Digging for Delft: Bristol Museum & Art Gallery awarded funding

Posted on by Lauren MacCarthy.

by Kate Newnham, senior curator of Visual Arts

We’re thrilled to announce that Bristol Museum & Art Gallery has received a grant of nearly £90,000 from the Arts Council England Designation Development Fund to research and present Bristol’s internationally important collection of Delftware ceramics.

A Delftware dish featuring George IFrom the 1680s, potters in Bristol produced some of the finest Delftware (tin-glazed earthenware) in the UK for over 150 years. The lively blue-and-white designs were exported around the world. With over 2,100 pieces, we hold one of the largest and finest Delftware collections in the country, rivalling the V&A Museum and the British Museum.

It would be unthinkable to write about English Delftware without reference to this collection.” the late Anthony Ray, ceramics historian

The grant of £89,898 will fund a project curator for two years who will bring the collection to life through new research into archaeological finds from Bristol delftware kiln sites and records at Bristol Archives.

What kind of Delftware was made in Bristol, compared with London or Liverpool? The project curator will attempt to get to the bottom of this conundrum by examining archaeological sherds from the city and historic records. They will work with Bristol residents in Redcliffe and Brislington to examine the historic output of Delftware kilns in these wards and the international influences on its production.

A Delftware posset pot with elaborate handles and a blue and white designMany UK experts in English Delftware have retired in the last decade and the Bristol project will take leadership in the urgent need to capture their knowledge to pass down to future generations. We will refresh the Delftware displays at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and create an online exhibition to give access to the collection for people around the world.

The Designation Scheme recognises, celebrates and champions significant collections of national and internationally significant collections held in museums, libraries and archives. The Designation Development Fund provides funding for projects that ensure the long-term sustainability, public value of collections and encourages the sharing of best practice across the sector. Individual grants were available for between £20,000 and £90,000.

We’re incredibly grateful to Arts Council England and the National Lottery for recognising the importance of Bristol’s Delftware collection.

The project curator post will be advertised in the New Year on the Bristol City Council website.

2 comments on “Digging for Delft: Bristol Museum & Art Gallery awarded funding

  1. James Leach

    the item that I possess has historical significance to Bristol UK and to the State of South Carolina. It is the family seal of Ceramicist Richard Champion. It was found by a member of my family during a demolition project in Charleston SC in about 1969. The seal was pasted in the front cover of a translation of The odyssey by Alexander Pope by special permission from King George 1724-5. I am seeking others also who might be interested in purchasing this item to determine it’s value. Please contact me if you are interested.

    Best regards


  2. Nicholas Panes

    I assume you mean a copy of his bookplate. Champion had a large library which was sold in Camden SC after his death and was advertised in the Charleston City Gazette on 12th May 1795. Copies of the bookplate are in a couple of U S archives and also in UK. Please contact me if you wish to discuss.


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