The Worcester Porcelain Museum collection is displayed in three permanent galleries: the Georgian Gallery, the Victorian Gallery and the Twentieth Century Gallery. The museum holds over 10,000 objects made between 1751 and 2009. The collections date back to the 18th century, when shapes and patterns were copied from the Far East for use in the homes of the very rich. A display in the first gallery shows an 18th-century furnished room with a long case clock and table laid for dessert. A trio of hexagonal vases feature on the mantle piece in what would have been a gentleman's home. In contrast, the Victorian gallery has deep colours, extravagant exhibition pieces, and works of great craftsmanship. Here it can be seen how travel influenced design and how with the onslaught of the Industrial Revolution more people could afford to buy fine works. The museum tour ends in the 20th century, where as well as producing bespoke services, commissioned by some of the factory's private customers, changing lifestyles and the advent of modern appliances like freezers and microwave ovens required a new range of products.
Porcelain production in Worcester started in 1751 and by 1755 Worcester was making the best English blue and white tea wares that money could buy. Dr John Wall perfected a recipe for porcelain that could withstand boiling water and this discovery led to the fame of the factory. The Museum has a floor plan amongst its archives that shows ‘the secret recipe room’ where the recipe was kept under lock and key! Thomas Flight purchased the Worcester Warmstry house factory for his two sons in 1783. After struggling with technical problems in the early years and following John Flight’s travels in France they introduced new spiral fluted shapes and French sprig patterns at Worcester. This period also saw the introduction of views of English country properties and grounds and in the 1830s the Neo-Rococo style became popular with up and coming industrialists.
The Chamberlain factory quickly established an enviable reputation for the production of finely painted porcelain. Customers would choose the decoration for individual ‘cabinet’ pieces. Views of country houses and figure subjects taken from prints of well-known paintings were very fashionable. Grainger was an apprentice at Chamberlain’s Worcester factory and established a rival porcelain company with his partner John Wood in 1801. The Grainger factory gained a reputation for both useful and ornamental wares. Rich patterns such as Japanese style Imari and fine tea wares posed serious competition for the Chamberlain and Barr, Flight & Barr factories in the city. In 1852 Richard William Binns and William Henry Kerr took over the management of Chamberlains & Co. The factory had been ravaged by fire and an extensive rebuilding programme took place, modern machinery and working methods improved the quality of the product in every department. The first public display of the new company products was at the Exhibition of Art & Industry, Dublin in 1853.
James Hadley was apprenticed in the 1850s to Kerr & Binns of Worcester and by 1870 he became the company’s principal modeller. However, in 1875 he decided to leave and set up his own modelling studio. Hadley wares were made using coloured clay mouldings in dark blue, green and brown which distinguished them from similar objects made by the Royal Worcester Factory. Royal Worcester kept pace with public demand for novelty in design with the development of a wide range of new materials and glazes, including glazed and underglazed Parian earthenware, majolica and bone china. The firm concentrated on the production of figures and vases.
At the beginning of the 20th century Royal Worcester allowed the painters to sign their work and china patterns were named from the 1920s onwards. Lifestyles changed dramatically after World War One and new styles were tried with varying degrees of success. Traditional skills were maintained and developed at Royal Worcester and bespoke dinner and tea services and ornamental items of the highest quality were made for individual customers.
The Museum of Royal Worcester has full wheelchair access throughout the galleries, two lifts and a disabled toilet. Wheelchairs are available for use at the museum. Three hour street parking is available in Severn Street outside the museum for those with a blue badge. For visually impaired visitors the audio guide describes many exhibits, the history behind the manufacturing process and specific items. Items on general display cannot be handled, but an introduction with a member of staff and opportunity to handle items from the collection can be booked for groups of visually impaired visitors. Please book this service in advance of your visit. The hearing loop and silent headphones enable hearing impaired people to enjoy the audio guide when both their hearing aids are switched to ‘T’. Assistance dogs are welcome. Carers are free.
Location : Museum of Royal Worcester, Severn Street Worcester WR1 2ND
Transport: Worcester Foregate Street (National Rail) then bus or 16 minutes. Bus Routes : 26, 44, 303, 309, 349, 350, 363, 550 and 551 stop near by.
Opening Times : Monday to Saturday 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Adults £6.00; Concessions £5.00; Children under 15 Free