Negotiations on a new rescue package have raised hopes of saving the Wedgwood Museum collection. Those involved expect to be able to unveil an agreement within the next few months.
As previously reported, a legal loophole left the museum trust
liable for a £134m pension shortfall linked to 7500 former staff of
the Waterford Wedgwood company, which went into administration in
Rules governing the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), a body funded
by the pensions industry and government to assist individual
pensioners in the event of a company bankruptcy, prevented it from
compensating Wedgwood pensioners because five members of the scheme
worked for a solvent enterprise, the museum trust.
Although the museum trust, a charity, had been legally separated
from the commercial company for 50 years, under the law it fell
foul of a 'last man standing' rule that left it liable for the
entire shortfall because members of its staff were part of the
This allowed the main administrators to sell the collection in
the hope of recouping some of the losses, a sale that was expected
to raise somewhere between £11m and £20m.
When a High Court ruling backed this move, an international
campaign caused such an outcry that Government ministers became
involved in the debate to rescue what is seen as one of the world's
leading study collections.
Now David Verey, chairman of The Art Fund, has revealed that he
and his staff have been working on a plan to save the collection in
the public interest while satisfying creditors' demands as far as
"Over the last few months we have been working closely with the
administrator, the Wedgwood family, government and leading legal
firm Mishcon de Reya to see if there might be an alternative way
for the PPF to recoup some of the assets without it having to sell
the collection at all - and we are hopeful we have found it," he
"It will involve a long legal procedure which, although it may
take some months, could recover for the PPF a sum greater than the
value of the collection.
"With the need to sell thus removed, the public purse would be
spared the responsibility of saving an extraordinary part of
Britain's heritage which should never have been put in danger in
the first place."
However, details of the proposed deal remain sketchy.
The collection, donated over 250 years by the Wedgwood family,
employees and supporters, includes not just ceramics but
manuscripts, documents, correspondence, factory equipment, trials,
original models and fine art. The museum trust say the company
founder, Josiah Wedgwood I, was very conscious of the experimental
work he was undertaking and kept his trials and experiments for