There’s a man in reception with a pot!

The story behind a picture in the 1986 Museum Brochure.
From Pam Woolliscroft (nee Bott)

One day, working at Gladstone Pottery Museum as a young curator in the late 1970s, I received an internal phone call from my boss, David Sekers, the Museum Director.

Originally, the museum was not going to establish a collection of ceramic objects - the preserved buildings and the demonstrations of pottery skills were its objectives. But people were so enamoured by this wonderful new museum they kept arriving with items to donate, loan or simply enquire about. So I instigated a system of receipts for any items coming into the museum for whatever reason and had nagged everyone not just to accept items willy nilly.

I answered the phone and David said “Bring your receipt book. There's a man in reception with a pot.”

Working in an industrial museum can be a grimy occupation so quite often I was to be found in a brown all-in-one boiler suit, purchased from the local market and adapted to fit. I was in the middle of some practical job or other when the call came, so I grabbed my receipt book and still dressed in the boiler suit dashed downstairs so that I could make a quick receipt and get back to the work I was doing.

Arriving in reception David Sekers proceeded to introduce me to no less than Sir William Gladstone of Hawarden Castle!

He was holding a huge and most wonderful pot - the pâte sur pâte 'Gladstone' vase made by Brown Westhead & Co. which he was presenting to the museum as a loan.

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story - The Gladstone Vase*

I was embarrassed but also amused; and David was telling the truth when he said 'There's a man in reception with a pot'.

I learnt a valuable lesson, and from then on wore clothes which could adapt from scruffy, grimy work in a museum store or preparing an exhibition, to a quick addition of a jacket to see visitors of all sorts at a moment's notice - useful, as I have always worked in industrial museums or dusty environments in the museums I was employed in after leaving Gladstone.

*The Gladstone Vase. One of the great achievements of the Victorian Potters. The central frieze is of pate-sur pate, the most expensive from of ceramic decoration, created by building up successive layers of bone china to make a translucent cameo effect. This unique vase presented by ‘a few Liberals of Burslem’ to the Rt. Hon. W.E. Gladstone in 1888 was made by Brown Westhead and Co.

More here about Brown Westhead and Co. >