Stairway to ceramic heaven…?


Last year I was lucky to have the time to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The Museum itself was first opened by Queen Victorian on the 22nd of June 1857, at this time it was known as the South Kensington Museum and was an extended Brompton Park House.

 It was the first Museum to have refreshment rooms and this caused quite a stir. The following year the museum, thanks to the use of gas lamps, stayed open later in the evenings in order to allow the working classes access. This was in a bid to increase the productivity whilst educating the masses.

On the 17th of May 1899 in a ceremony where Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for the Aston Webb building of the South Kensington Museum it was renamed The Victoria and Albert Museum. However it was King Edward the VII who opened the museum upon its completion on the 26th of June 1909, as the laying of the foundation stone to this Museum was to be Queen Victoria’s last public appearance.

Between 1864 and 1869 the Ceramic Staircase was designed and built by Frank Moody. F. W. The staircase known today as staircase one.

Moody was Instructor in Decorative Art in the South Kensington School and went on to become the first Master in the school of Design.

Moody’s plans for the staircase proved to be highly controversial as the construction commenced and it was said to be “Old fashioned” and “Out of keeping with the rest of the Museum”. However shortly after the opening word quickly spread and other public buildings soon were planning similar projects.

The Ceramic Staircase is a thing of pure delight to me, made mostly of terracotta glazed bricks and mosaics, it is a bright and vibrant affair.

There are many famous names to be seen hidden between greek Gods and other figures from Greek and Roman Mythology.

The floor of the staircase is a mosaic which was crafted and assembled by female prisoners of Woking jail in a bid to cut costs. Throughout the walls of the staircase one can see “Della Robbia” ware and mosaics, whilst the ceiling is completely decorated with vitrified ceramic paintings.

Never before have I witnessed such an array of different ceramic skills used in one place architecturally, it is breathtaking. I honestly recommend that anyone with any interest in ceramics or architecture pay a visit to this staircase if in London, you will not be disappointed.

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