burton art gallery and museum
gallery highlights




Kingsley Road, Bideford, Devon EX39 2QQ

Telephone: 01237 471455
Email: info@theburton.org

Admission is Free
Open Daily 10am - 4pm
Sundays 11am - 4pm


Ceramics and RJ Lloyd

Ceramics in Bideford and North Devon
Pots have been produced in North Devon since the Middle Ages, using the local clay found at Fremington. At one time thousands were made for use in local homes and farms and exported to parts of England, South Wales and to the American colonies.

The town of Bideford’s history is intimately bound up with the pottery industry. In the 17th century small ships voyaged to the New World with cargoes of pots, many examples of which can be found there today in museums. Due to the accessibility of clay and wood, potters made a good living in the Bideford area and many became wealthy trading merchants. Vast quantities of pots, crocks and ovens left Bideford Quay for the settler sites of Virginia and the ships were loaded back with tobacco.

Much of the pottery produced around Bideford was plain earthenware for cooking and storage.  North Devon is particularly well known for its harvest jugs.  These were made for celebrations, were covered with shapes and patterns from the natural world and might also be inscribed with poems or sayings.  This area is famous for two decorative techniques.  One is slip trailing, the use of slip or liquid white clay to dip pots or trail patterns on them.  The other is sgraffito, a technique for making shapes by scratching through a slip to reveal the clay underneath.

In 2007, with support from The Friends of the Burton, The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), The Art Fund and The Bideford Bridge Trust the Burton purchased the RJ Lloyd Collection , which comprises of some 535 pieces, collected by artist and Bideford resident, Mr RJ Lloyd. The new Ceramics Gallery at the Burton was opened in 2010.

What’s in the Ceramics Collection?
The Ceramics Collection at the Burton is a unique and significant collection of predominately North Devon slipware. It provides an ideal introduction to the history and heritage of ceramics in the area. Dating from the late 1600s to the 1970s, both everyday domestic ware and fine decorative pieces are included. Locally-produced ‘harvest jugs’ form an important part of the collection.

Image: The 1907 Fremington Team
(The Fishleys at Fremington Pottery)

The RJL Collection is an interesting mix reflecting the collector’s growing fascination for the slipware pottery of England, and especially North Devon .The Collection contains over 500 pieces some of which are made by local craftsmen, including the Fishley family who had a pottery at Fremington.  More recent pieces include pots by Philip Leach, Michael Cardew, Clive Bowen and Harry Juniper, who still makes and decorates pots in the traditional way, selling from his shop by Bideford Quay.

RJ Lloyd started collecting North Devon Slipware in the early 1950s. He appreciated that, with so many potteries working in the area, it was part of North Devon’s industrial history. Many of the ceramics are things of beauty, with their honey-glossed glazes, engraved drawings and poems. From the 1740s harvest jugs bore drawings of tall ships in full sails, mermaids, stars, compasses and coats of arms. It also includes examples of jugs and domestic wares used daily before we had such mod cons as fridges and tap water. Some of the pots have weird and wonderful names, such as widebottoms, gulleymouths and pinchguts. Over the decades, the RJ Lloyd collection grew until it was acknowledged as rivalling many national institutions. Now it is open to the public, where it can be enjoyed by all.

The RJ Lloyd Ceramics Collection: Artist as Collector - publication
A fully illustrated book on the RJ Lloyd ceramic collection, The RJ Lloyd Ceramics Collection: Artist as Collector, is published by the Burton to accompany the new permanent display. The book includes a contextual essay on the place of ceramic collections in museums by the internationally renowned potter Alison Britton and an introductory essay by Professor Simon Olding. At the heart of the book is a conversation between RJ Lloyd and the Burton’s Exhibitions and Collections Officer Warren Collum. This dialogue traces RJ Lloyd's growing fascination for the slipware pottery of England, and especially North Devon, from rare early pieces through to work made by renowned craft potters such as Michael Cardew and Clive Bowen. The once thriving pottery trade of North Devon is captured in this extensive collection, which celebrates the ordinary and the extraordinary through work of honest conviction, lively drawing and commemorative inscriptions.

