Unique collection of ceramics attracts almost 200 visitors at Tamworth Castle

Thursday, 24th September 2015

A UNIQUE collection of items, not usually on display to the public, was brought out of storage for the third Collections Weekend.

Almost 200 visitors went along to take a look at the exhibition of ceramic and terracotta objects. Tamworth Castle launched its Collections Weekends last year, with two successful events focusing on costumes. As two-thirds of the museum collections are held in storage, the themed weekends provide people with the opportunity to see exhibits that cannot be accommodated in the building on a more permanent basis.

The third collections weekend provided visitors with an opportunity to view, and handle, some of the unique objects from the Collections, this time focusing on ceramics and terracotta.

Collections Officer Sarah Williams was on hand, along with other members of Castle staff with knowledge of the Collections, to chat to visitors about the display in the Great Hall.

The display included items made by Tamworth companies George Skey and Gibbs & Canning, showing the diversity and extent of the production by both local manufacturers.

Gibbs & Canning of Glascote made world-renowned architectural terracotta, while George Skey of Wilnecote produced decorative pieces, as well as everyday household items commonly found in pantries and store cupboards.

Tamworth PotteryMany of the visitors to the Castle over the weekend came as they had a particular interest in the two companies and their products. Some visitors had family connections to either George Skey or Gibbs & Canning, and recounted their work experiences and personal knowledge of the company.

One of the centre pieces of the exhibition was a small garden ornament statue depicting ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ produced around 1870 – 1880 by George Skey Limited, donated to the Castle collections in 2013.

Other items of interest included:

  • Caviar pots made and printed in Cyrillic for the Russian market by George Skey.
  • George Skey-made pickle jars stamped with ‘Crosse & Blackwell’s’ ® company mark, alongside the George Skey mark, which were filled by ‘Crosse & Blackwell’ ® with pickles, and exported as a popular delicacy to the Belgian market prior to WW1.
  • Electrical isolators produced by Doulton’s, the company which took over George Skey in the 1950s, were the inspiration for some of the unusual ceramic lamp stands on display.
  • Smaller items from the Gibbs & Canning collection, including terracotta lion-face wall plaques, garden ornaments, jars, flagons and pots, the latter familiar as household items in many homes.

The extent of the business of the two Tamworth companies was also shown in a display of images, plans and company records. Gibbs & Canning’s architectural terracotta has been used in buildings across the world from Hong Kong to Canada. In London, Gibbs & Canning terracotta bricks tiles were used for landmark buildings including the Natural History Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal Albert Hall.

Cllr Rob Pritchard, Deputy Leader of Tamworth Borough Council, said: “This is the third collections weekend put on by Tamworth Castle and yet again has been a success. Some two-thirds of the Castle’s collection is in storage and events like this give people a rare chance to get a glimpse of the object which are not normally on show.

“It was great to see almost 200 people coming along to this event. I would also like to thank the staff at Tamworth castle for all their hard work in putting this wonderful exhibition together.”

Castle staff are now interested to hear from anyone who information on George Skey or Gibbs & Canning items which they would like to share. Please contact Collections Officer Sarah Williams weekdays during office hours on 01827 709 631.