Paul and Glenda Norman received a Belleek sugar bowl and cream jug as a wedding present in 1979. As their collection grew, they decided to seek other enthusiasts and became founding members of the New Zealand Belleek Collectors Club.
The New Zealand Belleek Collectors Club had its inaugural meeting at the home of the late Karlie and Bryce Birchall.
Paul and Glenda are also members of the United Kingdom Collectors Group and the International Belleek Society.
When possible, they plan their overseas travel to include international meetings. In 2003 the meeting was in Portland, Oregon, in 2007, the 150th anniversary of the founding of the pottery was held in Ireland at Belleek, and in 2011, the meeting was in Chicago.
The village of Belleek is in Northern Ireland. It sits on the banks of the river Erne, which is now part of the border between Northern and Southern Ireland.
In the 1850’s John Bloomfield inherited the family estate that included the village of Belleek. Ireland was still recovering from the Potato famine and Bloomfield searched for an answer that would improve his fortunes and benefit the local population. He discovered on his property deposits of fine china clay and feldspar, the two items vital to make porcelain or parian china. He took samples to Dublin and later leased out the clay and building site to establish the pottery building.
David McBirnie was a wealthy Dublin merchant and railway owner keen on the establishment of industry in Ireland. He financed the whole venture of establishing the pottery building, kilns and houses for the workers; and was the sole owner until his death in 1882.
Robert Armstrong was an Irish architect who had designed a new building for the Worcester pottery in England. He was appointed the first Belleek Manager and was responsible for the formulations of china manufacture and designs. A perfectionist, in every detail he created the quality that became the repuation of Belleek. He died in 1884.
With the deaths of McBirnie and Armstrong within 18 months the pottery building was closed for four months until purchased by a group of Irish investors. A series of new owners and managers has kept this pottery building going ever since.
In 1900 it was purchased by Irish-Americans George and Angela Moore, and currently has about 265 employees. Production of fine parian china is still made in Belleek, with ‘Belleek Living’ now made in Asia.
Entry to museum is $18 (adult), however entry is free for locals with relevant ID.