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The online catalogue does not include details of all our collections. Contact us for further information on collections not yet featured online.

Pursuing the Archaeology of the Peak District

The archaeology collections at the Potteries Museum cover many parts of Staffordshire, including parts of the county that fall within the boundaries of the Peak District National Park.

I’m currently involved in a project, working closely with Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, to track down where archaeological collections from the Peak District have ended up. The aim is to pull data together and create rich online resources for people to explore Peak District archaeology. Objects have ended up in many places. The excavations of Victorian antiquarians spread material far and wide across the country. The Peak District crosses four counties so material still ends up in one of several different receiving museums.

At the Potteries Museum, the majority of our Peak District collections relate to areas around the Manifold Valley – particularly the archaeology of the limestone caves that are widespread along the lengths of the Hamps and Manifold Rivers. You can see some of items on display in our archaeology galleries, including finds from the magnificent Thor’s Cave.

Pieces of worked antler from Thor’s Cave, Manifold Valley. Thought to be Iron Age cheek pieces for horse harnesses (see illustration)
Objects from Thor’s Cave, Manifold Vallery: 26. Iron Age bone comb 27. Whetstone 28.Perforated bone

Of course, not all of our Peak District cave finds are ancient, but they do continue the comb theme…

Objects from Wetton Mill Rock Shelter: 16. Iron Horseshow, 13th-16th century 17.Ox molar 18.Plastic comb 19. Rabbit skull

There are many more wonderful finds from the Manifold Valley, and not just here at the Potteries Museum. Depending who excavated, and when, finds from the region can also be found in Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and even as far away as Manchester Museum who have collections relating to Ossom’s Eerie.

Today there is an established process for ensuring the results of archaeological excavations are carefully recorded and deposited in a logical place and we try keep archives from the same site together. Victorian archaeologists usually had very different methods. Caves were frequently excavated with dynamite (none in the Manifold Valley luckily!) and specimens were sent all over the country for colleagues to examine. Frequently objects made their way into private collections rather than public museums.

Of course, many of these private collections eventually ended up in the public realm. The collections of ‘Barrow Knigjht’ Thomas Bateman (1821-1861) who excavated more than 100 Peak District barrows is at Museums Sheffield. Similarly many specimens of subfossil bone can be found at The Manchester Museum through the activities of Sir William Boyd Dawkins (1837-1929) at sites such as Victory Quarry, Doveholes and Windy Knoll, near Castleton.

Thomas Bateman, the ‘Barrow Knight’, excavated more than 100 barrows across Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire. His collection is now with Museums Sheffield, Image (c) Museums Sheffield; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation. Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA.

Many of the bordering cities around the Peak District hold fragments of its archaeology. Alongside Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester and Derby there are also collections at Derby and Bolton. However, some objects have traveled much further from the Peak District. From its origins in the 18th century, archaeology was long the hobby of elites, many of them landed gentry. It wasn’t surprising then to see some objects had made their way into National Trust properties around the country.

The village of Warslow, Staffordshire was once owned by the Harpur-Crewe family of Calke Abbey. Some of the objects found on the estates made it down the family’s main residence, including a box of animal bones and teeth found in a nearby cave. Where was this cave? You guessed it! The Manifold Valley.

Calke Abbey, South Derbyshire, owned by National Trust. Image by xlibber Creative Commons CC BY-SA.

Other travellers include a Bronze Axe from Eyam, Derbyshire, now at Wallington, Northumbria. I still haven’t worked out the connection, but the Blacketts of Wallington were mine owners and may had a link with the lead-mining industry in Derbyshire.

My journey through the data is far from over – there are objects too in Oxford, London, and even Scotland. I can’t wait to update the blog in the future and share where else the trail is leading, and what fun things we can do with the data.

The project is managed by Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and funded through The British Museum’s National Programmes Scheme.

Archaeology

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery is the principal repository for archaeological material from Staffordshire.  The large archaeology collection includes artefacts which date from the prehistoric period right up to post-medieval ceramics from the sites of former local pottery manufactories. The latter complements the museum’s extensive ceramic collections.

