Retired Welsh headteacher wins international literary award

A retired Powys headteacher has won an international literary award for a book about Britain’s oldest pottery family from which he descends.

Philip Nanney Williams, 71, received the 2023 Arnold Bennett International Book Prize at a ceremony in Stoke-on-Trent last Saturday for his book charting the fascinating 500-year history of the important Adams potters of Burslem, Staffordshire.

Adams: Britain’s Oldest potting Dynasty is the second history book written by Philip, who lives at Manafon, near Welshpool, and follows closely his much acclaimed Nannau : A Rich Tapestry of Welsh History.

Named after the Potteries literary genius Arnold Bennett, the international prize is awarded annually by the highly respected Arnold Bennett Society to recognise books of any genre by a writer with a link to North Staffordshire or writing about the area.

“I am delighted and honoured to have been recognised with this very prestigious award,” he said. “I hope the award will encourage even more people, who are interested in the history of the Staffordshire pottery industry, to buy my book.”

Philip was presented with a bronze bust of Arnold Bennett in a ceremony attended by the famous author’s grandson and society members from around the globe.

Adams: Britain’s Oldest potting Dynasty is the result of four years of painstaking work by author Philip whose personal link to the famous Adams family is through his late grandmother.

From attempted murder to associations with an archetypal regency rake and tales of intrepid travellers, the family’s colourful history unfolds through the lives of this inspirational family and their extensive connections.

Philip’s research, mostly undertaken during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, reveals what a crucial role the Adams family played in the development of Staffordshire’s great potting industry.

The 321-page hardback book provides intimate glimpses into the lives of members of this ancient lineage, the first record of which is traced to 1448 when Adams family members were fined for digging clay from a roadside.

Starting in Burslem, Adams pottery grew to become one of the country’s biggest businesses by the mid-1880s, owning eight factories and exporting their pottery around the world, especially to America.

“Tracing their ancestry back to the reign of Edward I, they can legitimately claim to be in at the birth of Staffordshire’s great potting tradition,” said Philip. “This assertion is corroborated by the fact that they are acknowledged as the oldest potting family for which records exist.

“The business started from very humble beginnings, with farmers making pots as a side line, much the same way as most pottery dynasties began. The family became prominent in virtually every historical event that happened in the Potteries.

“This book needed to be written because it’s such an interesting history and the family has been very supportive.”

Adams: Britain’s Oldest Potting Dynasty is available to buy directly from for £35 and can also be purchased at W H Smith and Waterstones and other leading book stores.

Picture caption:

Philip Nanney Williams with the bronze bust of Arnold Bennett and his book.