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.
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 returned laden 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 and were covered with shapes and patterns from the natural world, and might also be inscribed with poems or sayings. This area is also famous for two decorative techniques. One is slip trailing, which is 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 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 at Bideford purchased the RJ Lloyd Collection which comprises of approximately 535 pieces. The new ceramics gallery at the Burton was opened in 2010.
What’s in the Ceramics Collection?
The Ceramics Collection at the Burton at Bideford 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.
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 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.
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 Manager Warren Collum to arrange an appointment.