Heritage Wrecker Award: The Big Wedgwood Garage Sale

20 December, 2011 at 3:00 pm 1 comment

Some months ago, the cat of Antiques Roadshow expert David Battie – a lovely fellow called Leonard – smashed a Wedgwood teapot from Mr. Battie’s collection. Made in 1795, the precious piece had weathered many storms, but as we all know, nothing and nobody is safe from the inquisitive mind of a cat. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

No responsible cat owner would hold such an accident against the animal, though; after all a cat is a cat and not an art expert, and we don’t expect a feline to show respect and appreciation for cultural heritages of any kind. Also, cats are cute.

Those involved in Wedgwood-Gate aren’t cats, though, and Judge Charles Purle QC knew exactly the consequences when he ruled that

the Wedgwood’s Museum’s unique collection can be sold to help plug a £134 million pension fund deficit

just like the administrators from Begbies Traynor knew what they did when they sought the ruling to determine the future of the collection.

Now if only everybody else involved in this mess had known what they were doing before this debacle happened, we’d all be much happier!

Tempting as it is, let’s not blame judges and administrators, though. This ruling has a long prehistory, and holding the museum responsible and sell off its invaluable collection to satisfy the creditors of the Wedgwood company which went boom! in 2009 is legally correct. To quote Judge Charles Purle QC:

“This is sad for those who would wish to preserve a collection of what everyone recognises is enormous national importance, but is the result of insolvency legislation combined with the very comprehensive pension protection that the state now provides.”

Sad? Sad? “Titanic” is sad, this is bloody tragic! Seriously, what sort of country would allow the loss of such an important collection? What kind of politician would back this? What’s next? Putting Nelson on his column up for auction on ebay to fund the Olympics?!

Do you really want to see the Wedgwood collection auctioned off and spread all over the planet? And do you really think that, with such a precendent, other museums may not be at risk of being dissolved and their collections ending up on some high-profile garage sale?

The administrators said they’d explore other options to raise money to keep the collection in situ (Heritage Lottery Fund, the V&A Museum, members of the Wedgwood family etc.)

Good.

They also said that the Pension Protection Fund, the main creditor, had indicated they they were prepared to allow time for fundraising.

They better.

It’s our turn now: we have to ask ourselves if Britain’s legacy for future generations really should consist of nothing but Tesco car parks. Get active, write to your representatives and urge them to take a stand.

I’m running out of sel volatile here; it’s time for a mutiny, my friends. We can’t allow this to happen.

Save Wedgwood!

Save Wedgwood blog

Wedgwood Museum @ Twitter

Save Wedgwood @ Twitter

Tristram Hunt MP

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Entry filed under: 18th century, art. Tags: , .

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