NORFOLK Museums Service
Paste Brooch, 18th century

Decorative Art Collections

Ceramics, Glass, Silver and Jewellery Collections

English delftware bowlNorwich Castle holds a fine representative collection of ceramics covering the history of British pottery and porcelain from the middle ages to the present day. It includes some outstanding rarities such as the London delftware bowl of c.1730, painted with a ploughing scene and an inscription showing that it was made for a Norfolk farmer and pottery dealer. There are also groups of objects representing production from overseas, such as Chinese export ware.

This group of objects includes some splendid plates featuring the arms of Norfolk families. In addition there are also a number of ceramic collections given by individual donors, of considerable significance. In this category are the Caldwell Collection of Custard Cups and the Langton Cat Collection, a group of ninety-four miniature cats made from a variety of materials and ranging in date from the second century to the nineteenth. The other part of this collection, consisting of Ancient Egyptian miniature cats, is at University College, London.

The Walpole TureenNorwich Castle also has an important group of items of ceramic and glass decorated by William Absolon (1751-1815). The glass and silver holdings which chiefly cover the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with some earlier material, include a number of significant items such as the collection of Lynn glass and the earliest surviving English silver tea-kettle of 1694. The jewellery collection, presented to the museum by Anne Hull Grundy, consists of some fine eighteenth century paste and a wide range of mid to late nineteenth century pieces.

Contemporary craft has also been actively collected at the Museum since the 1960s and Norwich now holds the most outstanding collection in East Anglia. Ceramics and glass are most strongly represented but the collection also includes work in wood, jewellery, textiles, precious and non precious jewellery. Contemporary makers represented include: Elizabeth Fritsch, Alison Britton, Philip Eglin, Steven Newell, Caroline Broadhead and Wendy Ramshaw. The Museum has recently commissioned a work by Rod Kelly.


The archives feature two primary resource collections: an important early assemblage of Lowestoft porcelain wasters excavated at the Crown Street site 1902-4 and Colonel Bulwer’s archive relating to his teapot collection. Colonel Bulwer was a leading early member of the English Ceramics Circle and a respected authority on the subject and period covered by his collection.

History of the Decorative Art Collections

The Camperdown BowlDecorative art items have been a part of the collections of Norwich Castle Museum since its foundation in 1824 when it was known as Norwich Museum and the collections were housed elsewhere in the City. Since that time the collections have steadily grown both through donation and purchase.

Some of the most remarkable groups of acquisitions have been contributed by local collectors. These include Norwich silver from the Robert Fitch bequest of 1894; W. W. Rix Spelman’s gift of Lowestoft fragments and moulds presented between 1921 and 1925; the Susanna Taylor bequest of English pottery and porcelain; and pieces from the Lettice Colman collection of Lowestoft porcelain given in 1944. The largest bequest made to the collection were the six hundred British eighteenth century teapots given by Mrs Bulwer in 1946; her brother Colonel C.H.B. Caldwell donated his important collection of custard cups to the Museum in 1939. In addition many local individuals have presented smaller groups of items and individual pieces such as the gifts of Norwich silver from the Misses Colman and Russell J. Colman.

Many benefactors have been closely associated with the Friends of Norwich Museums, founded in 1921, which has consistently supported decorative art purchases. The largest purchase, and one of the most significant, was the acquisition of the Philip Miller collection of two thousand British ceramic teapots in 1988. In addition the collections have also benefited from the donation of objects from collectors from outside the region such as Blanche Langton who donated her collection of miniature cats in 1972.