Artefacts deemed to be Treasure as defined by the Treasure Act are acquired. The most high-profile of these is the Staffordshire Hoard – an Anglo-Saxon hoard of gold and silver artefacts – which is jointly owned with Birmingham City Council.

Archaeology Collections Online

Archaeology Collections Online

We have an ever-growing list of our archaeology collections available to view online.
Staffordshire Hoard

Staffordshire Hoard

The largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found.
Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs

Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs

We did it! Thank you to the members of the public and numerous charitable trusts and organisations who helped us to bring the Leekfrith Iron Age torcs back to North Staffordshire where they belong and can be freely seen and enjoyed by all visitors to the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.
Stoke-on-Trent Young Archaeologists’ Club

Stoke-on-Trent Young Archaeologists’ Club

Details about our Young Archaeologist's Club.
Money & Medals Network

Money & Medals Network

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery are a partner in the Money & Medals Network which is funded by Arts Council England and the British Museum's Partnership UK programme. [External Link]
Prehistoric Objects

Prehistoric Objects

Explore some of the prehistoric objects in our online catalogue - Stone Age to Iron Age
Identifying Finds

Identifying Finds

How to contact us about identification queries. We also hold regular Finds Days in partnership with the Portable Antiquities Scheme's regional Finds Liaison Officer.
Deposition of Archaeological Archives

Deposition of Archaeological Archives

Information for archaeological projects and contractors who wish to deposit archaeological archives at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

Archaeology

The archaeology gallery showcases Staffordshire’s rich and diverse archaeological heritage from prehistoric technologies to daily life in a Roman household, medieval monasticism to the early potters of Burslem. It includes fascinating excavated material and exciting treasure finds from across the county.

CSI 2015: Downloads

7 SURPRISING ADVANCES

See seven scientific discoveries made during WWI
DOWNLOAD THE SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES PDF

ARCHAEOLOGY

Find out about archaeology and the Great War
DOWNLOAD THE ARCHAEOLOGY PDF

BUGS

The bugs and parasites found in the trenches of WWI
DOWNLOAD THE BUGS PDF

METAL DETECTING

An easy to read guide about how metal detecting works
DOWNLOAD THE METAL DETECTING PDF

MINING

The secret war going on underneath no-mans land
DOWNLOAD THE MINING PDF

NAME THAT SHELL

A list of the names soldiers gave to shells in WWI
DOWNLOAD THE NAME THAT SHELL PDF

PERISCOPE

All about the use of periscopes in WWI trenches
DOWNLOAD THE PERISCOPE PDF

POISON GAS 1

Types of poison gas used in WWI and their effects
DOWNLOAD THE POISON GAS 1 PDF

POISON GAS 2

How poison gas was used to kill and terrorise
DOWNLOAD THE POISON GAS 2 PDF

TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES

See some more conventional warfare advances during WWI
DOWNLOAD THE TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES PDF

CSI: The Scientific Legacy of WWI | 2018

Welcome to CSI: Stoke! Here you can learn all about our free World-War-One-inspired CSI event on Saturday 15th September.

Find out what activities will be going on both inside and outside – including talks from World War I experts – as well as how you can get involved by bringing your World War I ephemera to our Ask an Expert panel.

Working with Staffordshire and Keele Universities and Stoke-on-Trent Archaeology Service the museum will explore the scientific aspects of World War One. In a series of hands-on activities visitors can learn about trench archaeology, the chemical development of poison gas and have a go at making their own periscopes used to look over the top of trenches. Children can crawl through our replica tunnel to experience what life was like for soldiers underground.

There will be a medical display with leading military historian and author Andrew Robertshaw, which will include a range of real and replica items related to the work of the Royal Army Medical Corps on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918.

Visitors are also encouraged to bring family photographs, letters and other items to our panel of experts who will help to identify them and reveal what these items say about your relative’s military history.

