Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie archive

Scope and Content

The archive consists of

  • Notebooks recording technical information, including glaze and slip recipes and firing times
  • Sketchbooks
  • Lecture notes

Administrative / Biographical History

Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie was born in 1895  and brought up on her family estate Coleshill Manor, in Berkshire. After working in the Red Cross during World War I she moved to London and in the 1920's , on seeing Roger Fry's pots made for the Omega Workshops, went on to study at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, initially at evening classes, under Dora Billington.

After meeting Bernard Leach in 1923  at one of his London exhibitions she went to work with him in 1924  for a year as 'odd-job boy'. This was a formative time for her and she learnt from all those involved in the pottery at the time including Shoji Hamada, the Japanese potter and kiln builder Tsurunoske Matsubayashi (or 'Matsu' as he was known) and Michael Cardew. After leaving St Ives she corresponded with Leach, most notably in letters throughout the 1930's . Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie was known affectionately as 'Beano' to her friends and 'Bina' to her family. She returned to Coleshill with Ada (Peter) Mason (another ex-Central student) and founded the Cole Pottery at the Mill Cottage on her family's estate in 1925 , where Matsu designed a two-chambered wood-firing kiln. Katharine and Peter worked together on a series of stoneware wood-ash and vegetable ash glaze tests using trees and plants from the estate, such as holly, beech, elder, rose, honeysuckle, larch, box, maple, vine, nettle which she developed further with Norah Braden. Five local clays were also used, mixed with other clays from Devon and Cornwall. Pleydell-Bouverie subsequently became famous for her use of a wide range of ash glazes and was asked by Leach to write the chapter devoted to them in his A Potter's Book of 1940 . In 1928 , and after the departure of Mason, Norah Braden came to join her and they worked together, each potting under their own name, until 1936 , when Braden left to teach in Brighton. Their pots were exhibited regularly in London, Oxford and Bristol, and at exhibitions of the Red Rose Guild in Manchester. The Cole pottery was disbanded during the war and following the sale of the Coleshill estate in 1946  she purchased Kilmington Manor in Wiltshire where she lived and worked up to her death in 1985 . In 1946  she installed an oil-fired kiln and in 1960  an electric kiln. She was instrumental in setting up the Crafts Study Centre at the Holburne Museum in Bath and gave around 50 pots to the collection as well as her glaze notebooks. A retrospective exhibition of her work was organised by the Crafts Study Centre in 1980 .


The archive material is arranged in the original order in which it was deposited at the CSC

Conditions Governing Access

The archival material may be viewed by appointment only.


This entry was compiled by Becky Lyle, Submissions Officer for the project and by Jean Vacher, Collections Manager at the Crafts Study Centre. The biography was written by Frances Lord.

Other Finding Aids

There are no finding aids available for this archive.

Conditions Governing Use

The photocopying of archival material is not allowed. Written permission must be sought before any archival material is published.

Appraisal Information

None timetabled


None expected

Related Material

The Crafts Study Centre holds other material relating to the Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie archive in the

  • Michael Cardew archive
  • Henry Hammond archive
  • Bernard Leach archive
  • Nora Braden archive
  • Muriel Rose archive
  • Robin and Heather Tanner archive

Also see access points


Selected Bibliography

Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie: A Potter's Life 1895-1985 Crafts Council in association with the Crafts Study Centre, Bath

Bernard Leach, Hamada and their circle from the Wingfield Digby Collection, Marston House, 1992

Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie exhibition catalogue, 22 Nov 1980-22 Feb 1981 , Crafts Study Centre, Bath