From the Guardian…
Supporters of the award-winning Wedgwood Museum in Stoke-on-Trent are launching a battle to save priceless examples of Josiah Wedgwood's work from being sold to the highest bidder.
A complex law introduced to protect the 7,000 former factory workers at the site means that the trust, if found legally liable this autumn, may be forced to sell its collection to meet the £134m shortfall of its former parent company, the Wedgwood Group.
New owners took over the brand last year and the trust was forced into administration this spring, although the museum remains open while the future of its contents is decided.
"It would be desecration if this incredible collection was broken up for sale," said Alison Wedgwood, of the family, as a campaign to preserve its heritage was launched. Among the items that could be lost are precious "first day" vases, dating from June 1769, when Wedgwood moved his renowned ceramics works to a new factory he called Etruria in Staffordshire, and then personally threw six celebratory pots to mark the event – fashioning them into regal vases. Later that year he told his colleague Thomas Bentley that the vases should "be finished as high as you please, but not sold, they being the first fruits of Etruria".
A legal decision is expected in October. If lawyers rule that the trust is liable for the shortfall, the collection will be stripped of its unique assets. "But this would not mean a penny more for pensioners in Stoke. It is not about that," said Alison Wedgwood, an economist who is the wife of Josiah's descendant Tom Wedgwood. "It is just that the national Pension Protection Fund cannot step in until the legal matter has been decided." Wedgwood and her husband argue that it would be "a tragedy" to see the collection sold separately, and a decision against the trust would have damaging implications for similar trusts set up to protect historic items. The factory site is still used to make high-end ceramics, though most of the porcelain is now made in Indonesia.
Josiah, who was born in 1730 and died in 1795, invented and produced three of Wedgwood's most famous ceramics – Queen's Ware, Black Basalt and Jasper. He named the Etruria factory after the district of Italy where black Etruscan porcelain was excavated, and he turned the family business into a pottery empire with quality as its trademark.
"He was a force of unstoppable energy, funny and fierce, tender to his family and ruthlessly determined in business," according to the writer Jenny Uglow, who is campaigning to safeguard the collection. "He also combined a set of qualities rarely found in a single person: a genius for chemistry, a passion for good design, a daring, innovative style in manufacturing and a genius for marketing."
Bone china made in his Stoke works graced the best tables of the world for hundreds of years, including in the dining room of President Theodore Roosevelt, whose tureen serving dish is part of the collection. In recent years, sales of china have suffered due to changing social trends. Now the people of the Potteries fear the museum may go the way of the Minton Museum collection. Once this passed into the hands of Royal Doulton, much of it was sold as individual lots at auction.What a shame.