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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 February 2008, 17:39 GMT
Artist's pottery collection joy
by Lynne French
BBC News Devon

Ceramics from the R J Lloyd collection
Reg Lloyd began collecting the ceramics in the 1940s
Perhaps former soldier Reg Lloyd should have known from the start that destiny was on the side of the little pot.

It was only a few inches high and looked very delicate but, ensconced in a junk shop, it had survived the German bombs which had wiped out much of the surrounding streets in Exeter.

Mr Lloyd scraped together the one shilling and sixpence needed to buy the item and the rest, some might say, is history.

Because now the pot is one of an astounding collection which the National Lottery Fund has recognised by stumping up more than 300,000 to help buy for a museum in Devon.

From his first purchase just after World War II, Mr Lloyd's collection grew into a cherished array of earthenware, which has even aroused the interest of the renowned Smithsonian Institute in the US.

I even had people turning up at my door from America who were trying to trace their family tree, after finding their name stamped on a bit of pottery from Devon
Reg Lloyd
Combining pots which were once used in the region's kitchens and some which were always designed to grace the loftiest art gallery, the value of the 335 pieces rose to such an extent that Mr Lloyd had to sell them - because he feared his house would be turned into a "fortress" to meet insurance demands.

But thanks to the involvement of the Heritage Fund, the 500,000 collection will find a home in Devon at the Burton Art Gallery and Museum in Mr Lloyd's home town of Bideford.

Mr Lloyd, 81, explained how his collection began: "I had just come out of the army and was doing any old job to scrape enough money for art school.

"I was just having a look around this little junk shop which had survived the bombing in Fore Street, when I saw this rather strange, Middle Eastern-looking pot.

"It was from the Lake Cornish pottery in Truro and it cost me the princely sum of one and six.

"It stood on my mantelpiece and I rather admired it.

"After I got married, I went off to Cornwall - like many aspiring artists do - and it was there I bought some Bernard Leach pots, which were for everyday use."

Reg Lloyd
Mr Lloyd found many of his pieces in Portobello Road, London

Mr Lloyd said it was some years later, when he was becoming established as an artist, that his collection really started to grow.

"I was getting a few commissions in London and was spending a lot of my weekends looking around Portobello Road.

"I started finding more and more pottery - mostly made in Bideford, although there were pieces from Fremington, Barnstaple and Truro.

"Some were highly decorative harvest jugs, while others were crudely potted everyday pieces, including one by a Captain Crapper, which I kept in my toilet."

Mr Lloyd says Bideford had a thriving pottery industry dating back to medieval times, with pieces being exported to Ireland, Wales and the US by the 17th Century.

"A great number of pieces were exported from Bideford Quay to America and I've had curators from the Smithsonian in Washington and Plymouth, Massachusetts, who came to study the collection in my home," Mr Lloyd said.

"I even had people turning up at my door from America who were trying to trace their family tree, after finding their name stamped on a bit of pottery from Devon."

Mr Lloyd's favourite piece was made in a small cottage in Bideford.

"It's a tiny little jug - only about 3ins (8cm) high - depicting a shipwreck," he said.

Research wish

"It shows the lifeboat rowing out and an anchor being thrown through the air.

"The detail is such, I'm convinced it was drawn on the spot."

He eventually sold the collection six years ago because the pieces were proving too costly to insure.

The subsequent owner then decided to sell the collection to be housed in the museum.

Mr Lloyd, whose paintings have been exhibited at the V&A and the Tate Gallery, says one of his dearest wishes would be for someone to sponsor a PhD to research the entire collection.

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