Indoor Activities

THE BATTLE OF THE ANCRE AND THE ADVANCE OF THE TANKS
Free screenings at 11am and 3.30pm. Including the first ever scenes of tanks in battle, the film also conveys, with power and artistry, the difficulties experienced by the British Army as it fought on over ground beset in a sea of mud. Over one hundred years later, this unique film from IWM’s collection, is being shown to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War.

©IWM still from The Battle of the Ancre and Advance of the Tanks (1917) © IWM 116

POISON GASES AND EXPLOSIVE MOLECULES
Explore the chemistry of explosives with our molecular model making

MILITARY ARMY MEDICAL CORPS
A medical display staffed by experts to show a range of real and replica items related to the Western Front.

PERISCOPES
Avoid getting shot by looking at a real WWI periscope and making your own periscope to take home.

RUBBER BAND GUNS
Using the elasticity of rubber to explain the basic principles of gunfire

THE ITCHES!
View the scourge of the common soldier on the battlefield through microscopes, lice, fleas and mosquitoes!

UNDERGROUND TUNNEL
For the young adventurers – experience what it was like to work through tunnels mined under the Front itself!

WESTERN FRONT ASSOCIATION
Ask the Western Front Association (WFA) experts who will be able to source any relatives army records and print out memorial scrolls.

ASK THE EXPERTS
Staffed by WWI experts who will be pleased to identify and discuss any contemporary WWI items visitors bring along.

Outdoor Activities

DEBORAH II REPLICA TANK
‘Deborah II’ a replica WW1 tank on loan for the day from the Norfolk Tank Museum. Commissioned by TV presenter Guy Martin for a Channel 4 documentary this reproduction Mk IV was the first tank to see successful active duty in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917. It was constructed at local engineering firm JCB in 2017 using state of the art computerised welding equipment to demonstrate modern technology.

BATTLEFIELD DETECTIVES
Get young enthusiasts to use a metal detector to find and take home metallic relicts from the Great War.

BATTLEFIELD ARCHAEOLOGY
See real archaeologists patiently excavating part of the ‘battlefield’ and associated artefacts – why not have a go?

Expert Talks

HAWTHORN: A TALE OF TWO CRATERS, BATTLE OF THE SOMME
A multi-disciplinary investigation, 2pm
This unique environment marks the only site to have been blown up on two separate occasions marking the beginning and the end of the Battle of the Somme. The first mine explosion in July 1916, is the only one ever filmed. 100 years after the First World War, this world first is only now being investigated by a multidisciplinary team of historians and scientists.

CSI: The Science of the Great War | 2017

Welcome to CSI: Stoke! Here you can learn all about our free World-War-One-inspired CSI event on Saturday 1st April 2017.

Find out what activities will be going on both inside and outside – including talks from World War I experts – as well as how you can get involved by bringing your World War I ephemera to our Ask an Expert panel.

Working with Staffordshire and Keele Universities and Stoke-on-Trent Archaeology Service the museum will explore the scientific aspects of World War One. In a series of hands-on activities visitors can learn about trench archaeology, the chemical development of poison gas and have a go at making their own periscopes used to look over the top of trenches. Children can crawl through our replica tunnel to experience what life was like for soldiers underground and see a replica WW1 aircraft.

There will be a medical display with leading military historian and author Andrew Robertshaw, which will include a range of real and replica items related to the work of the Royal Army Medical Corps on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918.

Visitors are also encouraged to bring family photographs, letters and other items to our panel of experts who will help to identify them and reveal what these items say about your relative’s military history.

Discover the scientific aspects of World War One. In a series of hands-on activities you’ll be able to learn about trench archaeology, the chemical development of poison gas and have a go at making your own periscope!

Explore a frontline medical station with leading military historian Andrew Robertshaw, which includes a range of real and replica items related to the work of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

You’re also encouraged to bring family photographs, letters and other ephemera to our Ask an Expert panel – they can help identify them and reveal what these items say about your relatives’ military history.

Indoor Activities

POISON GASES AND EXPLOSIVE MOLECULES
Explore the chemistry of explosives with our molecular model making

MILITARY ARMY MEDICAL CORPS
A medical display staffed by experts to show a range of real and replica items related to the Western Front.

