Strays from the Bernard Leach papers

Scope and Content

Papers of Bernard Leach, found among the belongings of Trevor Corser when he died in 2015.

Administrative / Biographical History

Bernard Leach was born in 1887 in Hong Kong and came to England at the age of 10. In 1903, he went to the Slade, as their youngest student, to study drawing under Professor Henry Tonks. After a year as a bank clerk he left the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in 1907 to learn etching under Frank Brangwyn at the London School of Art and in 1909 went to work in Japan as an etcher.

Introduced to ceramics at a raku party in 1911 he subsequently meet Yanagi and took lessons with Ogata Kenzan 6th. Leach returned to England with Shoji Hamada, and in 1920 set up the Leach Pottery in St Ives, Cornwall. In 1932 he started teaching at Dartington Hall, Devon and set up a pottery in Shinner's Bridge. His son David took on his teaching at the Dartington pottery, before going on to manage the St Ives pottery, where from 1946-1955 he was taken into partnership. Bernard Leach occupied a unique position in the early to mid-twentieth century as an artist-potter, producing individual pots as well as the famous Leach standard ware with David (who was influential in developing standard ware production when he returned to St Ives in 1937 and also after the war to 1955). He also worked as a draughtsman and was hugely influential as a writer and thinker producing several books; most famously A Potter's Book published in 1940. He was passionate about introducing values such as harmony in pottery that he had experienced in the Far East to the West. During an extremely active life he was continually at the centre of developments in the studio crafts, leading and participating in demonstrations, conferences (notably the International Crafts Conference at Dartington Hall which Yanagi and Hamada attended, in 1952), and exhibiting and touring the USA, Japan, Europe and South America. He corresponded widely and kept a diary; his letters and diary make illuminating reading and are housed at the Crafts Study Centre. He died in 1979; during his lifetime he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, second class in Japan, and made a Companion of Honour in 1973.

Trevor Corser, a long standing potter at the Leach Pottery, took items to his house in St Ives over time, including some ceramics that had been gifted to him. The CSC has acquired some items from those papers found among Corser's possessions at his death in 2015 and subsequently sold at auction, and these are listed as 'Strays from the Bernard Leach papers' (BLS)


Each accession has been listed as a separate sub-fonds:

  • BLS/1 2 notebooks on pottery experiments, 1950s, with enclosed notes dated 1944, 1947 and 1949
  • BLS/2 Diplomas and certificates 1925-1950

Access Information

Archive material may be viewed by appointment only.


This entry was compiled by Shirley Dixon, Crafts Study Centre Archivist, December 2020. The biography of Bernard Leach was adapted from that written by Frances Lord.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogue on Crafts Study Centre database. A pdf copy is available on request.

Conditions Governing Use

Written permission must be sought before any archival material is published.

Appraisal Information

None timetabled


Any acquisition of strays from the Bernard Leach papers will be added as a new sub-fonds.