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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.
The Thomas Twyford Bequest of Ceramics
We are often asked what the stories are behind some of the ceramic pieces in our collections, but few people ask about who generously gave or bequeathed them to the museum. People donate items to us for all sorts of reasons, and most people only give one or two pieces, but we do have some large and important groups of pottery given to us by collectors who, in some cases, had spent years searching out special pieces to acquire.
In the 19th and early 20th century many of our donors were well-known Staffordshire pottery manufacturers, local businessmen, or were simply wealthy collectors. They donated their collections because they wanted other people to enjoy them, as much as they themselves had enjoyed collecting them.
One of the most important ceramics collections at PMAG is the Thomas Twyford Collection of almost 600 pieces of English pottery from the 17th and 18th century, which was bequeathed to the Hanley Museum, precursor of the present-day Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, on his death in 1921.
The Twyford name is known world-wide today as one of the leading manufacturers of sanitary ware, toilets, washbasins, etc., but comparatively few people know about Thomas Twyford (1849-1921), whose energy and business acumen created the largest sanitary ware business in the world – and even fewer know about him as an important collector of 17th and 18th century Staffordshire ceramics.
Thomas Twyford was born in Shelton in 1849. His father was a pottery manufacturer who produced sanitary wares, advertising his firm as making “water-closet basins, plug basins, urinals, etc.”. In 1872 Thomas’s father died and his 23-year old son took over the business.
Under his management the firm expanded rapidly until Twyford’s was the largest sanitary ware producer in the world. Thomas introduced many improved models of water closets which won awards, but in 1884 he introduced and patented the ‘Unitas’ one-piece pedestal closet, which became a best-seller and for which he is best known.
By his 30s Thomas was a wealthy man. He moved to the countryside, commuting into work each day, and in 1887 he built a new model factory at Cliffe Vale, Shelton, chosen because for its good transport links as it lies between the Trent & Mersey Canal and the North Staffordshire. Although production there ceased in the 1990s, the façade of his factory survives to this day with the building converted into apartments.
From the 1890s Twyford and his family lived at Whitmore Hall, Staffordshire, filling it with his collections of pictures, books – and pottery. He was involved in local politics and philanthropy, was a magistrate and became firstly, Deputy Lieutenant of Staffordshire, and then High Sheriff. From 1896 until his death he was Chairman of the local newspaper, the Staffordshire Evening Sentinel.
The Twyford family had been potters in Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent, since the 17th century, and so Thomas collected 17th and 18th century pottery, buying the best pieces that he could. These ranged from slipwares, including a number of named and dated pieces, to salt-glazed stonewares, painted creamwares and figures.
Although, sadly, his collection does not include any pieces that that can be attributed to his Twyford ancestors, many of Stoke-on-Trent’s most famous potters are represented in his collection. On his death Thomas donated his collection to what was then Hanley Museum, so that local people could enjoy it as much as he had done.
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.
Our ceramic collections include the finest collection of Staffordshire ceramics anywhere in the world, reflecting the City’s heritage as the centre of the English ceramics industry. It also includes the most comprehensive collection of British 20th century studio ceramics. As well as British ceramics, we have significant collections of ceramics from all over the world and ranging from the Neolithic to the present day.
The collection is internationally renowned and includes a large collection of Staffordshire and salt-glazed stonewares. The 18th and 19th centuries are very well represented with collections of the major Staffordshire factories such as Wedgwood, Spode, Minton and less well known factories such as that of William Greatbatch. The museum also has significant collections of figures, including the Elizabeth Marianne Wood Collection of 18th and 19th century figures and the Pugh Collection of Victorian Staffordshire portrait figures.
Our Art Pottery collection is extensive, with masterpieces from Doulton, Bernard Moore, Ruskin, Pilkington and Bullers, amongst others.