PERISCOPES
Avoid getting shot by looking at a real WWI periscope and making your own periscope to take home.

RUBBER BAND GUNS
Using the elasticity of rubber to explain the basic principles of gunfire

THE ITCHES!
View the scourge of the common soldier on the battlefield through microscopes, lice, fleas and mosquitoes!

UNDERGROUND TUNNEL
For the young adventurers – experience what it was like to work through tunnels mined under the Front itself!

WESTERN FRONT ASSOCIATION
Ask the Western Front Association (WFA) experts who will be able to source any relatives army records and print out memorial scrolls.

EXPERT TALK: SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY WRITERS IN THE GREAT WAR
11am This talk looks at the lives of over a hundred writers, of all nationalities, who were directly involved in the war, and shows how varied their experiences were: not just fighting, but acting as doctors, ambulance drivers, nurses, spies and propagandists.

EXPERT TALK: ARNOLD BENNETT AT THE FRONT – WWI
2pm In June 1915 Arnold Bennett spent three weeks touring the Western Front in France and Belgium and published his book “Over There” based on his experiences. Together with archive images and film this talk will illustrate a personal account of the Great War through the eyes of the acclaimed author.

ASK THE EXPERTS
Staffed by WWI experts who will be pleased to identify and discuss any contemporary WWI items visitors bring along.

Outdoor Activities

WW1 BI-PLANE
A Se5a WW1 fighter plane will be at the museum along with its own ‘pilot’ who will give a series of presentations about the development of flying in WW1.

BATTLEFIELD DETECTIVES
Get young enthusiasts to use a metal detector to find and take home metallic relicts from the Great War.

BATTLEFIELD ARCHAEOLOGY
See real archaeologists patiently excavating part of the ‘battlefield’ and associated artefacts – why not have a go?

CSI: The Science of the Great War | 2015

APRIL 2015

Welcome to CSI: Stoke! Here you can learn all about our free World-War-One-inspired CSI event.

Find out what activities will be going on both inside and outside – including talks from World War I experts – as well as how you can get involved by bringing your World War I ephemera to our Ask an Expert panel.

Working with Staffordshire and Keele Universities and Stoke-on-Trent Archaeology Service the museum will explore the scientific aspects of World War One. In a series of hands-on activities visitors can learn about trench archaeology, the chemical development of poison gas and have a go at making their own periscopes used to look over the top of trenches. Children can crawl through our replica tunnel to experience what life was like for soldiers underground.

There will be a medical display with leading military historian and author Andrew Robertshaw, which will include a range of real and replica items related to the work of the Royal Army Medical Corps on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918.

Visitors are also encouraged to bring family photographs, letters and other items to our panel of experts who will help to identify them and reveal what these items say about your relative’s military history.

Activities and Talks

  • ‘Bangs and Flashes’ repeated public lecture by Dr. Richard Darton (Keele University) on how explosives played an important role in the Great War.

Richard looked at their use in grenades, torpedoes and ammunition through to excavation and mining for vital resources.   Although the chemistry of military explosives has changed somewhat since WW1 the underlying principles are very much the same.  Richard took an interactive look at the fundamental science behind the explosives of World War 1; including their development, chemistry, uses and disasters.

  • ‘The Spanish Flu’ repeated public lecture by Dr. Pauline Gowland (Staffordshire University) on the deadly pandemic that broke out in January 1918.

This flu was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus. It infected 500 million people across the world, including remote Pacific islands and the Arctic, and killed 50 to 100 million of them—three to five percent of the world’s population —making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history. The close quarters and massive troop movements of World War I hastened the pandemic and probably both increased transmission and augmented mutation; the war may also have increased the lethality of the virus. Some speculate the soldiers’ immune systems were weakened by malnourishment, as well as the stresses of combat and chemical attacks, increasing their susceptibility.

