The forward-thinking directors of Spode established the Spode Museum Trust as an independent charity in 1987, into which it placed the Spode collection and archive, a unique piece of England’s history covering two centuries, including 40,000 ceramic items and 25,000 engraved plates from which the transfers were made.
Spode itself ceased trading as an independent company in 2008 and the site has had proposals for redevelopment which, perhaps fortunately, have not been taken forward. Now, the Spode Museum Trust Heritage Centre has been established in the old works, growing slowly as funding allows, enabling them to bring back more of the collection which is in storage, and acting as the first building block in a plan to sensitively redevelop the site, restoring the historic pottery buildings and kilns and providing studio space for creative industries.
Visitors to the Heritage Centre can see exhibits relating to the history of Spode and the technology and designs behind its success, along with a demonstration of the transfer printing process from original engraving plates and a glimpse of the Blue Room, showing the largest collection of Spode blue and white china in the world. There is also a gallery of changing contemporary artists’ work, linking the museum to the 21st century, with photographs of the old Spode works as they were left when the factory closed down. The current art exhibition is by the Penkhull Artist Potters Association.
Stoke-in-Trent is bidding to be a future City of Culture. Hopefully it will be successful and this will give a boost to both the museum, to support further growth, and also to the local authority’s plans for the site as a whole.