Designed, I believe, in the 1930s along with a new showroom it looks quite austere but is quite a hit with those of us who love mid-twentieth century design. In reality the contrast between different exotic woods which decorated the walls, panels and 'hidden' cupboards was striking. In recent years the contrast mellowed but a furniture conservator who came to look at some antique pieces for me was enamoured and went around identifying all the different types of veneer for me!
Ronald Copeland, Managing Director and partner in the firm was, like his brother Gresham, 'into' antiques and collecting old Spode to help tell the history of the Spode firm and its products. This trait was inherited by their sons Spencer and Robert respectively.
In this image of The Ronald Copeland Art Gallery the pots are displayed in cases flush with the walls. The cases had glass fronts framed in bronze and the design was intended to look like paintings in a gallery, hence the name Art Gallery. (The practicality of opening top-hinged plate glass windows framed in bronze is another story). At the time of this photo the antiques - pots, paintings and furniture - were owned variously by the company and individual members of the Copeland family. A change of ownership of the firm and the creation of a museum trust was some way ahead.
Some of the pots from the Art Gallery at this time may have made it into the Spode Museum Trust object collection but many went to Trelissick Mansion in Cornwall which became the home of Ronald, through the inheritance of his wife Ida Fenzi (a fascinating woman - search on Ida Fenzi or Copeland for more about her) and later their son, Spencer Copeland. It became the core of the Copeland China collection there.
During my time as curator, the Art Gallery was used to display to some of the museum's huge reserve collection. It was also used during the Trade Shows and other events for lavish corporate dinners. The colour image here shows detail of case 11 in about 1999, with a range of 'badged' wares (specially commissioned items) including an example of the elegant dessert and tea wares used on RMS Titanic and a plate commissioned by the Society of the Cincinnati.
This latter, transfer printed in blue, gilded and hand coloured, can be seen behind and just to the left of the smaller red plate on the left of the image. This is one of 200 made in 1955 and it was a replica of a Chinese porcelain plate of the 18th century. Spode produced a new shape (shape number K951) to match the Chinese shape exactly and used their Fine Stone body (ie Stone china). The Spode engraving included, as requested, every 'minor imperfection' of the hand painted original. In fact Robert Copeland told me that the first sample was 'too perfect' and was re-engraved at the request of the society!