  • ‘Ask the Expert’ Panel, including Andy Robertshaw (ex-Time Team) to look at artefacts brought by the public
  • Walk through WW1 trench/dugout with learners  to experience what it was like for soldiers to live in the trenches
  • WW1 indoor ‘underground offensive mining tunnel’ for learners to experience what mining under the Western Front was like, complete with short talk about how soldiers from Stoke did it.
  • Talk about explosives development and demonstration of explosives in action
  • Use of metal detectors to find remnants of WW1 battlefield artefacts for learners to use (includes take-home WW1 coins)
  • Using battlefield archaeology to uncover the past, opportunity for learners to have a go at archaeology
  • WW1 Military First Aid post to talk about how they treated injuries and getting young learners involved
  • Making various molecules of poison gases used in WW1
  • Showing how periscopes work with contemporary one and letting learners make their own to take home

Download a range of activity sheets here.

THE TRENCH

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery has installed an outdoor replica First World War trench system next to the museum. It is being created to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the war in 1914 and will offer visitors an atmospheric, thought-provoking understanding of some of the conditions experienced by soldiers on the front line.

Engagement days are planned for both school-age young learners and adults, which will combine activities and displays with science demonstrations. Visitors will be able to learn about life in the trenches, artillery shells, how poison gas was made and even try their hand at making periscopes, which were used to spy on enemy positions.

The trench will be open daily from 11am – 3pm, weather permitting, and will be free to view.

CSI: The Staffordshire Hoard | 2011 & 2013

THE STAFFORDSHIRE HOARD

THE FIND

The Staffordshire Hoard was discovered by metal detectorist Terry Herbert in a field near Lichfield in 2009. The find is one of the most significant discoveries of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found, arousing regional, national and international interest.

Metal detecting is a popular hobby where a simple piece of electrical equipment is able to locate metal objects buried in the ground. Archaeologists and forensic detectives also use other equipment to detect objects hidden deeper underground. These more complex equipment can find other items if conditions are favourable, including, for example, human remains, metal objects and mineral deposits. This branch of science is known as ‘geophysics’ and is an important aspect of modern forensic work.

THE EXCAVATION

Archaeology is an exacting science which painstakingly retrieves objects without destroying the context of the find. This is important as much information is gained from its location, position and depth. The surrounding environment can be an important clue to why and when the items were buried or lost underground.

Pagan Anglo-Saxon cremated remains and burials are sometimes found with personal items and objects which reflect the dead person’s power and influence. These finds provide a wealth of information for historians and help us understand the customs, beliefs and everyday society of past cultures.

The Staffordshire Hoard itself is a unique discovery. It is not a burial as no bones were found, nor were female adornments present. It seems that all this treasure is military in nature. This makes it the only find of this type and period in the world. It was vital that the excavators followed the main principles of archaeology and carefully extracted the artefacts.

ANCIENT WEAPONRY & INJURY

Experts have established that the Staffordshire Hoard is comprised mainly of military items. The Anglo-Saxon period was particularly unstable with different warlords competing for dominance. The kingdom of Mercia was an important region in Anglo-Saxon times and was continually in conflict with the powerful lords of Northumberland.

These were brutal times and the main weapons used in battle were swords, axes, spears and arrows. These weapons did serious damage and mortality rates would have been high. All these different weapons produced different injuries on the human body. Advances in modern technology now allow forensic detectives to accurately identify the exact weapon used, by analysing the marks left both externally and internally – an important form of evidence in any criminal investigation.

EVIDENCE

Nobody knows who buried the Hoard. The passage of time has eradicated any forensic evidence that may have been left and there were then none of the resources available to us to help retrieve such a valuable treasure. Nowadays there are a number of forensic techniques which could be used to identify the person or persons who buried the artefacts.

Shoeprints are an important feature of modern detective work. Forensic analysis can identify whether the shoeprint belonged to a woman or man and even the type of shoe worn. If modern technology had been available, it may have been possible to establish whether the treasure had been buried by a nobleman, warrior or peasant from the impressions left at the scene.

REAL OR FAKE?

The Hoard is mainly comprised of gold, silver and semi-precious gems – garnets. The value of all these items can be quite considerable, but imitations or other similar minerals are virtually worthless. Iron pyrite, or ‘fool’s gold’, is a prime example of this and, as  suggested by its name, has ‘fooled’ many a prospector into believing they had ‘made it rich’.

