The Baron of Birmingham


How English Lord Piers Wedgwood made a mark on the city.

By Joe O’Donnell

 

The first meeting between Piers Anthony Weymouth Wedgwood, the fourth Baron Wedgwood of Barlaston, and Frank Bromberg III had a bit of a prince-and-the-pauper feel to it.

“We opened a store in Tuscaloosa in 1981, and I was working for the University of Alabama at the business school. Piers was with my father in a limo, traveling to the store opening and sipping champagne. I was in shorts sitting on the top of a Budweiser truck watching an Alabama baseball game. They stopped and that was exactly how we first met,” Bromberg remembers.

Brand ambassador for his family’s 255-year-old luxury goods company, Lord Wedgwood (he occupied a parliamentary seat in the British House of Lords for more than 25 years) became a fixture in Birmingham, traveling to the city many times in his role with the Wedgwood company and developing enduring friendships. “He became a great fan of Alabama football games, and he became something of a good luck charm because when he attended games, we always won,” Bromberg says.

But perhaps this English Lord’s greatest connection to the city was born out of a near tragedy.

While playing golf here in Birmingham in 2001, Wedgwood suffered a major heart attack. After treatment and recovery here in Birmingham, he was inspired to give back to the community. Following his recovery, Lord Wedgwood formed the Lord Wedgwood Charity with Birmingham-based business leaders to help place Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) in high schools and community gathering places.

Lord Wedgwood and his long-time friend and business partner, Frank Bromberg, III, along with Floyd Larkin and Robbie Robertson, created the Lord Wedgwood Links to Life Celebrity Golf Classic to raise funds. Since its establishment, the Lord Wedgwood Charity has placed 180 AEDs in locations in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The charity is proud that at least five lives have been saved due to its donations and of the awareness it has raised.

The charity has hosted many celebrities at the annual Links to Life golf tournament, auction, and dinner, held each spring.

“We formulated the Lord Wedgwood charity when Piers was here in the hospital recuperating from his quadruple bypass surgery. We knew we wanted to start a charity. We weren’t sure what it was going to be exactly. But that was the start of it,” Bromberg says.

After his recovery, Wedgwood continued to travel the world as brand ambassador for the company founded by his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood. It was his passion. 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, England. As time passed, it became clear that his charm, speaking ability, and uncanny resemblance to his ancestor Josiah made him the ideal spokesman for the Wedgwood brand. He helped guide the firm through two major reorganizations and the opening of major 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 in 1970, at age 16, when his father died. 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. He received the general service medal for service in Northern Ireland.

Wedgwood 257Lord Wedgwood died this past January of cardiac failure at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  He was 59 and a longtime resident of the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, where he lived with his wife, the former Mary Regina Quinn of Philadelphia. The couple met when he was presenting Wedgwood at the Marshall Field Company in Chicago, where she ran the store’s public relations. They have one daughter, The Hon. Alexandra Mary Kavanaugh Wedgwood.

“He was a true English gentleman with a tremendous sense of humor. He walked comfortably with royalty but he could make the most common man feel important. He did it because it was genuine and from the heart. He made everyone around him better. That is probably as great a compliment as anybody could ever be paid,” Bromberg says. “His memory will live forever. It will be very important that we all take a piece of him with us and be thankful for the opportunity we had to spend time with him. What a lovely, beautiful man.”

Leave a Reply