Studio pottery is one of our greatest strengths, with superb collections of the pioneer studio potters Bernard Leach, Hamada Shoji and Michael Cardew amongst others. These collections are complemented by our collections of world ceramics, which include East Asian ceramics, Italian Renaissance maiolica and Islamic pottery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ceramic Information Sheets
The gallery includes a technical section illustrating the production techniques of pottery and also includes more unusual collections, such as the Keiller collection of 667 cow creamer jugs and the Marjorie Davies collection of nearly 300 frog mugs.
23. Madonna and Child
The image of the Virgin Mary (or Madonna) and Christ child are central to traditional Christian imagery associated with Christmas. For his sculpture made in stoneware depicting the Madonna and Child, ceramics artist, Phil Eglin draws upon the devotional images of the Virgin Mary with the infant Christ often seen in Renaissance art.
We have a great selection of local interest books, including local history, ceramics, the pottery industry, archaeology, the Staffordshire Hoard, Anglo-Saxon history, and much more.
Reflecting the city’s industrial heritage our shop features a wide range of studio pottery created by local artists.
Established in 1960, Moorland Pottery produce brilliantly playful ware that reflects Stoke-on-Trent’s rich culture.
Anita Harris art pottery is globally renowned and collected across the world. Anita has designed many best-selling ranges over the years for Harrods, Selfridges, Bloomingdales and John Lewis, to name but a few. Anita has designed a fabulous range of Pottery inspired by our collections. Available to purchase in our shop, this beautiful pottery would make a wonderful gift for any collector.
Based in Stafford, Carole Glover is one of the best-known UK studio potters specialising in Staffordshire slipware.
After graduating at Derby University, she pursued her love of pots and gained experience by assisting wood-firing potters in Devon, going on to set up her own studio in Stafford.
Heavily influenced by 19th century Devonshire & 16/17th century Staffordshire slipware potters, she aims for simplicity of form to enhance her own style of slipware decoration whilst keeping with the colour glazes of the period. Textile jewelling added with the wood firing makes her range of pots exquisite, beautiful and extremely popular amongst collectors.
Black Star Ceramics
Established in Crewe in 2016, and opening a brand-new studio at Baldwin’s Gate in 2018, Black Star Ceramics specialise in hand made ceramics using traditional techniques such as slip casting and throwing, producing single piece one-off items, multi piece collections – and everything in-between.
Founded by a highly experienced former Doulton and Beswick ceramicist, Black Star Ceramics performs the entire end to end process of ceramic making, ensuring that all of the pieces are unique, bespoke and original.
Black Star Ceramics supports local business and sources all its materials and tools from Stoke-on-Trent.
Charming boxed tea sets, cups and saucers from the iconic pottery manufacturer.
Scruffy Little Herbert
Scruffy Little Herbert products are carefully designed by Staffordshire based Artist, Illustrator and mum of two Esme Talbot (aka Scruffy). Scruffy specialises in making you smile with modern design.
Esme finds her inspiration in local heritage and brings the things we love from the past into the present, whilst delivering messages to continue traditions into the next generation.
Esme has designed an exclusive range of goods for us here at the museum, including the Spitfire mug in a traditional willow style, tea towels, magnets and postcards – all using iconic images that represent Stoke-on-Trent, including Bottle Kilns, Oatcakes and our very own Spitfire.
Exclusive to The Potteries Museum
Plaque – this earthenware plaque painted by Herbert Wilson Foster (1848-1929) is signed and dated ‘1879 Minton & Co Stoke upon Trent’. It is on display in our Ceramics Gallery and we have a variety of gifts available using this beautiful image.
Stoke-on-Trent Image – bringing our city heritage to life, Scruffy Little Herbert has created this image exclusively for PMAG. You will find cards, postcards, a magnet and tea towel available.
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
Inspired by our collections
The museum is home to many beautiful objects and we have developed a range of merchandise based on pieces from our collections.
