Wednesday - 26 November 2014

Signs of hope for Wedgwood Museum

23 September 2013Written by Tom Derbyshire

There are promising signs for the future of the Wedgwood Museum thanks to planning approval given to redevelop the site where it is based near Stoke-on-Trent.

As previously reported in ATG, 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 2010. The museum's collection was under threat of sale to partially cover that.

Although discussions over a rescue package to resolve that issue still seem to be ongoing, the redevelopment plan of Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton's (WWRD) factory complex at Barlaston certainly shows the museum space as part of the scheme and it has been reported that new museum viewing galleries and improved archive store facilities to allow better visitor access to the reserve collection are included.

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.

Unique Archive

The unique holding of objects and documents is a vital, UNESCO-endorsed archive for students of arguably the world's best-known pottery, giving important insights into how the company, processes and industry developed from the 18th century.

ATG asked WWRD for more details about the plans, and what it all entailed for the collection, but they had not responded by the time we went to press.

However, their chief financial officer, Anthony Jones, toldMuseums Journal: "While our plans do not address the complex issue of the future of the collection, we remain confident that it will remain at Barlaston.

"We recognise the importance of the collection and are working closely with the administrator to play our part in securing the future."

As reported in ATG in September last year, Art Fund chairman David Verey had revealed that he and his staff had been working on a plan to save the collection in the public interest while satisfying creditors' demands as far as possible.

He said at the time: "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.

"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."

But this month, also in the Museums Journal, Bob Young from the administrator at Begbie Traynor said: "The case is still with lawyers. There is no further action at the moment."

Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.

Back to top