The ceramics and glass collection is made up of 25,000 objects and 20,000 Roman Samian sherds. It is a collection of regional, national and international significance. As a result of Londonís position as a centre of national and international trade and of manufacturing innovation and of the Museumís long-established acquisition programme, these objects are very representative of the evolution of ceramics and glassware. Many of the items were acquired in the years before scientific archaeological excavations, when building workers finding complete objects were encouraged to offer them to the Guildhall Museum. The collection reflects the whole spectrum of society, including everyday items and luxury wares.
The Prehistoric ceramic collection is not large, but is representative of the pottery made and used in the London region between c. 4000 BC and the Roman invasion. A majority of the most complete items are on displayed in the London Before London gallery at London Wall. The collection complements the excavated assemblages being generated across the region.
The Roman ceramics collection is very strong on complete vessels and large fragments, in contrast to the more fragmentary material from excavations. As London was the centre of the Roman trade network, the collection includes a wide range of both local and imported wares, with national significance.
Roman Samian sherds
The Museum has the largest collection of Samian ware in the country, with classic type-assemblages. Although the collection is in the new storage facility, the records have not been incorporated in the search system.
The collection of medieval pottery vessels is of international importance and is widely considered to be the finest in Europe. Derived entirely from discoveries and excavations in London, it illustrates fully the range of pottery in use in medieval Englandís pre-eminent city. A considerable number of exotic imports represent Londonís wide-ranging commercial connections. The collection has been extensively published. It includes over 600 decorated floor-tiles, many of them from City of London church sites.
The 16th and 17th ceramics collection is the most comprehensive of its kind in the world and of international importance. During this period, stonewares from Germany and ceramics from many parts of the world were flooding into London, and domestic ceramic production in and around the capital underwent a rapid expansion to supply the increasing demand for new forms and fabrics. Nineteen delftware factories were established in London during the 17th century and the first commercial production of stoneware in England started in 1670 in John Dwightís factory in Fulham. Parts of the collection have been published in a series of monographs and other research papers, books and articles and further monographs are in hand. The collection is organised by fabric and form.
The collection of post-1700 ceramics demonstrates the importance of London as a centre of innovation and manufacturing in the 18th and 19th centuries. Soft paste porcelain and stoneware made in London are well represented and the collection includes several important documentary pieces. The collection also includes a number of significant donations which offer an insight into the history of taste and collecting. These include the J.G. Joicey collection of 18th century porcelain, the Salting Bequest of Chelsea and Bow porcelain, the K.H. Macalaster collection of teacups and the Owen Ball Gem collection of Martinware. The objects are organised in factories and body types and then chronologically within these groups.
Medieval and post-medieval glass
The collection of medieval glassware is small, reflecting the rarity and fragility of glass finds of this period. However, it includes both products of the early English glasshouses of the 14th and 15th centuries and an extraordinary range of unusual imported glassware from Germany, France, Italy and the Mediterranean world. The post-medieval glass collection is the richest, largest and most representative in Europe, reflecting major changes in the industry and consumer taste. During the 16th century the native glass industry was revived by skills and techniques from the Continent and London glasshouses were established to produce glass in the Venetian style. The 1670s saw a major transformation in English glass manufacture from a relatively low quality product to one that dominated the European market and eclipsed the previous supremacy of Venice. By the end of the 17th century there were nine flint glass houses in London and the network of glass sellers and manufactures in the capital helped to promote the development of the industry in Britain.
The glass collection from this period is outstanding. Two groups within it are key to understanding the development of the design and manufacture of glass in London. The Garton collection of English table glass, which consists of 437 pieces dating from the 17th to the early 19th centuries, is one of the principal privately formed collections of English glass (accession number 34.139). The Whitefriars Glasshouse collection is of national importance and includes all the glass from the companyís own museum, as well as the Whitefriars Archive of papers, photographs, designs, specimens and glass house equipment (accession number 80.547). The glass collection also includes an interesting group of wine bottles, medicine bottles and glass produced to preserve and package food. The material is organisation by collection, factory and function.