The Wedgwood Museum is to be broken up and sold off in order to help plug the £134m deficit in the pension fund of Waterford Wedgwood Potteries, which failed in 2009.
The Wedgwood Museum, which was shortlisted by UNESCO as one of the UK’s ‘Memories of the World’, is to be broken up and sold. The decision stems from legal action brought by Waterford Wedgwood Potteries creditors, after it failed in 2009.
Although the company’s assets were sold, the deal excluded its debts and its pension fund, which had a major funding shortfall.
The Wedgwood Museum was also excluded from the sale of the Potteries and as an independent charitable trust, was expected to be protected from any claims by Wedgwood’s former creditors. However, this week a high court judgement has found in favour of the creditors and decided that the Museum was an asset of Waterford Wedgwood Potteries and can therefore be sold to help repay its creditors.
This ruling has only come about due to a legal loophole: although the Museum is operated as an charitable trust, a handful of its staff were members of the Waterford Wedgwood Potteries pension scheme. This has enabled the court to classify the museum as an asset of the company, despite the fact that the museum itself has been operated independently for nearly 50 years.
The main creditor in this case is the Pension Protection Fund, a public organisation which pays compensation to members of defined benefit pension schemes whose employers go bust.
While we sympathise with anyone who has lost their pension as a result of Wedgwood’s bankruptcy, the sale of the museum and its contents will hardly make a dent in the £134m pension deficit, but it will mean that the UK loses a significant reminder of our cultural and industrial heritage.
The Wedgwood Museum contains a massive, irreplacable collection of Wedgwood pottery, documents and British art, the like of which does not exist anywhere else in the world.
The Wedgwood Museum is now beginning a campaign to raise sufficient funds to buy out the museum’s collections and save them for future generations. If you’d like to learn more or get involved, contact the Wedgwood Museum Trust.