Some of you will recall that I was devastated when Spode went bankrupt last year. Blue Italian was my wedding china pattern. I fell in love with the design the first time I saw it, and I started collecting it for my hope chest when I was about 12 years old (yes, I'm a little old fashioned, if you haven't gathered that from this blog so far!). I still remember asking for Blue Italian pieces every year for Christmas and for my birthday!
Spode was a multi-generational thing in my family. My dad's mom collected blue and white china, and had a beautiful set that I used to look at for hours in our china cabinet back at home. My mother was also in love with blue and white. I remember treasuring every one of Victoria Magazine's "Blue and White" issues - I felt like they had been especially designed for me! Now that I have a little girl of my own, I can't help but hope that she shares my love for the colour combination.
Over the past several months, I had given up on Spode - especially after receiving a shipment of horrible quality Blue Italian that had been manufactured in China. Fortunately, one Earthly Paradise reader--James, from Staffordshire--stayed on top of the story. He had originally commented on my post "The End of an Era--Spode Begins Overseas Production" . Last Thursday, he left an update on the company that was so good that I've decided to reproduce it here in its entirety. Thanks to huge disappointment with the quality of the made-in-China Blue Italian, Portmeirion is once again manufacturing Blue Italian in Staffordshire!
Even more months on now, and over a year since Spode called in the administrators.
A lot of people will know this by now. The trade names and intellectual property rights of Royal Worcester and Spode were purchased by the Portmeirion Group of Stoke-on-Trent in April 2009. The historic Church Street site, alas, was not part of the deal. Ceramics will never be made there again, ending a 240 year old era during which the finest wares in the world were produced.
Spode lost it's Royal Warrant, held since 1806, upon ceasing trading. Spode produced the china for the Titanic, the Queen Mary, British and European aristocracy, and of course, the British Royal Family.
The Spode museum and archives, a separate entity from the business, was moved to Stoke-on-Trent City Museum.
Now for a bit of good news. Go to www.spode.co.uk and you will see that Portmeirion has started making "Italian" again in Stoke-on-Trent! "Stafford Flowers" has also just been re-introduced. "Woodland" and "Christmas Tree" are also in production; the latter in China, unfortunately. But Portmeirion (one of the few genuine success stories in the tableware industry) is committed to bringing back production to Staffordshire, partly in response to the huge backlash against cheap imports from Asia.
For me, however, as a Spode collector of 30 years, things will never be the same again. Spode which comes from anywhere other than that wonderful site on Church Street in Stoke-on-Trent just isn't Spode. It was my favourite place on Earth, and I still haven't got over the events of the last 12 months.
Oh, I forgot to add that most of the Church Street site contains buildings which are "listed" by English Heritage (a government agency). What this means is they are of exceptional architectural and historical significance, and cannot be demolished.
The 9.5 acre site is also part of a conservation area designated by Stoke-on-Trent city council.
The council is, in fact, in the process of raising funding to purchase the entire site for about 5 million pounds (around 8 million US dollars) so they can control exactly what goes on there in the future. I think there is talk of a ceramics museum combined with other small scale retail, residential and recreational land use. The important thing is that much of the site will remain the same, because the buildings are protected.
Hope this is useful info for you all. James.
Thanks so much for your message, James! This is fabulous news, though I'm still in mourning for Spode.