Continuing the themes of ‘History begins at home’, we look at the life of John Randall – a man who certainly knew how to make good use of his time!
John Randall’s life was remarkable, not only because he lived to be 100, but also for his accomplishments in a number of fields. During his lifetime, he was a notable porcelain painter, geologist, publisher and local historian.
He was born at Lady Wood, Broseley on September 1st 1810. He was apprenticed to his uncle, Thomas Martin Randall, at Madeley in 1828, where he learned the art of painting porcelain. He spent two years at the Royal Rockingham factory in Yorkshire, and then moved to the Coalport Works in 1835, where he remained for the rest of his career. Here he developed a specialisation in the painting of birds.
Randall was interested in geology and made a collection of minerals and fossils. In 1851, he was awarded a bronze medal for his collection at the Great Exhibition, London. He was elected a fellow of the Geological Society in 1863, for his investigation of the rocks alongside of the Linley Brook, which he correctly identified as Devonian, or old red sandstone.
In 1867 he reported on the iron and ceramic exhibits at the Paris International Exhibition on behalf of the Society of Arts. His report was published in the Times and, as a consequence, he was offered a position at the South Kensington Museum, which he declined.
Failing eye sight prompted his retirement from porcelain painting but Randall did not settle for a leisurely old age. In 1881 he was selected as the Postmaster of Madeley, a post he combined with bookseller, printer and author. He published numerous pamphlets, almanacs, guides and histories to Shropshire towns.
As a local historian, Randall accumulated a vast amount of information, reminiscence and anecdote. At the age of ninety, he contributed a chapter on industries to Vol. 1 of the Victoria County History of Shropshire. Today John Randall is probably best known for his History of Madeley. In 1909, at the age of 99, he was awarded the honour of being made the first freeman of the Borough of Wenlock. John Randall died on 16th November, 1910 having reached the age of 100.