The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Pole lathe 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
Current no. of professionals (main craft)
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main craft)
c.10
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
c.40
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

This 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.

 

Techniques

 

Local forms

 

Sub-crafts

 

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
  • Owen Thomas – based in Hereford, and also teaches the craft
  • Sharif Adams – based in Devon, and also teaches the craft
  • A fair number of members of the APTGW 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.

 

References