A simple method of ‘panning,’ which sifts the heavier minerals and metals from other materials, has been used for centuries. Advances in modern technology now enable scientists to determine more accurately the chemical composition of such minerals. This can assist in providing an age for a golden artefact, or gemstone, as well as providing information about the possible country of origin of the raw gold and garnets. Microscopes are only one method used in the detailed examination of the garnets to try to establish if they are genuine or a man-made substitute.

The evidence gathered from using different scientific techniques has established that all the gold, silver and garnet items found in the Staffordshire Hoard are authentic, with the possibility that some of the material was sourced from overseas.

Vlog: Meet Miranda Goodby, Ceramics Curator

What is your name and job title?

I’m Miranda Goodby and I am the Senior Curator of Ceramics.

What is in the Ceramics Collection and What do you do as a Curator?

Here at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery the Ceramics Collection includes pottery and porcelain from around the world, and it ranges in age from Ancient Egypt through to the present day.

In many museums, ceramics from Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome would be included in archaeology or ethnography collections because of their age or country of origin, but here they are included in the Ceramic collection because of their material – clay. 

We also have ceramics from the Near & Far East, as well as from Europe, but great majority of our pieces are from England, especially Staffordshire. We have the largest collection of Staffordshire ceramics in the world – approximately 30,000 pieces–and that doesn’t include all the thousands of sherds of excavated pottery from Stoke-on-Trent that are cared for in the Archaeology collection.

There are several reasons that this museum has such an amazing collection of pottery. Firstly, we are based in Stoke-on-Trent, the home of the British pottery industry for over 300 years. Secondly, there have been museums in Stoke-on-Trent collecting pottery for nearly 200 years. You can do a lot of collecting in that time!

Many of the Victorian pottery manufacturers were also collectors of pottery. People such as Thomas Twyford, who owned the largest sanitary ware factory in the world, bequeathed his collection to what was then called Hanley Museum. Thomas Hulme, who is a less well-known manufacturer but who was responsible for the founding of the Wedgwood Memorial Institute, donated his collection during his lifetime. The Minton family of Stoke-upon-Trent gave examples of their “modern” productions – which are now over 150 years old – and so on. And of course, we have been given many, many other gifts and bequests over the years, including the Keiller family’s famous cow cream jug collection.

We continue to collect as well. The Museum has a Collecting Policy to help guide us in what to acquire, and we collect contemporary ceramics as well as historic pieces. After all, those ‘contemporary’ pieces will be historic themselves one day.

As a Curator my job is to care for the collections and to make them accessible for the public. This can be through exhibitions and displays here at PMAG, but we also lend piece to other museums in the UK – and around the world – for special exhibitions. And through social and traditional media we also make them accessible for an even wider audience

Our collections are also used for research. Researchers, writers, artists and students all use the collections for inspiration and education. An important part of my job therefore is to make sure that the information that we have about our pieces is correct and up-to-date, and that all the pieces not currently on display are carefully stored by type, date or manufacturer so that they can easily be located when needed.

How long have you worked at the museum?

I have been Ceramics Curator here at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery for nearly 25 years now!

What’s your favourite thing about working here?

It’s got to be the collection. With over 35,000 pieces in total to look after there is always something new to learn about them. The marvellous thing about working here in Stoke-on-Trent is that you are immersed in the subject. Not only do we have the pottery here, the pieces that people made and decorated, and that other people bought and used, but we also have information about how those things were made.

The archaeology of Stoke-on-Trent is the archaeology of the pottery industry and is primary evidence for how they were made, the technology that was used – and the things that went wrong in making pottery 1, 2, and 3 hundred years ago.

We also have masses of documentary and photographic evidence for the pottery industry, with factory records, pattern books, trade catalogues etc.  When you put all those together you can get a real sense of the importance of the pottery industry in Stoke-on-Trent. It wasn’t just about pretty pots, it was about technological innovation, design, marketing, social and economic change, people lives and livelihoods – and pretty pots.

