The Compton Pottery

In 1900, with the Watts Chapel project completed and seeing the potential for her home arts class to become a village industry, Mary Watts founded the Compton Potters' Arts Guild. The Guild followed the model of a medieval guild with workmen being given the opportunity to ennoble their lives through their own creative handiwork.

A commercial pottery needed premises, and in 1901 — financed by the Wattses — the Compton Pottery was built at the bottom of the hill beneath Limnerslease. Rapid expansion followed in response to demand, and when plans for Watts Gallery were drawn up in 1903, accommodation for twelve apprentice potters was included in the design. The original gallery building was even known as 'The Hostel'.

The Compton Pottery prospered throughout the beginning of the 20th century. Liberty & Co. on Regent Street stocked their works and, contrary to their own policy, allowed Compton ware to be marked with its own stamp.

The pottery became well known for its large ornamental pots, birdbaths, garden ornaments and sundials. Architectural commissions were received from Edwin Lutyens and Clough Williams-Ellis for his Italianate village at Portmeirion, among others. Gertrude Jekyll commissioned a garden pot that was subsequently marketing as the 'Jekyll model'.

The Compton Pottery remained a successful industry, providing employment in the village until 1956.

Watts Gallery now houses a unique collection of over 200 pieces of Compton Pottery, a testimony to the Arts & Crafts legacy in Compton pioneered by Mary Watts. Our collection ranges from well-known terracotta garden pots to more quirky, small coloured pieces, including unusual designs such as a jewellery set of Zodiac sign pendants, Tennyson's Bust bookends and a lighthouse lamp stand.

The original Pottery Building now houses The Tea Shop.

Potter's Wheel Interlude 16 February 1953

Below is a link to the potter's wheel interlude film, introduced to the BBC on 16 February 1953. It was probably the best known of the many interlude films made for the post-war television service. The films were made to cover for the many intervals in programming, to allow for changes between studios, or for the frequent studio breakdowns. The potter's wheel film showed the hands of our very own Georges Aubertin, of The Compton Pottery, as he threw a pot.