We have three months to save a vital piece of Britain’s commercial heritage. The Art Fund, an independent charity which helps buy art for the nation, has already raised a heroic £13m. It is now seeking a final £2.74m in donations by 30 November to keep the Wedgwood collection together in its Staffordshire home.
Waterford Wedgwood went into administration in 2009, 250 years after Josiah Wedgwood founded his pottery firm in Stoke-on-Trent. In 2011, the High Court ruled that Wedgwood’s 80,000-item museum could be sold to help cover a pension shortfall. Begbies Traynor, the administrator, has been working hard ever since to keep the collection together. After years of negotiation, it has managed to agree a deal to sell the collection in its entirety to the Art Fund – but the purchase must be made by the end of November. Otherwise, it will be dispersed at auction.
Splitting up this museum would be a tragedy. Some of the individual items are treasures in their own right – family portraits of the Wedgwoods by George Stubbs and Wedgwood’s jasperware recreation of that masterpiece of classical glass, the Portland Vase. But it is the comprehensive sweep of the collection as a whole that makes it matter so much.