Now for some questions that have been sent in via Facebook.

Carl wants to know which piece of ceramics in the collection needed the most restoration.

Well, we don’t have any conservators or restorers here at the museum and so we try to not accept pottery that is going to need extensive restoration work as it can be quite expensive to have a lot of restoration work done – and over time the work tends to discolour and then has to be redone. We do however, have a number of pieces in the collection that came to us already restored. And a 17th century slipware dish that was given to us in 1944, is probably the most heavily restored piece that we have. It depicts a man smoking a pipe, has the name Thomas Toft on the rim and the inscription ‘Smoke your nose’. It was badly broken and restored before it was given to the museum and the restoration is so extensive that we can’t be sure which elements of the design are original and which are not.

Pat wants to know if we have any Beswick on display as she hasn’t spotted any when visiting.

Yes, we do have some Beswick on display at present – this cruet set with circus horses in the 1950s case and we have more pieces that aren’t currently on show, including some of the animal figures that Beswick is famous for. Although we have over 5,000 pieces on display in the main ceramics gallery we don’t have space to show everything that we have. So our temporary exhibitions are an opportunity for us to bring out pieces that aren’t usually on show.

And finally, Gary want to know what is my favourite museum object

It impossible to say. I’m afraid it changes depending on what I’m working on at the time. I do have some favourites though. The rolled clay figures made in the 1930s by William Ruscoe are incredibly engaging and charming because of their simplicity. The Green Tea teapot, made at William Greatbatch’s factory in the 1770s, is a favourite because we not only have the excavated material from his site, but because whoever did the inscription was almost certainly illiterate – each ‘e’ in ‘Green Tea’ is drawn differently: you would never do that it you could write, And the many tools that we have for making and shaping pottery. Throwers’ and plate makers’ tools are often inscribed with the name and date of their owner, and that is often the only record of their working lives that they have left. When you hold them in your hand you can’t help but wonder who they worked for, what their lives were like and if we have any of their pots here at the museum.

Vlog: Meet Joe Perry, Local History Curator

Hello, welcome to the second of our Meet the Team video series where we quiz a member of the team and find out a bit more about their job and what makes the museum tick.

What is your name and job title?

My name is Joe Perry and I’m the Curator of Local History at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

What are Local History Collections and What do you do as a Curator?

So, our Local History collection comprises of archaeology and social history. So the archaeology collections are mainly the result of archaeological excavations but also chance finds and metal detected finds. We work very closely with the Portable Antiquities Scheme to acquire various items of treasure, such as the Staffordshire Hoard and Leekfrith Torcs.

The social history side of our collection, erm, really looks at the domestic and working lives of people in The Potteries, particularly from the nineteenth century onwards though we do have one or two objects that are a little bit older.

As a curator my job really is to look after our collections, is to help develop and grow them, and it’s also to help give people access to those collections. So you know, exhibitions, research requests, getting things online, using social media and doing things like this really. Anything to bring our collections out and connect them with the people who are interested in them, or that want to use them in some way, or anyone for whom, you know, interaction with our collections can enrich their lives in some way.

How long have you worked at the museum?

I’ve been in my current role since August 2018. But I’ve been working for Stoke-on-Trent museums, on and off, for just under ten years.

What’s your favourite thing about working here?

For me, the best part of my job is being so close to so many incredible objects and getting the chance to share those objects and their stories with a really, really diverse audience. And the other thing I really enjoy about my job is the diversity of the collections. I look after everything from hand axes which are two hundred, maybe even three hundred thousand years old, through to items which were made only a few years ago. So it’s a huge range in there, very, very challenging and of course you can’t know it all it’s such a huge erm array of time periods that you know I’m learning everyday and that’s something I really enjoy as well.

What’s your favourite museum object?

Oooh that’s erm, that’s always a really difficult question to answer and I don’t want to sound like a cop out but I honestly don’t have a err individual favourite object. I do have quite a soft spot for a broken Bronze Age sword in our archaeology gallery, with a really interesting story. Erm, so you could check out our blog to find out more about that.