The book is published in association with the Crafts Study Centre, and can be purchased via the Burton shop for £6.99 plus £2 postage and packaging if required. Please contact the Burton to discuss.

Information for Schools, College and Groups - Ceramics Loans Collection
Available for loan to schools, art clubs and other groups of learners, The Burton’s  Ceramics Handling Collection includes examples of North Devon slipware, traditional sgraffito samples and even ancient North Devon pottery and Roman ceramics. An accompanying DVD introduces the collection with some fascinating archive film showing how a harvest jug is made.

The loans collection can be booked for periods of 3 - 6 weeks. Please contact the Burton to discuss availability.

Further Information
At present over half of the RJ Lloyd collection is on permanent display. You can use the search facility at the top right of this website to research and view the whole collection, including items currently in store.

If you would like to view specific items from the collection that are not  permanently displayed and are in storage, please contact the Exhibition and Collections Officer - Warren Collum to arrange an appointment.

View Collection ›

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The Ackland and Edwards Collection

The Ackland and Edwards Collection consists of watercolours, drawings, and dioramas of local topographical or historical interest, produced by Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards between 1913 – 1965 and was presented to the Burton Art Gallery and Museum by Mary Stella Edwards.

Judith Ackland was born in Bideford and attended the town’s art school for several years before going to London, where she met fellow student Mary Stella Edwards at the Regent Street Polytechnic. This began a partnership only halted by Ackland’s death in 1971.

Although much of Acklands and Edwards work was produced in the surrounding coast and countryside of Bideford, they also travelled and worked widely. The result being that their works are included in several major collections across the country including; the Victoria and Albert Museum, Museum of London, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendall and the National Museum of Wales.

In 1945 Ackland devised a new form of model making, and registered it under the name of ‘Jackanda’. Using cotton wool as the base material for her models she produced figures and scenes which have the clarity of carvings and which possess such vitality that in photographs they are often mistaken for real people.

Bideford remained one of the artist’s homes, and they often spent time at Bucks Mill in The Cabin, which they used as a studio and base. Now owned by the National Trust, the Cabin remains a faithful monument to their collaboration and a testament to the landscape, which inspired the production of such a renowned body of work.

In writing this for the gallery website, the Burton Art Gallery and Museum acknowledges the essay by Peter Richey, first produced as part of an exhibition catalogue commemorating the first presentation of the Acklands and Edwards Collection at the gallery. A new publication produced by the Acklands and Edwards Trust to coincide with the purchase of The Cabin by The National Trust will be available from the gallery by the end of 2009.

Bideford’s Heritage

As part of the Collection, the Burton hosts artefacts relating to Bideford’s heritage, many of which came from the original Bideford Museum. These items illustrate local personalities from Bideford’s past such as Sir Richard Grenville, Edward Capern the postman poet, John Strange, who assisted plague victims in 1646 when the others had fled, the last Witches to be executed in England, and the first Red Indian to land on English shores. Artefacts include examples of North Devon slipware, the original Town Charter sealed by Elizabeth 1 in1583, a scale model of Bideford’s ancient Long Bridge in all its stages from 1280 to the present day, in addition local trades, such as a lime-burning, saddlery, glove and collar making are also illustrated.

Charles Kingsley wrote:

“Everyone who knows Bideford cannot but know Bideford Bridge for its very soul….. around which the town, as a body, has organised itself…”

The Long Bridge was begun c1280, when tradition has it that Bishop Quivel of Exeter was granted indulgences to raise the money for its cost. It was certainly there in 1327, when Bishop Stapleton left forty shillings to “the bridge of Bydeforde”. The original structure was wooden and there was a chapel at each end. In 1459, the Pope granted indulgences for the repair of the “Bridge at Bideford… there flows a very rapid and dangerous river, in which on account of the faulty structure of the said bridge, which is of wood, many persons have been drowned, and that on the said bridge there are two chapels, the one of St. Mary the Virgin and the other of All Saints, which are also in great need of repair”.

