Press release

UK risks losing last piece of rare William Burges vase set

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on the vase so the full set can remain in the country

William Burges vase
William Burges vase

One of four rare William Burges vases designed for Cardiff Castle is at risk of being exported from the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the asking price of £225,000. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on the vase so the full set can remain in the country.

The four vases were designed in 1874 for the Summer Smoking Room, at the top of the Cardiff Castle’s clock tower. It is the last vase still left in private ownership. One of the vases is housed in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, and another is at The Higgins Gallery and Museum, Bedford. The third vase was subject to an export bar last year and was successfully saved by the National Museum of Wales and will be displayed at the National Museum Cardiff.

William Burges was one of the most original and important British architects and designers of the nineteenth century. He was commissioned by John Patrick-Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute, to rebuild Cardiff Castle, known as one of his life’s greatest works. These vases played a prominent role in the interior decoration of the Summer Smoking Room. The vase’s colours and love bird design were reflected in the room’s interior, possibly in celebration of Bute’s ten years of marriage.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

This vase is not only a rare example of William Burges’ ceramic design, it is the last piece of this stunning quartet. I hope that we are able to keep this this vase - and thus the whole set - in the UK for the public to enjoy for years to come.

The decision to defer the export licence follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by The Arts Council.

The RCEWA made its recommendation on the grounds that it was so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune; that it was of outstanding aesthetic importance; and that it was of outstanding significance for the study of the development of William Burges’s great range and skill as a designer and the eclecticism that characterises his style.

RCEWA Chairman Sir Hayden Phillips said:

This beautiful vase is the fourth in a suite of four. Just over a year ago the Committee recommended that the third vase should not be allowed to be exported if it could be purchased to allow it to remain in this country. That was achieved and it is now in the National Museum of Wales. Apart from this vase’s intrinsic quality the opportunity is now there for us to retain the original quartet which would be a noble purpose, in the public interest, and of great historical significance. Its retention would open the possibility of a future reunification and therefore the realisation of Burges’ vision for the four pieces.

The decision on the export licence application for the vase will be deferred until 16 September 2016. This may be extended until 16 February 2017 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase it is made at the recommended price of £225,000 (net of VAT).

Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the vase should contact the RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.

An image of the vase can be downloaded here.

For media information contact: Francesca Roettger Moreda Tel: 0207 211 6263 Email

Published 17 June 2016