The Allen Gallery has an outstanding collection of English, Continental and Far Eastern pottery, porcelain and tiles, dating from 1250 to the present day.
Museum visitors have been able to see fine English pottery and porcelain in Alton since the early 1930s, when local man Major Ross Bignell began to contribute items bought out of his own pocket to the Curtis Museum in High Street. Donations continued to come from Major Bignell until his death in 1964, but peaked in 1943 when the museum received the bulk of his collection of English pottery - over 300 items. Many of these were transferred to the Allen Gallery on its opening as a home for the County’s ceramics in 1980 and are still on show today.
Several other major collections were acquired in the later 20th century, either given by collectors or bought by the County. The largest has been the Berthoud collection of 1,743 pieces of tea and coffee-ware, purchased in 1994, a large part of which is displayed in one upstairs room of the Gallery, making a stunning spectacle. Of course many important individual items have also been added to the displays over the years, often with help from grant-making bodies and Museums Friends groups.
Today the aim is to provide a comprehensive display of ceramics to interest visitors of all kinds. Items mainly range in date from the 17th century to the present day. Over 3,000 are on show; primarily pieces from the UK, though also some of the eastern Asian and continental wares which historically have influenced the ceramics industry in this country. Subjects of the themed displays include country pottery, English stoneware, Wedgwood, English delft, English porcelain, studio pottery and more.
Smaller displays at the Gallery which should not be overlooked include glass, sculpture, furniture and also silver.
Puzzle tyg, slip-decorated earthenware, Wrotham, Kent, 1682 Teapot decorated with 'Riviera' pattern designed by Hugh Casson, W R Midwinter Ltd, Burslem, Staffs, c1955