The museum has two items relating to Bideford’s famous bridge: the model of the Bridge at various stages of its development, constructed by Mr. Frank Whiting in 1945, for the Bridge Trust. Mr. Whiting, a notable architect, designed the original Burton Art Gallery. The Bridge Trust owned many properties in Bideford, the rent from these properties was used to maintain the bridge, which needed to be widened throughout history as local traffic increased from horse drawn to engine powered. The model shows the different building stages from the 13th century to the mind 20th century.

An oak beam from the original Bideford bridge was discovered during repairs to the later, stone bridge, and is displayed in the Museum. It has a mortice and tenon joint at one end, and a scarfe joint on the other, suggesting that it was a diagonal supporting timber.

Napoleonic Model Ships
Made by French Prisoners of War during the Napoleonic Wars, these ships are made of mutton bones riveted with copper wire onto a wooden hull. The bone would have been salvaged from their dustbins and worked with nails sharpened into little chisels. The rigging is made from threads drawn from their shirts.

These models were made by men who may have been craftsmen before joining the French Navy, often on a production line basis with one man making the planking and another doing the fine carving, probably with advice from the English on the technical details of the ships. These prisoners often had other talents, such as the ability to forge £5 notes, thousands of which found their way into Banks in Exeter and Plymouth.

The war with the French, which later became known as the Napoleonic Wars, broke out in 1793 and was fought almost continuously, until 1815. At the height of the war there were 8,000 Frenchmen in Dartmoor Prison alone (a prison built for the purpose of housing French Prisoners of War). In Bideford there was a prisoner of war camp, on the site of which was later to be the gas works, and their skeletons were discovered when the foundations were being laid.

Prisoners were supposed to be maintained by their own governments. Those who were poor, however, suffered acutely under this system, while those with private means managed to live fairly well. Some French officers were even allowed to live in lodgings out of confinement, where it was not unknown for them to marry local girls and settle down. At the other end of the spectrum there were prisoners who lived in nothing but blankets and fought like animals for scraps of food.

Calling Card Cases
In the 18th and 19th centuries, what was know as the ‘the gentry’ or better off people, never visited their friends or neighbours without first presenting a card with their name and address on. In order to keep these cards neatly, little cases were made to hold them securely. Some cases opened like a book, with a small pencil in the centrefold, an ivory notepad on one side, and a concertina like section to hold 5 or 6 cards. Other cases were oblong, hollow and had a flip top lid, while some opened from the side with a spring button or clip. The gallery collection consists of around 800 cases, donated by Mr McTaggart-Short, a businessman from Cardiff, who loved Bideford. Some cases are made of silver with embossed designs; others are of ivory and mother-of-pearl, wood or tortoiseshell.

Tea Caddies
These date from the 18th and 19th centuries, when tea was a rarity and very expensive. Tea was locked into these caddies, and only the lady of the house would possess a key. Some caddies are made of ivory with silver decoration, or tortoiseshell, both very exotic and fashionable in those days. Some have 2-lidded compartments for different varieties of tea, and are usually lined with zinc. Tea was served in little bowls without handles, and neither milk nor sugar was added. The drinking of tea in England was on a parallel to the Japanese tea ceremony, and was particularly popular with ladies. These must have been some of the very first ‘tea parties’ where they could meet and exchange gossip.

Clay Pipes
Sir Walter Raleigh first introduced tobacco to Britain in Elizabethan times, it was new and expensive, and smoking quickly became fashionable. The cost of tobacco meant only small quantities were smoked and the first clay pipes were very small, with short stems. Later on as more tobacco was imported into Britain and became cheaper to buy, pipe bowls were larger, and stems longer so that the hot smoke cooled down a little before reaching the smoker’s mouth.


