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North Devon in 100 Objects: 47. Dragons in the Pottery Gallery

An intricate ornate pottery vase, featuring moulded dragon handles on either side and finished with blue/green and black glaze.

The late 19th century was a golden age of Art Pottery in Barnstaple.   Our collections include many highly decorated items, both useful and useless, made by the three Barnstaple companies of Lauder, Baron and Brannam.

Responding to the late Victorian demand for decorative objects, Barnstaple’s Art Potters let their imaginations run riot as they moulded clay into fantastical designs, like this wildly intriguing vase. In our galleries you can have a lot of fun seeking out sea monsters, dragons, griffins, and other fantastical creatures.

Best remembered today is the name of Brannam.  Thomas Brannam took over the existing Rendle’s potteries in 1848. Most of his output was plain, the jugs, pipes, jars and other pots needed for everyday life, although he did win a medal at the 1851 Great Exhibition for a decorated jug. Thomas’s son Charles studied with Alexander Lauder at the Barnstaple School of Art, was spotted by William Rock and sent to study pottery in the London museums.  On his return, Charles joined his father and gained permission to develop a range of art pottery, taking over the Litchdon Street pottery in 1879.

Charles employed talented potters and designers.  The business flourished, winning a royal warrant from Queen Victoria and establishing the trade name Royal Barum Ware.  Some pieces were designed by the cartoonist Francis Carruthers Gould, and Blanche Vulliamy, an artist and designer based in Kensington.

They may be a little over the top for today’s tastes, but the whimsical designs can be a source of delight and inspiration.

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