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 ›

lottery funded