The gallery was built specifically to house the collections of Hubert Coop, which consists of watercolours, oil paintings and Napoleonic ship models. Important additions to the collections have since included the works of local artists Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards, which were presented to the Gallery in 1971 on the death of the former. There are also collections deriving from the former Bideford Museum, which closed in 1978. Today the collections comprise of some 2,529 items including:-

Watercolour paintings by Hubert Coop (part of the Coop Collection), Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards (the Ackland Edwards Collection), Sheila Hutchinson and other 19th and 20th century artists;

Oil paintings by E.Aubrey Hunt, Mark Fisher RA, Sir John Lavery RA, Sir George Clausen RA, Arthur Friedenson, William McTaggart (part of the Coop Collection) and other 18th, 19th and 20th century artists;

A collection of prints, drawings and photographs by A Braund, H.A Sandercock and others by various artists;

Ceramics. British and foreign ceramics. North Devon slipware from the 17th to the mid 20th century. Specifically work by the Fishley family of Fremington and Bideford Potteries, as well as the RJ Lloyd Collection;

Decorative arts. Model ships made by Napoleonic prisoners of war. Tea caddies, silverware, wine glasses. Pewter, snuff boxes. The Arthur McTaggart-Short collection of 816 visiting card cases. Furniture. Cotton wool figure (Jackanda) and other items;

Social History items including a model of Bideford Bridge, the town stocks and the Royal Charter. Images of local characters including the Postman Poet Edward Capern, Charles Kingsley and Sir Richard Grenville. Items from local industries such as glove and collar making, lime burning, the tobacco trade and saddlery. Many other similar objects;

Geological material. The Inkerman Rogers collection presently held at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter;

Coins. The Abbotsham hoard – a collection of 435 17th century coins discovered in 2001;

In 2007, with support from The Friends of the Burton, The Heritage Lottery Fund (HFL), The Art Fund and The Bridge Trust the Burton purchased the RJ Lloyd Collection , which comprises of some 335 pieces of predominantly West Country, and in particular North Devon, slipware pottery with sgraffito decoration, together with comparative pieces and related artefacts. Originally assembled by the acclaimed local artist and collector, RJ Lloyd, it includes ceramics dating from the 18th century to the present-day, both everyday and fine decorative pieces are included. Central to the collection are the locally produced ‘harvest jugs’ a traditional technique strongly linked to the local heritage. This exceptional collection is hugely significant to the local area and heritage as well as complimenting and expanding the Burton’s collections.


The Story of Bideford Black

The Story of Bideford Black celebrates Bideford’s past industry.
The Story of Bideford Black, a coal-based pigment found in the Bideford area, is a significant element in Bideford’s history. The formation of coal and paint seams across North Devon began 350 million years ago in the warmer Carboniferous era, gave rise to Biddi-black, to give it its local name, which is found in a number of seams stretching from Abbotsham on the coast 12 miles inland to Umberleigh in the Taw valley. It exists in three forms - a hard anthracite coal, a thick black clay and a fine ‘smutty’ powder – all used for different purposes over the years.

Mined from the seventeenth century up until 1969 it was used as fuel in local lime kilns and potteries as well as forming the raw material for a paint used by the Royal Navy to protect the hulls of wooden warships and by the Ministry of Defence for tank camouflage in WWII, as well as the basis for mascara and many other applications, spreading the name of Bideford far and wide!

This display documents a key part of the story of Bideford re-told within the permanent collection at the Burton. With the support of the local community, we’ve been able to record and document memories and collect relevant artefacts, first hand information that could have been lost forever. What’s even more exciting is that Bideford Black is not only part of our local heritage but it’s also an artists material, in fact a number of local artists, including Pete Ward, Merlyn Chesterman and Judith Westcott use Bideford Black in their work. So it also has a direct connection with the current day.” commented Warren Collum, Exhibition and Collections Officer, Burton Art Gallery and Museum.

