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Decorative art

Decorative plate with the design of a woman's face

Porcelain plate with transfer-printed design, made by Fornasetti, Italy, about 1960

The decorative art collection includes ceramics, glass, metalwork, jewellery, furniture and musical instruments. It numbers around 100,000 items and covers three hundred years of history, from 1700 to the present day.

The collection represents developments in design that were important both nationally and internationally, as well as items that were designed, made or decorated in Liverpool and the Merseyside area.

Objects that were made for a local patron, or to commemorate local people, places and events, are also included. 

Image gallery

Ceramics: Mother and child figure, earthenware, made by Philip Eglin, 1994. Glass: glass vase, designed and made by Annette Meech, 1992. Metalwork: silver gilt tea service in the form of vine leaves and tendrils, made by William Smith, Liverpool, 1870. Jewellery: gold bracelet, set with a chalcedony cameo and pearls, made by Thomas J Paris, Liverpool, about 1870-75 Furniture: Oak chair with leather seat, designed by C.F.A. Voysey, 1902. Purchased with the assistance of the Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Fund, 1982 Textiles: Altar frontal, designed by Charles EamerKempe and made by the Clewer Sisters, Windsor, for St Agnes' Church, Liverpool, about 1893-1902. Musical instruments: digital harp, made by Edward Light, London, about 1818.


Decorative art collection areas


The Decorative Art department houses an outstanding collection of 10,000 British and European ceramics, dating from the medieval period to the present day. It includes the most comprehensive public collection of Liverpool-made ceramics, representing delftware, porcelain and creamware, and covering the period from 1700-1850. There is also a growing collection of about 300 modern studio ceramics, dating from the 1960s to the present day. This includes the Ratoff studio ceramics collection with 108 ceramics collected by Len and Pamela Ratoff.


There are approximately 2,500 items of British and European vessel glass. They include an important collection of 18th century wine glasses and early 19th century Irish cut glass. Contemporary vessel glass is a smaller but growing part of the collection.Stained glass is also represented in the collection, ranging in date from the medieval period to the early 20th century, and including examples from many local churches. 


The collection of precious metal, silver and gold dates from the 18th century to the present day and numbers about 1,300 objects. It includes a small collection of silver made by Liverpool silversmiths as well as outstanding items by major British and European makers. A collection of 1,400 base metal items, dating from medieval times to the 19th century, represents domestic metalware over that period. 


The collection of 1,400 pieces of precious jewellery dates from the medieval period to the present day. It includes a large group of finger rings and a small but growing collection of modern jewellery, dating mostly from the 1980s onwards.A separate but associated collection of costume jewellery dates from the late 18th century to the 1960s.  


There are about 300 items of furniture in the Decorative Art Department, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, and including pieces by several important Liverpool designers and makers, notably George Bullock and Herbert Macnair. Many items are displayed in the Walker Art Gallery and at Sudley House. The Department also owns much of the 18th and 19th century furniture currently displayed on long-term loan at Croxteth Hall, Liverpool.  


The textile collection numbers approximately 10,000 items and covers the period from 1700 to the present day. It includes both secular and ecclesiastical embroideries, lace, samplers, Berlin woolwork, patchwork quilts and household furnishings. 

Musical instruments  

The collection of about 120 musical instruments is of international importance and covers the period from the 17th to the 20th centuries. It is especially strong in early keyboard instruments. The former Rushworth and Dreaper Collection, which was purchased from the firm in 1967, forms about fifty per cent of the entire collection.