Spode Archive

What is the Spode archive?
Spode Pattern Books in the Pattern Safe at Spode c2002
The Spode archive is a huge collection of manuscripts, books and papers dating from the mid-1700s to 2008, directly associated with the Spode company throughout its history. I think the collection is fantastic and, having worked with it for many years, never cease to be enthralled and amazed by its contents. The Spode pattern books, for example, record about 75,000 patterns produce by the factory from about 1800 to the late 1990s. Click here to view a page from c1816 featured in a magazine article. (It is image 10 if the link takes you to the front of the slide show).

Why is the Spode archive at the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives?

The author of these pages, whilst curator at the Spode museum, arranged for the Spode archive to be deposited at the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives in 2007/8, prior to the closure of the Spode company, as the collection was vulnerable to dispersal and destruction by the company then facing failure. I tell the full story of this mammoth move is in my article with an equally mammoth title: 'Moving Images…and manuscripts, books, office documents, research papers,recipe books, production papers and drawings, (The story of the transfer of the Spode Archive to the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives)'*.

Here is an extract:

   "Planning 2006: Working on my own, part-time, meant I had to be realistic about time scales. I allocated 6 months with 6 phases starting in September 2007 to plan, prepare, move, pack and administer the papers. It was not just a question of boxing up but sorting, discarding, listing, copying catalogues whether computer, card, book or paper; packing, labelling and filling in formal transfer papers as well as recording in the catalogues and on exit forms where the items were going and the conditions of transfer. Without the City and County Archive staff, their van, boxes, expertise and unflagging enthusiasm the move would not have been possible."
My Moving the Archive Hub aka my office 13th Feb 2008
My continued thanks go to the staff of the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives for their huge input into this major project. They continued to catalogue the papers; continue with ongoing specialist storage, care and conservation work and making the papers accessible to the public.

What is in the Spode archive?

The Stoke-on-Trent City Archives describes the collection thus:

'Stoke-on-Trent City Archives holds on deposit the archive of the Spode Museum Trust  which not only includes the archive of the Spode factory, but also the files of research on all aspects of the company created by the company’s Historical Consultant, Robert Copeland and by the last curator of the Spode Museum, Pam Woolliscroft [me!].  We also maintain our own comprehensive library on Staffordshire and British pottery.'

Can I see the Spode archive?

You can visit the Reading Room at the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives and consult the sources listed below, which may amplify or confirm material that you can view for free on the web.

Excitingly, in early 2014, following a project led by Archivist, Louise Ferriday, the first part of the catalogue went live and can be accessed on the Archive Service’s online catalogue - click HERE.

What can I see online?

The very large Spode archive is not yet fully catalogued.  However the Pattern Safe records, papers which were traditionally housed in a secure safe (the size of a small room) on the Spode factory site, are completely catalogued and the Research Files are substantially catalogued. Please click HERE for the catalogue of papers.

If I can't visit in person can someone help me with my questions?

Yes. The Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service is committed to the provision of free personal access to the records and information in its care. If you are not able to visit their Reading Room and wish them to undertake this research on your behalf, then they are happy to do so for you. For your initial questions please email stoke.archives@stoke.gov.uk Please send images of your pots and clear images of any marks on the base of the piece(s).

For your enquiry a Short Research Charge will be levied. It is not onerous and the staff can advise on the exact cost - please email stoke.archives@stoke.gov.uk. It will be helpful if you could pay this in advance. Methods of payment can be found on the following page of the archive Service website - please click HERE.

Can I find some of the books on Spode at the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives?

Yes. The Stoke-on-Trent City Archives renowned pottery library includes the works on my booklist.

It is a fantastic place for the Spode archive to be, as the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives 'pro-actively collect printed and published material relating to North Staffordshire and the pottery industry, thus resulting in having the best Pottery Library outside the Victoria and Albert Museum in London'.

Further papers from the Spode archive have been carefully looked after by Keele University for many years in their Special Collections and Archives. These can be consulted by appointment through Keele University Special Collections.

*More about the Spode archive can be found in my articles:
  • Pots, Prints and Papers – the Spode business archive, case study, Pam Woolliscroft with Val Bott, RecordKeeping (National Archives Magazine), Spring 2005
  • Moving Images…and manuscripts, books, office documents, research papers, recipe books, production papers and drawings, (The story of the transfer of the Spode Archive to the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives), by Pam Woolliscroft, Northern Ceramic Society Newsletter, No 151 September 2008 page 45-49