Pete Ward, Artist and Lead Researcher, originally proposed the idea for a display, having worked with Bideford Black as an artists material for a number of years and having become more and more intrigued with its history.

The display brings together three main themes relating to Bideford Black – Art – Geology – History. For more information click here to visit the Bideford Black Blogspot!

As part of the project, in June 2013, a new generation of Bidefordians discovered the heritage – quite literally beneath their feet, when children from both East-the-Water and Abbottsham schools learnt about Bideford Black. Workshops led by Pete Ward, ran in both schools bringing the story of this unique pigment, to life. Much of the artwork produced by the children is included within the display and has been on show in Café du Parc in the lead up to the main display opening. The workshops also included a walk around the area with the children ‘looking for clues’ to the importance of Bideford Black in the town’s history, such as road names relating to the industry. But most excitingly two ex-Bideford Black miners, who came forward during the Burton’s search for information also took part in the workshops, sharing their stories and memories about Bideford Black and bringing history to life for the children.

This project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s All Our Stories programme and generously supported by the Friends of the Burton through a legacy grant from Peggy Lines. The project has recorded, documented and explored Bideford Black resulting in the new permanent display.

Bideford Black: The Next Generation - The Story continues.........
Bideford Black: The Next Generation is the outcome of a year of research and making, during which nine artists from across the UK pushed Bideford Black pigment to its physical limits and thought about what the material might mean today. This natural material has historically been used in industry, and by artists to draw, paint and print with.

This eclectic exhibition represents the Next Generation of artists to use Bideford Black, and offers a 21st century response to a pigment that took millions of years to evolve. These new artworks are made using a myriad of materials – pastels, paper, film, scents, sounds and machines. What they share in common is that they all reflect upon, or are made with, Bideford Black pigment.

Creative film-maker Liberty Smith followed the artists for a year as they researched and developed their ideas. Liberty’s film will be part of the exhibition and presents a visually stunning record of these modern encounters with Bideford Black pigment. Liberty’s film trailer offers tantalizing glimpses of the project.
The full list of artists is: Tabatha Andrews (Devon), ATOI (Cornwall), Luce Choules (Essex), Corinne Felgate (London), Neville and Joan Gabie (Gloucestershire) in collaboration with Dr. Ian Cook, Littlewhitehead (Lanarkshire), Lizzie Ridout (Cornwall), Sam Treadaway (Bristol) and Liberty Smith, presently lives and works in London and went to school in Hartland, North Devon.

This Burton Art Gallery and Museum project is produced by Flow Contemporary Arts in association with Claire Gulliver, funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England as well as the Friends of Burton Art Gallery and Museum. We also acknowledge the support of the National Trust for their loan of Bucks Cabin to some of the artists during their investigations.

The Permanent Collections

North Devon Pottery, the Abbotsham Hoard, artefacts from Bideford's glove factory, a model of the Bideford Bridge and the Town Charter - just a few of the rich array of artefacts, documents and treasured items, representing the diverse and dynamic history of Bideford and the surrounding area that permanently on display ath The Burton.

The Burton's Painting Collections include works by Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards, E. Aubrey Hunt, Mark Fisher RA, Sir John Lavery RA, Sir George Clause RA, Arthur Friedenson, William McTaggart, Hubert Coop and Sheila Hutchinson and are displayed annually as part of the exhibition programme.

The RJ Lloyd Ceramics Collection, of predominantly North Devon slipware, is an ideal introduction to the history and heritage of ceramics in this area and, The Story of Bideford Black, which charts the history and significance of this unique pigment to Bideford.

The exhibition selected from the permanent Collection this year is 'Portraits form the Burton's Collection'.

Displays in the permanent Collections have been generously supported by Heritage Lottery Fund and the Friends of The Burton.

lottery funded