Colin Melbourne: Sir Henry Doulton, Sir Stanley Matthews, Man of Steel
Born in 1928, Colin Melbourne was the sculptor of many public art works within the city that successfully captured the spirit of the potteries and its people.
After finishing education at Burslem Art School, Melbourne gained employment at Wedgwood as an assistant modeller before being offered a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London where he studied ceramics.
Following graduation Melbourne worked with the likes of Wade and Beswick before becoming a teacher at Stoke-on-Trent College of Art in 1960. The College eventually became part of the North Staffordshire Polytechnic (now Staffordshire University) where Melbourne was appointed head of art and design in 1970.
Melbourne was known as a man with a forceful personality and strong convictions and was ever popular amongst his students. He retired from Staffordshire Polytechnic in 1980 due to health problems, however returned a few years later to teach at the Sir Henry Doulton School of Sculpture which he helped found.
Melbourne dedicated his final years to painting; his work was exhibited throughout North Staffordshire. He died at home on 5 August 2009, aged 80.
Colin Melbourne is the sculptor of various artworks situated around the city and four of these feature on Stoke-on-Trent’s Sculpture Trail. In 1974 Colin Melbourne supported the campaign to save the Shelton bar; the last steel works in North Staffordshire. The campaign was found unsuccessful and after more than 100 years of continuous operation the furnaces were shut down on June 23rd 1978, over two thousand workers were made redundant. Melbourne created the ‘The Fighting Man’ a sculptor symbolising the struggle of the Shelton Bar steelworkers to retain their livelihood.
The iconic sculpture of Sir Henry Doulton that stands in the market square was created by Colin Melbourne in 1986 before being exhibited at Etruria’s National Garden Festival. Sir Henry Doulton was one of the City’s well known pottery manufacturers and one of the key members of the Doulton family who founded the Royal Doulton Pottery firm.
Melbourne’s best known sculpture was created in 1987 and is located at the heart of the city centre the sculpture depicts local football legend Sir Stanley Matthews. The Sculpture was a result of a chance meeting lifelong Stoke City supporter, Melbourne had with Matthews.
One of his other sculptures is of the British aeronautical engineer Reginald Mitchell. Between 1920 and 1936 he designed many aircraft, including light aircraft, fighters, bombers and flying boats. He is best remembered for his work on the legendary spitfire fighter plane. Sadly, he died in 1937, so did not live to see the success of the spitfire in world war two.
Melbourne was driven by the belief that art had a role to play in ordinary people’s lives; he showed through his own work how art could be relevant and make a difference in the real world.