MNC industrialist and master potter, born at Great Chell, near Tunstall. His mother died when he was 7 and two years later his father took him and an older brother to Swansea, where he first heard Methodist preaching. At 13 he was apprenticed to a potter. Returning to the Potteries, where he may for a time have been employed by Josiah Wedgwood, he then moved to Leeds, found a home with a Methodist family and was converted on 21 June 1781. He returned toHanley later that year as a trained potter and an enthusiastic Methodist, became a class leader, local preacher and chapel steward. He opened his own factory in 1792 in partnership with one of his brothers and in 1802 opened a model manufactory at Cauldon Place, Hanley, where he began to make the porcelain for which the firm is mainly remembered and which earned a high reputation for hygiene and efficiency.
He played a leading part in the events which led all but eight of the Hanley Methodists to join the newly formed MNC and in 1799 founded Bethesda Chapel, which became the largest and most important in the connexion., with the Ridgway family prominent among its members. As Connexional Treasurer he was a 'nursing father' to the infant connexion. His own memoirs were published in the MNC Magazine, 1814 and reprinted by G.A. Godden.
In 1808 he took his two sons into partnership. His eldest son John Ridgway (1786-1860), became joint owner with his brother of the Cauldon Place works. He was Potter to the Queen and won a Prize Medal at the 1851 Exhibition. A leading Liberal, he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Staffordshire in 1853. He dominated Hanley political life for nearly 40 years, being the first Mayor in 1856, but declined a knighthood on the grounds that it would make him less approachable. His industrial and political experience helped to shape the MNC administration and put it on a sound business basis. His biographer stated that 'To no other single individual... does the Connexion owe so much.'