Lailey bowl turner's pole lathe

Contributed by Museum of English Rural Life

George Lailey's original pole lathe on display in the Museum of English Rural Life © University of Reading

George Lailey's bowls were so popular that Harrods sold them. One even toured the world in a show about English crafts.This lathe tells of an ordinary Berkshire man whose work had a profound impact on early twentieth century craft. Like his forebears, George Lailey operated out of a small workshop in rural Berkshire. An item made by him was collected by the British Council in the 1940s and toured the commonwealth. The bowl on the lathe is said to have been one he was making at the time of his death in 1958. His grave in Bucklebury is appropriately marked with a wooden cross. The Museum still acquires examples of Lailey's craftsmanship, often signed and dated, and each with a unique history. Wooden bowls were standard eating vessels across Europe from 500-1600AD. When Lailey passed away the rich international scope of an ancient craft died with him. With a working replica of this lathe a contemporary artisan has helped to revive these techniques, assisting in the reintroduction of bowl turning to Sweden, the USA, Germany, France, and even Japan.

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George Lailey died in 1958.


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