Fox Collection
Iris and John Fox display
Fox Collection
Wemyss Ware cats
fox wemyss
Wemyss ware

The Fox Collection

The Iris and John Fox Collection

In 1991 the Museum and Art Galley was approached by a firm of Edinburgh solicitors to view a collection of ceramics owned by Mrs Iris Fox.  

Their letter indicated that:

“Mrs Iris Fox was born outside Newport but has lived in Edinburgh for many years. She is now aged nearly 78 and has an outstanding collection of Wemyss Ware and German and French porcelain. She has never lost her love for her homeland of Wales and I think she would really like a museum in Wales, preferably one near her place of birth to benefit”.  

Following an initial visit in 1991 and several further visits during 1992 up until Mrs Fox’s death in December that year, five hundred items of pottery, porcelain, furniture and dolls were selected and subsequently bequeathed to Newport Museum and Art Gallery.  

Iris Fox

Iris Ivy Elizabeth was one of four children born to Owen and Beatrice Fudge of Newbridge in October 1913.

Her father was a colliery timberman and her mother, a forceful personality, was an intuitive trader in a variety of merchandise.

Iris was greatly influenced by her mother and her early experiences were to benefit her later in life.

After a short spell of education in the Stow Hill area of Newport, Iris spent her childhood at home keeping house and caring for her sickly younger brother Jack.

Inspired by her mother, who collected objects d’art, Iris’s own collecting career began as a young child when she purchased her first porcelain figurine for sixpence, the money was raised by selling firewood.  

Enduring the hardships of life in the south Wales valleys through the I920s and 1930s, Iris married John Stanley Fox in 1935.

After a succession of commercial ventures they travelled to London looking for work.

When war was declared in 1939 Iris had already taken work as a housekeeper and her husband was conscripted to serve in the Royal Artillery in North Africa.  


During the war Iris developed her skills as a nanny-cum-housekeeper and, after the birth of her son John in 1944 her employment took them to Scotland.

After the war Stanley was reunited with his family in Edinburgh.

In 1948 tragedy struck the Fox household when, during a visit to south Wales, the train in which father and son were travelling was involved in a catastrophic accident.

The child was killed and his father badly injured. The compensation which Iris and Stanley received from the railway company enabled them to acquire several boarding houses in Lauriston Place near Edinburgh University. And also two antique shops - one each!  

Joined in Scotland by Iris’s brother Jack, the trio worked hard to cater for over 40 students in their accommodation.

Many friendships were made during this time including that of the celebrated Scottish novelist Muriel Spark whose son was one of their lodgers.  


The personality of Iris Fox’s collections was driven by her instincts and a love of animals and flowers.

Thus her astute acquisition of the highly decorated Wemyss Ware, long before it was fashionable, exemplified her style of collecting. 

It would appear that what spare time was left to Iris and Stan was spent scouring antique shops, auction houses and salerooms around Scotland purchasing their growing collections of Scottish and English pottery, European porcelain, furniture, glassware and dolls.  

Following the sale of their boarding houses, a large property on the outskirts of Edinburgh was purchased in October 1969.

This imposing yet austere sixteen roomed Victorian house, garden and stable block enabled them to gather together and display their collections in a variety of magnificent themed rooms.

Every room in the house was crammed full and had its own identity - even the upstairs bathroom which housed a collection of commemorative items celebrating the Scottish poet, Robert Burns.

At a conservative estimate the house contained over ten thousand items.  

Iris’s antique shop in West Bow, off the Grassmarket in the Old Town area of Edinburgh, was an ideal location.

It was a meeting place where deals were struck. But typical of Iris the collector more items were purchased here than were ever sold.

It was here that the fortunate, to whom Iris took a special liking, might receive an invitation back to her house.  

Iris’s pride and joy was what she called ‘Buckingham Palace’. One entered this room through a large panelled door, surmounted by the Royal Coat of Arms, to feast one’s eyes upon a spectacular display of German and French porcelain.  

A visit to the Fox household was an experience never to be forgotten. One felt especially privileged to be given the personal tour and to be regaled by the passionately told collecting stories.  

The garden too was an eccentric and magical place. Thoughtfully designed to suit their requirements, it contained dozens of enamel baths which acted as raised garden beds.

Graham and Jack, a pair of alert geese, were a protection against intruders. Sundry chickens and a cockerel were neatly penned and provided fresh eggs.

Domestic pets relaxed in the warm greenhouses, abundant shrubberies and flower borders.

This self-sufficiency and independence was ceaselessly striven for over a lifetime of hard work often at the expense of their own comforts.

The collections always came first. They were the children that the family were so tragically denied.  

After Iris’s death in December 1992 the contents of the house were dispersed and the property and antique shop sold.  

The story related is based on personal reminiscences, documentary material, photographs and video footage made whilst Mrs Fox was still alive.

It is a tale of hardship, sadness and fortitude and above all the pleasure of collecting.

It is fitting therefore that Iris’s generosity of spirit has been marked by her bequest to Newport.  

This Museum is proud to have played its part in bringing Mrs Fox’s Collections into the public domain.  

John Stanley Fox died in 1980, Iris Fox died in 1992 and Jack Fudge died in 1993.  

The Fox Collection was sold by Sotheby’s at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh on 7 and 8 November 1994.  

The proceeds were donated to Iris Fox’s favourite charities in Edinburgh, the Diabetic Trust at the Royal Infirmary, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion and the Royal Blind Asylum and School.

The Wemyss cat inscribed 'Iris' in the image above was decorated by Griselda Hill (Griselda Hill Pottery Ltd.) and commissioned by Newporrt Museum and Art Gallery in 1995 to feature in the display of the Fox collection.