The Rotary Club of Stoke-On-Trent inaugural meeting was held on 31st January 1927. Our Charter from Rotary International was signed on 22nd February 1927.
The first President was Major Frank Wedgwood, a member of the famous pottery manufacturing family.
However the person largely responsible for the inauguration of the Club was Albert E. Gray of Gray's Pottery, who became the first Vice-President.
Eldest son of Clement Francis Wedgwood, partner at Etruria from 1889 following the early death of his father. After the incorporation of the firm as Josiah Wedgwood & Sons Limited in 1895, and the retirement of Laurence Wedgwood, three first cousins Cecil, Frank and Kennard, represented the fifth generation of the family at Etruria.
It was the joint efforts of Frank and Cecil which restored the company to profit during the early years of the 20th century - this however was brought to a halt by the outbreak of World War One, in which Cecil was killed. Frank succeeded Cecil as Chairman and Managing Director in 1916. He died suddenly in October 1930, having spent his life as a man who was greatly respected for his integrity in personal and business matters. His quiet and unassuming manner tended to disguise real ability.
Frank Wedgwood (1866 - 1930)
A. E. Gray
One of AE Gray's chief interests between 1926 and 1946 was the rotary movement, and he is credited with the founding of the Rotary Club of Stoke-On-Trent. A surviving minute book records that on the 17th October 1928 he presided at a meeting of six local business and professional men at which he reported a meeting with major (later Sir Charles) Mander, then Chairman of the Rotary District in which Stoke would come and later the President of Rotary in Britain and Northern Ireland.
One of Gray's business associates was Charles E White of Belfast, a senior Rotarian and a business acquaintance and another was a Rotarian customer in Toronto who originally introduced him to the movement.
Three more meetings were held during which more potential members were recruited and the Rotary club was inaugurated with sixteen founder members on the 31st January 1927.
Gray having presided over all the preliminary meetings would have been the natural choice for founder president but was able to recruit for this position Major Frank Wedgwood, head of the family firm and Great Great Grandson of the first Josiah. Gray following him as president a year later.
For nearly twenty years Gray was a keen and active member of the club and it became his ambition to extend Rotary to a wider circle by establishing other clubs in the city. Having failed to achieve this ambition as it was turned down by the members in meetings in 1942 and 1946, may have been one of the reasons for his resignation later that year.