SECOND generation potter, Lee Cartledge, who works in partnership with his mother, Kathy, at Bentham Pottery, has released his book charting the life of late Burton-in-Lonsdale potter, Richard Bateson.

The Last potter of Black Burton chronicles the life of Mr Bateson from his humble beginnings being pulled out of school to make jam jars in his dad’s pottery, to teaching future celebrated studio potters at various colleges in London including the RCA.

For at least 300 years the pottery wheels at Burton-in-Lonsdale turned. Sixteen potteries along the banks of the River Greta took advantage of the outcrops of coal and clay to produce countryware pottery for the households and farms of the area. The techniques and skills of the craft passed from generation to generation and from family member to family member.

Richard Timperley Bateson came from a long lineage of Burton potters.

He began work at his father’s pottery, Waterside Pottery, in Burton at the age of 13 in 1907 and rapidly progressed to becoming one of the main throwers there.

Prior to the First World War, Waterside Pottery was mainly producing stoneware bottles. Waterside Pottery employed approximately 30 workers with just two main throwers.

Two to three kilns were fired every week. Each kiln required 12 tonnes of coal to fire it. One kiln would hold 1,200 one gallon bottles (or its equivalent). This meant that the two throwers would have to make between 2,400 and 3,600 one gallon bottles or their equivalent per week. Given that the clay required to throw a one-gallon bottle is 11lb, this means they were throwing between 12 and 18 tonnes of clay per week. Not only were they kept busy making the pots, the pottery workers also had to dig and process their own clay from a stoneware drift mine just outside the pottery.

The book follows Mr Bateson’s journey through the pottery industry. It looks into why the industry went into decline after the First World War and how the Burton potters failed to adapt to changing times and innovations within the industry relying instead upon their tried and tested techniques from the past i.e. hand throwing every pot on the wheel. Mr Bateson ended up running the last of the Burton potteries, which was sadly forced to close its doors in 1944. He was really one of the very last men working in the country pottery tradition.

The story would perhaps have ended there, if it wasn’t for a twist of fate caused by the winds of the Second World War, which threw out an unexpected lifeline. Rewind four years and the Royal College of Art (RCA) were evacuated to Ambleside due to German bombing raids on London. With no kilns or wheels in Ambleside, the RCA looked for nearby potteries that would fire students’ work and offer some work experience. They found Mr Bateson’s pottery in Burton. RCA students became regular visitors to the pottery for the rest of the war. During the students’ work experience,

Mr Bateson spent time teaching them how to throw pots on the wheel and he must have made a very favourable impression upon the RCA tutors, because after the war was over and the RCA had moved back to London, they contacted Mr Bateson and offered him a job teaching throwing. He accepted this invitation and so, in his early fifties, embarked on a new career as a pottery teacher at the RCA in London.

Studio pottery came of age after the Second World War. There was a large demand for hand thrown pottery.

The master potter went on to teach a substantial number of these emerging studio potters. These include potters like Allan Caiger-Smith, David Frith, Dan Arbeid, Ian Auld, Gordon Baldwin, George Frederick Cook, Derek Davis and Ruth Duckworth.

The book is helped along the way by an in-depth knowledge of the pottery industry and techniques by Lee Cartledge.

Lee’s mother, Kathy, established the pottery in 1976. When an elderly gentleman hobbled into the pottery and asked if he could throw a pot, Kathy humoured him by saying yes.

This 83 year old man was Mr Bateson and, from his very first throw she could see she was watching a master craftsman at work.

To celebrate the release of the book Lee has produced an on line walking guide tour of the Burton Potteries. This 4.5 mile walk will take you to the former potteries of Burton-in Lonsdale mentioned in the book. The guide is available at:

Priced at £6.99 and published by The Choir Press, the book is available to buy from Bentham Pottery, or from Amazon.