Precious Rockingham porcelain to go on show at Wentworth Woodhouse

by | 1 April 2024 | Art, Heritage, Local Charity, Rotherham

Rare and precious pieces of South Yorkshire’s famed Rockingham Pottery will be exhibited at Wentworth Woodhouse for the first time.

Over 50 items from hundreds now owned by Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust will feature in the Rotherham mansion’s exhibition Flora, Fauna and Feasting: Rockingham Pottery Meets Contemporary Crafts, which will occupy three of the Georgian state rooms from 19th March to 23rd June.

Rockingham Pottery has a unique connection to Wentworth Woodhouse, as its aristocratic families supported the manufacturer financially and purchased its wares for their dining tables.

Although their collection is no longer at the mansion, the Preservation Trust, which took over in 2017, is now building its own collection thanks to donations by local people, including some avid collectors.

Over 400 pieces were gifted by the family of a Rotherham businessman, a collector since the 1970s. After his death, his family chose to donate it to Wentworth Woodhouse because of its part in the pottery’s history.

The donation included four dessert plates from a set of 12 specimen pieces made especially for King William IV to choose the design for his new dessert service, which is believed to still be in use at Windsor Castle.

The specimen plate the monarch selected is one of the four now owned by the Trust and they will all feature in Flora, Fauna and Feasting.

Vibrant, colourful and at times quirky, the exhibition sees tables arranged for an elegant house breakfast, tea and dessert course, alongside creative contemporary craft.

Highly significant pieces of Rockingham will be interlaced with works by some of the UK’s most significant contemporary craft artists, including a number from South Yorkshire. Their work, in materials ranging from ceramic, wood and glass to metals and textiles, has been carefully curated to reflect the colours and themes of their Rockingham ‘tablemates’.

The exhibition has been expertly curated by Charlotte Dew and Gregory Parsons.

Charlotte specialises in 20th century and contemporary craft and is Head of Public Programmes at The Goldsmiths’ Centre in London. She was previously curator for the Crafts Council, The National Archives, The Mercers’ Company and The Women’s Library.

Gregory, a former product developer for luxury brands including Burberry, is an independent curator and consultant specialising in the applied arts, with over 100 exhibitions to his credit.

The exhibition will also explain the very close ties between Wentworth Woodhouse’s owners and the pottery-makers.

The manufacturer, initially named Swinton Pottery, began in 1745 on land leased from the Marquess of Rockingham, who became a customer. It saw various owners until the Brameld family took over in 1806.

The 4th Earl of Fitzwilliam stepped in when the company, which sold mostly earthenware, went bankrupt in 1826, becoming the mortgagee. His support enabled the Bramelds to focus on fine porcelain and the company was renamed the Rockingham Works.

In 1842 the Bramelds went bankrupt again, but the 5th Earl declined further support and the works closed.

Visitors can view Flora, Fauna and Feasting with their general admission tickets. For more information visit www.wentworthwoodhouse.org.uk/whats-on/flora-fauna-feasting.