Until May 2012
Robin Miller, a descendant of Thomas Miller, who owned one of Preston’s most successful cotton manufacturers, Horrockses, left a generous bequest in his will to the Harris Museum & Art Gallery in 2011. This display highlighted pieces from an elegantly detailed service of Crown Derby porcelain dinnerware.
Robin spent much of his life in London, working as a theatre director, but maintained a great affinity with Preston through his family heritage. Part of his bequest has already been put on display for visitors to enjoy.
The new display from the bequest showcases an elegantly detailed service of Crown Derby porcelain dishes, plates and tureens, prominently displayed in cases around the Harris’ central rotunda, appropriately, where the Museum’s café is located.
The service is decorated with intricately detailed landscapes of the British countryside that inspired artists and writers of the early 1800s, and that are still popular tourist destinations today, such as the Lake District and Derbyshire. The scenes of rural land and workers in Cumberland and Derbyshire portray a romanticised version of country life.
The new display was created with help of members of the Blackpool Victoria Hospital Walking Club, who shared their experiences of the British countryside and helped to identify the locations painted on the ceramics. Comments by the group can be seen alongside the collection.
The porcelain objects on display are from a 39 piece dessert service, produced in around 1810. It would have been used to serve ice cream, sugar, and jellied fruits called sweetmeats. The service is an excellent example of Crown Derby porcelain, decorated with the picturesque landscapes inside gilt borders.
The bequest also features 17 paintings, by artists such as Davis Cox and William Henry Hunt which were part of the original art collection of Robin’s great-great grandfather Thomas Miller Junior, who owned Horrockses Cotton Manufacturers and lived in Winckley Square and Singleton Hall, and gave the land to establish Preston’s Miller Park. The bequest also includes a fine portrait of the founder of this cotton dynasty, Robin Miller’s great-great-great Grandfather, Thomas Miller Senior, who jointly owned Preston’s Horrockses cotton manufacturers from 1801 to 1840 with John and Samuel Horrocks, and who was three times Mayor of Preston.
Robin is fondly remembered by the museum, and Emma Heslewood, Curator of History said:
‘Robin was passionate about his family history and keen to see the collections his great-great grandfather developed in Preston return to Lancashire. He had already donated the families’ extensive photographic collection to the Harris and wanted the art collection to join them when he died. Robin’s generosity to the people of Preston will always be remembered.’
Image: Porcelain shell dish from a dessert service made by Crown Derby, about 1810