And now for some questions from you guys that you sent through on social media

Joanne on Facebook asks, “Have we learnt anything from the Staffordshire Hoard that we didn’t know previously about the Anglo-Saxons? Does it have any unique features?”

The Staffordshire Hoard has two unique features. Its size, it is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver ever discovered, and also its character. It is unique in that it is almost entirely comprised of precious fittings from war gear, erm so, sword pommels and other fittings from sword hilts, pieces of at least one really, really high status helmet and this is very, very unusual to find a hoard of just that character, buried together in the ground and nothing like it has ever been found, it clearly has a very, very unique, special story behind it. Unfortunately we don’t know what that story is.

In terms of learning new things, obviously I think we learnt a lot about how the Anglo-Saxons are making some of these incredibly detailed objects. What’s great about the Hoard is that it’s damaged. It’s been very violently taken apart, you know, in how some of these of objects have been dismantled and so we can actually see how some of these nice gold pommel caps are made and we know maybe a little more about the manufacture than we did before and things like the projects to build replica helmets have been a really interesting bit of experimental archaeology to try and relearn some of the skills of those Anglo-Saxon smiths and craftspeople.

Tina asks, “What words did Anglo-Saxons use which have now died out?”

That’s a really interesting question, it’s not an area I have a great deal of expertise in, but there is one Old English word that I do really like, it’s a really fun word to say, and that is FRUMBYRDLING. Frumbyrdling means a young boy who’s growing his first beard.

Garry asks, “Will you be able to look into the cockpit of the Spitfire?”

The short answer Garry is yes, you will. We’re going to build a mezzanine level inside the new Spitfire Gallery, so either by going up there via the steps or the lift, you then look down into the cockpit of the Spitfire which will be kitted out fully, either with real or replica parts for the first time ever since it was donated to the City in 1972.

Charlotte asks, “How big is the Spitfire and how does this compare to modern planes?”

So I think in general fighter planes have grown a little bit, so to give you an example of that, Spitfires are just over nine metres long and typically just over eleven metres in terms of their wingspan. Our Spitfire has got a slightly shorter wingspan because it has clipped wings which is quite common for some late-war Spitfires. So our wingspan for our Spitfire is about more like just under ten metres. And similarly with the height, so on a Spitfire when it’s on the floor, the end of the propeller is the highest point and depending on the size of the propeller , depending on what type of Spitfire it is, it’s between three and three-and-a-half metres tall.

If you compare that to modern RAF Typhoons they have a wingspan of about eleven metres but a length of sixteen, and I think they’re over five metres high, so I think fighter planes have grown a little bit since the Second World War.

Julie asks, “When the Spitfire returns, will there be information on other planes designed by Reginald Mitchell in the gallery?”

Yes there will Julie, so for anyone who’s watching and doesn’t know, between 1920 and 1936, Mitchell designed no less than 24 aircraft, so it wasn’t just all about the Spitfire, and in fact in his lifetime, because he died early, aged only 42 in 1937, in his lifetime Mitchell was really known his designs of racing seaplanes which were very, very successful.

Now, our collections don’t have a lot of objects to do with Mitchell’s earlier, earlier parts of his career so we’re thinking of all kinds of interesting ways we can use animations and interactives to try and bring that story to life.

Pheasantsagenda asks, “What’s the most locally and culturally significant piece in the collections you manage?”

Erm, that’s a difficult question to answer. I guess it could be very, very subjective, though I would say, if you’re thinking specifically about local significance in The Potteries, erm I’d have to suggest something like the thousands and thousands of archaeological ceramics we have the collection. The sherds of pottery excavated from factory sites and waste tips. These are all really, really key sites which have helped us understand the development of the Staffordshire Potteries from what was a cottage industry to a world centre for ceramics.

So that’s it for our second Meet the Team video. I hope that’s been interesting. If you have any further questions or comments on what we’ve discussed in this video or other parts of the collections, do get in touch in the comments section or through other social media channels, I’d be happy to answer your questions and I look forward to our next video where we’ll be interviewing our Curator of Ceramics, Miranda Goodby.