The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts


Bowl turning


The turning of wooden bowls on a lathe, traditionally on a foot-powered pole lathe. See the separate entries for pole lathe turning and wood turning.


Status Endangered (see ‘Other information’)
Craft category  Wood
Historic area of significance  UK
Area currently practised  UK
Origin in the UK  Early Medieval
Minimum no. of craftspeople required
Current no. of trainees
Current no. of skilled craftspeople  21-50
Current total no. of craftspeople



Bowl turningThis traditional form of bowl making has been used at least since the Viking age. This craft fell out of favour with the Industrial revolution, and died out completely with the death of George Lailey of Turners Green, Bucklebury, Berkshire in 1958. Lailey was reputed to be the ‘last bowl turner in England’. Lailey’s lathe and tools are housed at the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading. The craft of pole-lathe bowl turning was revived in the 1990s by Robin Wood.




Local forms




Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Market issues: There is a demand for hand-turned bowls but the need to charge relatively high prices to make a living suppresses this demand.
  • Skills issues: It takes a long time to develop the skills to produce items of a saleable quality. A lot of people have a go but very few have the time or inclination to stick at it for the necessary years.


Support organisations


Craftspeople currently known

  • Robin Wood – based in Edale, Derbyshire
  • A fair number of members of the APT&GW turn bowls, and there is a good level of interest in this, with the skills being shared.


Other information

Status: The craft of bowl turning on a pole lathe died out in England in 1958 with the death of George Lailey. It was revived in the 1990s by Robin Wood and today is popular among green wood workers and pole lathe turners. According to Robin, the craft is no longer ‘critically endangered’ and should be classified as ‘endangered’ and moving towards ‘currently viable’, i.e. a positive trend.