There are about 8,500 items in the ceramics collection, dating from the 17th century to the present. Most were made in the UK, but there are also pieces from mainland Europe as well as from China and Japan. Its range and quality make it an important resource for those researching into ceramic history.
The main focus for the collection is the Allen Gallery in Alton, where over 3,000 items represent the development of the industry in this country over four centuries. However, all of our museums incorporate ceramics into their displays in one way or another, often china souvenirs or items relating to local industry and shops.
Pieces are also sometimes loaned to museums outside Hampshire or may be found in our own touring exhibitions.
Some of the areas in which the collection is especially strong are described below
Before Europe learned how to make porcelain, this was the only ware white enough to mimic imported Chinese ceramics. Production in England dwindled towards the end of the 18th century, but had earlier included every kind of item from teapots, tiles and dishes to pieces of sculpture like this figure made in London in 1679.
Cups and saucers
For most of the 19th century the pottery industry in Britain was booming. The most developed production methods in the world, together with an ever-growing taste for tea, led to an explosion of creativity in tea-ware. More than two thousand designs are represented in the ceramics collection.
In the 20th century some pottery came to be accepted as an art form. Bernard Leach, in the 1920s, was the first to call himself an artist-potter. In more recent years some potters have set aside function in favour of pure aesthetics. Nearing that approach, this piece by Peter Hayes owes much of its subtle colouration and fissured surface to long immersion in the River Avon.