Minton Archive saved for the nation

  • 1 April 2015

We're thrilled to announce that the Minton Archive, one of the great archives of industrial Britain, has been secured for the nation with our support.

Back in October, the iconic Wedgwood Collection was saved for the nation following our public appeal. Now, another world-class collection of ceramics from Stoke-on-Trent – the Minton Archive – has been secured through a private fundraising campaign led by us, including a £1.16m grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF).

Minton's Ltd was founded in 1793 by Thomas Minton and operated until the 1990s. The Archive includes hundreds of thousands of items – including original designs, drawings and pattern books – covering more than two centuries of groundbreaking pottery design, manufacture and production. Many celebrated artists and designers feature in the Archive, including Augustus Pugin, Christopher Dresser, Thomas Allen, John Bell and Marc-Louis Solon. It also includes the comprehensive records of Minton, Royal Doulton (the two companies merged in 1968) and a number of other firms taken over by Royal Doulton in the 20th century. 

In 2007, Waterford Wedgwood plc appointed Bonhams to sell the Minton Archive at auction; since then, we have been working to protect it from being sold off and separated. We initially planned a fundraising campaign, with the intention of transferring ownership to the Wedgwood Museum Trust, but in 2010 the Trust went into administration.

Following our successful Wedgwood appeal in 2014, we were able to bring together local and national partners in a renewed attempt to secure the Archive’s future and keep it in Stoke-on-Trent. On Tuesday 31 March, we purchased the Archive from WWRD for £1.56m and immediately gifted ownership to Stoke City Archives. In addition to the grant from NHMF, our campaign received donations from Sir Siegmund Warburg's Voluntary Settlement, The Pilgrim Trust, the Bamford Charitable Foundation, the bet365 Foundation and many other generous supporters.

The Archive will now be owned, managed and made publicly accessible by Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council Joint Archives Service, who will also loan objects to the Wedgwood Museum and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery for display and exhibition.

The Archive is currently stored at Bonhams – which has played a crucial role in protecting it – and at the Wedgwood Museum at Barlaston. A process to begin cataloguing the Archive in full for the first-time will now be undertaken by the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service, making it available for research purposes at Stoke City Archives, and for public display at the Wedgwood Museum and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.

Stephen Deuchar, director, Art Fund, said: 'For years, the Art Fund has fought to protect the Minton Archive, keeping it in its rightful place in Staffordshire, and bringing it into safe public ownership. We’re delighted that an archive that incorporates major works of art amidst a treasure trove of industrial history has finally been saved for the nation. Through its scope and scale it offers unprecedented insight into design and manufacturing processes from the 18th to the 20th centuries, thereby telling the fascinating story of Staffordshire’s renowned pottery industry in colour and in depth.

'We thank and salute all those donors – and especially the National Heritage Memorial Fund – who helped make this possible. We are also grateful to WWRD for agreeing to sell the Archive intact to a public institution, and for working with us closely and co-operatively throughout.'

Charlie Stewart, assistant chief executive at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: 'We are absolutely delighted this wonderful archive is coming home to Stoke-on-Trent. Along with the Spode and the Wedgwood archives, it is one of the great industrial archives of the ceramic industry, and has importance not only nationally but internationally. The archive gives us a direct insight into the lives of Stoke-on-Trent people in the 19th and 20th centuries and is a priceless window into the city’s industrial heritage.

'A lot of work will now be taking place to catalogue everything so that people can come into the Stoke-on-Trent City archives and see this magnificent collection directly themselves. The council’s Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, which is no stranger to hosting world-class exhibitions, will be putting on an initial display later in the year and in the coming years we will be showcasing different aspects of the archive with displays both at the museum and the new World of Wedgwood displays at Barlaston.'

Philip Atkins, Leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: 'The Minton Archive is a magical collection and I am absolutely delighted that is has been saved for the county, the city and the country to view, enjoy and learn from. As a county we supported appeals to keep both the Staffordshire Hoard and the Wedgwood Collection together and it is fantastic to hear that Minton Archive will now be coming home.'

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