Wedgwood collection: Art Fund launches appeal to save it

The collection, housed in the Wedgwood Museum, has more than 80,000 pieces

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A public appeal has been launched to save the Wedgwood Museum pottery collection, which is being sold to pay off the ceramics firm's pension bill.

The museum in Stoke-on-Trent went into administration in 2010 after the firm collapsed and its £134m pension debts was transferred to the museum trust.

The Art Fund said it already had about £13m to buy it but needed to raise a further £2.7m by 30 November.

It said it feared the collection would be split up if it went to auction.

Waterford Wedgwood Plc collapsed in January 2009 and its pensions liability of about 8,000 former Wedgwood workers was transferred to the museum.

The museum then went into administration in 2010.

Although the pension debt was paid by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), a high court judge ruled in 2011 that the £15m worth collection could be sold to reimburse it.

Wedgwood first edition Portland Vase, 1789-90. Josiah Wedgwood's Portland Vase is one of the centrepieces to the collection

Now, The Art Fund has said it has secured about £13m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other donations to buy it.

Director Stephen Deuchar said it did not want to the collection "broken up and sold off on the open market".

He said: "If, with the public's help, we can raise the remaining funds...[it will] enable us to keep it together and on display locally and ensuring it is never put at risk again."

The collection has 80,000 works of art, ceramics and pattern books, covering 250 years of history.

Carole Souter, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said it had contributed about £10.8m to the campaign.

She said: "As well as being a breathtaking collection of ceramics and a wonderful archive it shows how Josiah Wedgwood interacted with his peers, the influence he had and how his thinking led to a completely different approach to industrial manufacturing."

The Art Fund said it planned to lease the collection to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, if its bid was successful.

18th Century rosso antico and encaustic painted black basalt vases. Photo: Wedgwood Museum The collection is valued at about £15m

The V&A would then loan it to WWRD, the firm that now manufactures and sells the Wedgwood brand, for display at the Wedgwood Museum in Barlaston, it said.

Members of the Wedgwood family said it would be "a relief" to have the collection kept together in Staffordshire.

"It's not just about pots it's about 250 years of best of British," said Alison Wedgwood.

"It would make an absolute mockery of our industrial heritage if we let this collection get broken up and sold off.

Administrator Bob Young said: "The Staffordshire public have got a great reputation for raising money, if you think back to the campaign for the Staffordshire Hoard.

"£2.7m sounds like a lot of money but I think the public will respond to save the collection and the museum."

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