embellishes tea tables and china collections, died Wednesday, Jan. 29, of cardiac failure at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Lord Wedgwood devoted his life to keeping alive regard for his family's ceramic and decorative arts. During a career spanning four decades, he traveled thousands of miles as Wedgwood's international ambassador.

In public appearances, he would guide small groups of mostly women through the British tradition of afternoon tea. As time allowed, he would put on pause his own hectic day to savor the 4 o'clock custom, he said.

"The proper tea service includes a full tea set, with cloth napkins," he told Tea Time Magazine in 2007.

"A variety of serving pieces in different heights, shapes, and materials adds visual interest to your table. Don't fret if you haven't got a matched tea set. Mixing and matching patterns and materials creates a unique and stylish setting.

"Foods include freshly-brewed loose-leaf black tea, served with tea sandwiches, pastries, and cakes," he advised.

As a businessman, Lord Wedgwood helped navigate the fortunes of his family's 255-year-old company. He was a veteran of two major reorganizations of the firm, but remained positive and engaged as it opened major new markets in India, China and Russia.

Piers Anthony Weymouth Wedgwood, Fourth Baron Wedgwood, was born Sept. 20, 1954 in Nakuru, Kenya, outside Nairobi on his family's farm. He assumed the Wedgwood peerage at age 16 when his father died in 1970.

Educated in England at Marlborough and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Lord Wedgwood was commissioned in the Royal Scots Regiment in 1973. He was deployed to Cypress and retired with the rank of captain in 1980.

Lord Wedgwood did not view his peerage as a mere title; instead, he was a working member of the English House of Lords with more than 25 years of service on the Defense and Heritage Parliamentary Groups. He left the House of Lords in 2001.

An active sportsman, Lord Wedgwood was a member of the Royal Automobile Club of England, the London Racquet Club and the Philadelphia Club.

His passion, though, was Wedgwood. He started out in the business in his teens, cleaning the pottery kilns and learning production methods at the home of Wedgwood in the village of Barlaston, Staffordshire County. It was soon clear, however, that his charm, speaking ability and uncanny resemblance to his ancestor Josiah made him the ideal spokesman for the Wedgwood brand.

In 2009, Lord Wedgwood received an honorary doctorate from the faculty of art and design at Staffordshire University for his services to the preservation and promotion of North Staffordshire's cultural heritage in the art and industry of English pottery.

For many years, Lord Wedgwood was closely identified with Wedgwood collections in British museums and in America. One of these was the Buten Wedgwood Collection, formerly housed in the Buten family mansion in Merion, but now in a museum in Birmingham, Ala.

Lord Wedgwood helped raise money for charity. A pet project was the Lord Wedgwood Charity, which generates funds to supply high school sports programs in Birmingham with defibrillators to use when athletes experience cardiac arrest. He proposed the project in 2000 after doctors saved his life following a heart attack on a golf course in Alabama.

He also donated rare Wedgwood pieces to help raise money for other groups, such as the Philadelphia branch of English-Speaking Union of the United States in 2010.

Lord Wedgwood met his wife, the former Mary Regina Quinn, of the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, when he was presenting Wedgwood at the Marshall Field Company in Chicago. At the time, Lady Wedgwood, the daughter of Philadelphia Municipal Judge Edward Thomas Quinn, ran the store's public relations.

The "old English lord" she expected to meet turned out to be a dashing 26-year-old. The two married in 1985 and maintained homes in Chestnut Hill, London and the Jersey shore.

Surviving, besides Lady Wedgwood, are a daughter, The Hon. Alexandra Mary Kavanaugh Wedgwood; and two sisters, The Hon. Susan Wedgwood DeSantana and The Hon. Sarah Wedgwood Bitove, both of Canada.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete.

bcook@phillynews.com

610-313-8102

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