On the 1 December 2014 the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton (WWRD) finalised the agreement for the Wedgwood Collection to remain in Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent, on long-term loan from the V&A to the Wedgwood Museum. Following a five-year campaign led by the Art Fund to save the Collection after the Wedgwood Museum Trust went into administration, it was presented to the Victoria and Albert Museum by the Art Fund with major support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, private donations and a public appeal.
Why is the Wedgwood Collection so important?
The Wedgwood Collection is one of the most important industrial collections in the world and a unique record of over 250 years of British ceramic production. The Collection is a unique archive of British politics, society, science and art, containing over 80,000 works of art, ceramics, manuscripts and letters, pattern books and photographs. The factory was founded by the remarkable Josiah Wedgwood in the mid-18th century, who transformed the cottage craft of pottery into a grand manufacturing industry. The Wedgwood factory went on to share its founder’s passion for quality in both design and execution throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and continues today. It is the finest collection of Wedgwood ceramics documenting production up to the present day, showcasing developments in taste and fashion over three centuries.
Both the collection and paper archives chart the factory history, designs and production. The Wedgwood Collection was started in the 18th century and a museum has existed since 1906, first at the Etruria Factory site and then from 1952 at Barlaston. The new museum opened in 2008 winning the Art Fund Museum of the Year Prize in 2009.
Why was the Wedgwood Collection sold?
The Collection was the major asset of the Wedgwood Museum Trust, which inherited £134m of pension debt as a result of the UK subsidiary of Waterford Wedgwood Plc going into administration in 2009. The debt transferred from company to Trust because the two had been linked through a shared pension fund. The Pension Protection Fund had a duty to claw back as much as it can from sale of assets. In December 2011 the High Court ruled that the Wedgwood Collection was indeed an asset of the Wedgwood Museum Trust that should be sold in order to repay some of the debt owed, and in March 2012 the Attorney General upheld this ruling. The Art Fund and other partners looked at all options to prevent the Collection from being broken up and sold on the open market. Several avenues were explored including the setting up of a new Wedgwood Museum Trust but this was a complicated and expensive option, not possible in the time given. So the V&A agreed to take ownership to secure the Collection in perpetuity, as per the Art Fund’s conditions of Gift, with the collection remaining in Barlaston.
Art Fund led campaign
The Art Fund launched the appeal on 1 September 2014 with £13m already secured, thanks to £10.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and a small number of private trusts and foundations. There was enormous public support with the final £2.74m raised within just a month. Close to 7,500 individuals made donations, which were matched pound-for-pound by a private charitable foundation. It was the fastest successful campaign it the Art Fund’s history. Wedgwood as an example of British industry and a household name, is important to many who have a connection to the factory and Stoke-on-Trent, and the many more who have Wedgwood ceramics in their own home.
V&A and WWRD
The Wedgwood Collection is curated and managed by the Wedgwood Museum staff in consultation with the V&A. Staff from both museums work closely together to care for the Collection, building on existing relationships between the two organisations. Essential collections management and documentation work is planned over the next few years to enable further public access and research. Acquisitions for the Collection will continue to be made where they significantly add to the understanding of the history, design and production of the factory. Selected current WWRD production will be added to the Collection, to ensure the continuity of the company history and to illustrate the design development and technical innovation.
World of Wedgwood
On 17 July 2015 the Wedgwood Museum opens as part of the World of Wedgwood, a new attraction run by WWRD that will explore the Wedgwood brand, the history of its production, heritage and craftsmanship. The new visitor experience incorporates a museum visit, factory tour, retail opportunities, café and fine dining.
V&A Benefactors, Director's Circle and Members are eligible for free admission to the Wedgwood Museum and reduced-price admission to the Wedgwood Factory. Please ensure you show your card on entry.