The Potter in the Workhouse

Robert Fournier moved into the former workhouse, a building which occupied part of the old tanyard in Lacock with his wife Sheila, and was based there from 1971-1986. This was when he made his signature pieces, pebble pots. The Independent reported on his pots on 12 March 2008:

“With a sure understanding of the organic structures of stones, rocks and plants, he translated these into clay through the use of simple, hand-built or moulded dish shapes, or tall flattened bottles. These were decorated with areas of unglazed clay, poured, textured white glaze and dotted with small patches of rich, saturated colour.”

The entrance to the Lacock pottery in Church Street.
The entrance to the Lacock pottery in Church Street.

He was particularly renowned for producing a vibrant turquoise blue. The pots were shown successfully at galleries in Britain, as well as in Germany and France and many are now in British museum collections such as the Liverpool National Museums & Galleries and the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Pebble pots1
Robert’s signature pebble pots, acquired for Chippenham Heritage Museum


Robert had trained at the Central School of Art under Dora Billington and set up the Ducketts Wood Pottery in Hertfordshire in 1947 before moving to Lacock, having already set up the pottery department at Goldsmiths College. He also established the archive of the Craft Potters Association and became a founder and Fellow of the Craftsmen Potters Association, now known as the Craft Potters Association.

Lacock provided the perfect location for Robert to make full use of his inventiveness and creativity. Whilst there he also wrote a number of books on the techniques of pottery making, including the Illustrated Dictionary of Pottery Form (1981) which has become a “pottery bible.” His wife Sheila illustrated the book and Robert himself wrote the introduction.

“I hope that potters working today… may find new directions or a fresh view of present work from the many fine pots shown… to try to understand the practical and aesthetic principles, to widen horizons, and to give a glimpse of the infinite application and variety of pottery shapes.”

It was only a year after leaving Lacock that Robert retired from potting. He and his wife used the time to travel extensively around the Mediterranean Islands looking at early pottery making. Robert died in Market Lavington in 2008 but the pottery at Lacock is still running.

Robert’s time spent at Lacock left a creative legacy for the benefit of those involved in the craft for years to come.

One thought on “The Potter in the Workhouse

  1. We’re pleased to say that we’ve just added two of Robert’s books to our Local Studies Collection at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. ‘Illustrated Dictionary of Pottery Form’ 1981, ISBN 0-442-26112-8 (illustrations by his wife Sheila) and ‘Electric Kiln Construction for Potters’ 1977, ISBN 0-442-30134-0


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