The Web holds a vast quantity of information on the ceramic industries of the United
Kingdom and is now the primary source of reference and the first point of access
for people seeking information.
Perhaps the most significant difference between the Web and traditional sources of
information is that the Web is current, but transient, whilst print-based information
sources record past events, but are permanent.
There is some convergence, in that books and other print resources are increasingly
becoming available as the originals are digitised and placed on the Web. The fact
remains, however, that a business’ website is no more permanent than the business
itself and this can hardly be better illustrated than by the closure of the Royal
Worcester and Spode businesses in 2009 and the removal of their presence from the
All, however, may not be lost and in some cases the website of a closed business
may be located by searching the archive of websites at ‘www.archive.org’. This site
is an archive of 150 billion Web pages published since 1996. As an example, Regency
China Ltd was a business that closed in about 2005, however a search of the archive
can recover some of the company’s Web pages from 2001 to 2005.
The websites listed here are just a starting point to the resources available. For
anyone interested in UK ceramics, the vast site at thepotteries.org run by Steve
Birks is a starting point for any query concerning the ceramics industry of North
Staffordshire and Derbyshire. Other outstanding general resources are those of the
Stoke on Trent museums (stokemuseums.org.uk) and worldcollectorsnet.com.
Every commercial ceramics business now maintains a website and most are orientated
to sales, either wholesale or retail, of the company’s products. A history of the
company may be included and in some cases the company sponsors its own collectors’
club as a marketing tool. For smaller manufacturers and individual potters, the
web may now represent (apart from factory shop or studio door) sales, the primary
marketing medium. For these businesses sales depend more on purchaser reaction to
the ethos of the business and its owner and websites often included biographical
details and manufacturing information.
A second category of website are ‘interest’ sites, usually developed by individuals
or small groups interested in the products of individual manufacturers or particular
collectible themes—for example piggybanks. Websites devoted to a particular manufacturer
are often associated with collectors’ clubs and historical information is often available
together with activities, newsletter and other member services. The best of these
sites—grayspottery.co.uk and myottcollectorsclub.com are two good examples—are actively
building information databases and pattern and shape image libraries based on public
responses to their web presence. There are also websites devoted to particular collecting
themes and an outstanding example is that devoted to research on Ironstone China
(janicepaull.com). In this case an individual’s lifetime of interest and knowledge
has been made available to enrich the experience of other collectors. It is to be
hoped that some way can be found for such sites to continue into the future.