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News > Obits > Modernist design collector, Ken Stradling, dies aged 100

Modernist design collector, Ken Stradling, dies aged 100

9 Aug 2022
Written by Cait Spencer

Ken Stradling, a crafts enthusiast whose passion founded a collection in Bristol, has died aged 100.

Ken Stradling was born and brought up in south Bristol. His family, though not affluent, was comfortable and cultivated good taste. His mother encouraged an early interest in antiques, taking him to auctions with her where he occasionally bought things. As a pupil at Bristol Grammar School in the 1930s, Ken developed his interest in the arts through the influence of its headmaster, J. E. Barton. Barton wrote for the BBC’s Listener magazine, broadcast on contemporary art and design and was passionate about the value of art and design education. After leaving the army in 1948 Ken started working as Assistant Manager at the Bristol Guild of Applied Art in Park Street, increasing the staff from two to three, & starting his 60 year career of collecting ceramics, glass, and furniture. 

He was awarded an MBE in 2020 in recognition for his services to Bristol's cultural life. “I’m interested in design generally, whether it’s pottery, glass, industrial design or craft and so on; it’s all design to me and that’s why I can go from one to the other.”

He had his finger on the pulse until the very end," said Tanya Martin, curator of his collection. "He didn't just collect objects, he collected stories to do with the makers, with the artists," "I will miss him terribly, but he will miss us more. "His collection will stay here - it will live on in his memory," 

The Ken Stradling Collection was founded on 48 Park Row in 2006 when Mr Stradling retired and established a charitable trust to give it a permanent home. The nationally significant collection narrowly avoided being sent to the V&A Museum.

"Through Ken's generosity and vision, the Stradling Collection is and will remain a jewel in Bristol's cultural crown," said Cleo Witt, collection trustee.

Mr Stradling was still contributing to his collection just two weeks before he died, sending in a Wedgwood jug for cataloguing.

"He was in love with everything Scandinavian, we called him an accidental collector. "He never set out to do this, but just kept on buying.

"A lot of people come from Bristol and they say they have no idea that we existed, but we want to spread the word and make as many people aware about us now that Ken has died," said Ms Martin.

Mr Stradling's funeral will take place on 16 August.

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