Exploring the Museum collections through food histories


EXPERIENCE our COLLECTIONS through food histories

After a successful funding bid to Arts Council England, the Museum has been working with Dr Neil Buttery, award-winning food historian, author, podcaster, and chef. Dr Buttery has delved into our archives to uncover interesting food-related objects and stories, and delivered an online talk ‘Navigating 19th Century English meals through Worcester porcelain’ available to watch here.

Our new Georgian dining table display, ‘Dr Wall’s Dinner’, will showcase how the historic tables of the wealthy were set with Worcester porcelain and intricate meals, and will also shed light on the laborious roles of servants and kitchen aids of the time. The table will be set à la française (in the French style), and will include modelled pheasants, a jelly containing a hen’s nest, a ‘hunting pudding’, asparagus, bread rolls, and mince pies, as well as tureens that would have contained soup and peas. Displaying these impressive 18th century meals on Worcester porcelain will bring the social history of our collections to life.

A ‘dessert cabinet’ has been also developed to display the sweet treats of the Georgian era. Porcelain ice pails, chocolate cups, a grape wagon, fruit bowls, and silver garnishing moulds (in shape of apricots, a pear, and a bundle asparagus) convey varied food-serving techniques. Modelled peaches and a pineapple foreground the transportation and significance of ‘exotic’ produce. These displays aim to highlight the preparation and serving of food on Worcester porcelain in Georgian England.


As part of this project we are collaborating with Worcestershire Litfest to co-create a ‘Language of Porcelain and Food’ display and event. Poets will have open access to our collections from May 2024, with a brief to:

  • use our collections as inspiration to explore the relationships between Worcester porcelain and food histories. Themes include the service and presentation of different foods, the performance of Georgian dining, the artistry of the table, intricate social relationships, the role of servants and chefs, global influences, fashion and etiquette, and more.
  • write written responses on ‘The Language of Porcelain and Food’ .

These poems will enhance our collections interpretation from a new creative outlook. There will be an event at the Museum on 6 October to celebrate this collaboration, with written responses displayed throughout the galleries and poetry readings, which will be filmed and shared for legacy. For more info, please email [email protected]


Dr Buttery will also be delivering a variety of workshops for school groups, Heart of Worcestershire College’s hospitality and catering students, and visitors at our Summer Open Day (14 August 2024). Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the links between our ceramics and the preparation and presentation of historic foods, before having a go themselves. We have also been awarded a Royal Society ‘Places of Science’ grant, to develop and host hands-on workshops exploring the science of historic ice-cream.

Explore the picture gallery to see a selection of ceramics used in dining contexts and images from the project so far.

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