An earthenware plaque painted by Herbert Wilson Foster (1848-1929) signed and dated ‘1879 Minton & Co Stoke upon Trent’ on display in our Ceramics Gallery has inspired an exclusive range of items in our gift shop. These include keyrings, compact mirrors, notepads and bookmarks.
The Staffordshire Hoard
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found. Developed jointly with Birmingham museum this wide range of merchandise features the finest pieces from this wonderful collection. Choose from jewellery, ceramics, books, postcards and children’s novelties.
St. Justin Hoard inspired jewellery
The Spitfire is one of our most popular exhibits at the museum and this is reflected within our shop. Gifts include glassware designed and created by Paul Baker, mugs, tea towels and cards.
WWI and WWII replica medals
Following the government’s latest announcement the museum will temporarily close at 5pm on Wednesday 4 November. Our team will be continuing to develop new online events and activities during this period so please visit our website or follow our social media channels for latest information.
In order to safeguard the public and staff we have introduced a few changes to the museum to ensure that we provide a Covid-secure environment.
To comply with social distancing measures and help us manage the number of visitors on-site at any one time we will be asking people to book their visit in advance.
All visitors can pre-book a free timed entry by calling 01782 232323. New admission spaces will be released every Monday.
Please only visit with members of your household or support bubble with no more than 6 in a group.
We ask that you arrive ten minutes before your admission time in order to check your booking. You may have to queue outside briefly while your booking is checked. Please have your booking number ready to show our staff at a distance.
You will find hand-sanitising stations throughout the building, which we encourage you to use.
It is a mandatory requirement that all visitors wear a face covering unless exempt, except in our café. Please observe government guidance on social distancing and follow the signage in the museum. We have in place a one-way system and ask that people stick to the left through walkways, on stairways, and in the galleries. Our friendly staff will be on hand to help with any questions you may have.
Hand sanitiser will be available when entering and leaving the museum, on our galleries and within our café area. All toilets and surfaces will be regularly cleaned throughout the day.
On entry to the museum you will be greeted by one of our friendly Front of House team who will be able to help you with any enquiries and ensure that you have a wonderful experience while you are with us.
All our indoor galleries will be open to the public but please state in advance if you would like to view the Fine Art, Design and Ceramics Galleries on the First Floor.
All our interactives have been taken off display, but there’s still a lot for families to do with trails and interactive family activity bags that bring the collections to life and create a fun adventure around the museum. Explore the galleries with Ozzy taking you on a trail of discovery around the museum. This new range of packs include exciting trails, puzzles, quizzes an activity to make at home, coloured pencils and a badge for £5. Our popular Ozzy Owl Trail will still be available for £1.50.
Pushchairs and buggies will need to stay with you on your visit please. The museum is fully accessible for prams and buggies and there is a lift available for you to use in your family bubble.
We have temporarily relocated the café to the old Spitfire Gallery on the Ground Floor. Social distancing measures are in place and we will be operating an at-table service. We have a revised seasonal menu that can be found here and we are offering a take-away service. To call and collect please ring 01782 232572 to place your order in advance. Our café staff will then prepare your food and bring to the Foyer area at the time you requested. If possible, we would prefer contactless payment in our café and retail shop. We request that visitors do not eat food in the museum galleries.
If you require a wheelchair please stipulate this when booking. All wheelchairs will be thoroughly sanitised after use.
Like many other attractions, our forced closure has had a big impact on the museum. Visiting the museum is a huge support – but if you’d like to help further why not consider making a donation when you visit. We have a donations box which takes cash and contactless contributions.
NHS Test and Trace
Our Foyer toilets will be open with restricted access. They include accessible and baby changing facilities in both male and female toilets. They will be regularly cleaned and sanitised throughout the day.
Please don’t visit the museum if you’re feeling unwell, have a high temperature, persistent cough, loss of taste or smell or awaiting a Covid test result. Face coverings will be mandatory on our galleries unless exempt and protective screens are in place on the main reception desk and café.