How the Gladstone Pottery Museum became a reality

Personal recollections by David Malkin

David Malkin in 2010

After six years of great success in establishing Gladstone, our first Director David Sekers left to face a similar challenge at the Styal Mill, near Stockport.
We advertised for a successor and of over 40 applicants decided on Dr Francis Celoria, an eminent industrial archaeologist. He put an enormous effort into preserving the status of the Museum but sadly the financial results were disappointing and he left in 1986.

I was asked to take over on a temporary assignment as the trustees felt a new approach was needed. I agreed to do this for a period of no more than two years, on a part-time basis, as I had several other interests. With our staff we worked out a plan for the next ten years which we called Project 2000. As the buildings next door, the Roslyn Works, were up for sale, with two more bottle ovens, we approached the City Council for funds to help buy and restore them. We secured an interest-free loan of £25,000 and agreed to appoint a prominent member of the Council as a trustee.

This was Cllr Ron Southern who had been Lord Mayor of the City of Stoke-on-Trent in 1977/8. I started to talk to him about a closer association with the City, which he thought was a logical step forward. However, my main task was to plan.

As well as trying to raise money in the ‘Please put your money in the Potbank’ campaign, we built the new collections gallery in what used to be part of the Roslyn works. Through the generosity of one of our trustees we produced a video showing what we hoped to achieve with the purchase of Roslyn. We gave the whole museum a new look and logo.

The Collections Gallery was opened by the Lord Mayor in 1987. Our first exhibition was to show the Victorian wares of some of the famous names of our industry. The exhibition ran for three months. We then displayed the wares of some of the less-famous potters of the 19th century, which again attracted a lot of interest.

Unfortunately, my time as Acting-Director came to an end in the middle of 1988. My place was taken by an employee of the City Museum (now called The Potteries Museum), Dr Cameron Hawke-Smith, who became Manager and thus started the association with the City. I continued to try to raise funds, but this was becoming increasingly difficult. I attended all trustee meetings until I was offered a position with H&R Johnson in the United States.

In the middle of 1990 I resigned from all the organisations with which I was involved and left for the USA in December 1990.  David Malkin 

1981 The VIP Visit - Princess Margaret

Visit of Princess Margaret
Seen here with Geoff Parry Thomas, at the throwing wheel,
and Tom Brennan, Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, looking on.
Date: 7 May 1981

1985 The First Gladstone Exhibition of Paintings

1985 The Giant Teapot arrives

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story
Gladstone Pottery Museum - Curator Angela Lee with the giant teapot 1985

1986 Souvenir Brochure - The Third Edition


Download the 1986 Souvenir Brochure here>

1986 The National Garden Festival in Stoke

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story - National Garden Festival 1986
photo: Phil Rowley Collection


Download the 1986 Coloured Brochure - the 4th Edition here>

The story behind a picture in the 1986 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. > http://www.thepotteries.org/potworks_wk/058.htm

1989 Cuttings from The Evening Sentinel

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story
Gladstone Pottery Museum - Cutting from The Sentinel - 22 Feb 1989

Gladstone Pottery Museum Story
Gladstone Pottery Museum - Cutting from The Sentinel - 23 Feb 1989