Alex Lauder

Place of Birth

  • Born                      1836 Holborn London
  • Married                1866 Mary E Willake at Barnstaple
  • Died                       9 November 1921 at Barnstple

Alexander Lauder was born in 1836 at Gray’s Inn Lane, London, the son of John Lauder, a Scottish-born timber merchant, and his wife Mary Sommerville. By 1861 the family had moved to Barnstaple, Devon. Here in 1860 Alexander Lauder established his architectural practice, where, amongst others, W.R.Lethaby was a pupil between 1871 and 1878. During Lethaby’s time in the office Lauder published eight designs for chapels and churches. He had published none before this date and only one other, many years later. It is suggested that Lethaby did a great deal of work on these designs. Although only one of the perspectives is signed by Lethaby, all are similar in style and demonstrate the interest and skill in technical drawing for which he was later noted. These chapels were mostly in Devonshire but three were in the London area, which may account for Lethaby’s visit to the capital in 1875. In addition, Lauder (plus Lethaby?) was responsible for the design of the Hyde Road Chapel, Manchester, in 1874.

Alexander Lauder also became the Head teacher of Barnstaple School of Art where he was a strong advocate of the Arts and Crafts movement. The mayor of Barnstable in 1885-1887, Alexander Lauder was an ardent Wesleyan Methodist preacher. He was a competent watercolourist and an enthusiastic wrier of Ossianesque verse which he illustrated and published at his own expense.

At the age of forty and in partnership with his brother-in-law W O Smith, he set up Lauder and Smith near Barnstaple, Devon in 1876. The company manufactured bricks, tiles and terracotta pots, and experimented with art pottery. The experiments were mainly unsuccessful due to the unsuitability of the red clay. Nonetheless the business was employing 36 men and 6 boys in 1881.  About 1889 Lauder became the sole proprietor. This coincided with the bankruptcy of the Marland Brick and Tile Works, which Lauder bought. The clay beds at the brick and tile works provided much better body clay, and the company's fortunes improved significantly. In 1890 Lauder changed the company name to the Royal Devon Art Pottery, when they received royal patronage. The company flourished through the turn of the century, making slip and sgraffito decorated pots mainly with designs inspired by natural forms. The company ceased trading at the beginning of the First World War, due in part to the loss of their skilled employees.   Lauder was responsible for most, if not all of the modelling of the sgrafitto panels, terra cotta friezes and high relief ceramic tiles used to decorate his “sound but rather unimaginative structures.”

Alexander Lauder died on 9 November 1921 and was buried with his wife Mary Eliza (died 1920) at Barnstaple Town Cemetery.

1905    Bridge Buildings The Square Barnstaple (office and shop)

1861        Pottington, Barnstaple
1891        Victoria Street, Barnstaple
1897-1901    Ravelin, Sowden Lane, Barnstaple

Reference:    Godfrey Rubens : William Richard Lethaby: His Life and Work 1857–1931
Reference    Audrey Lloyd : Alexander Lauder, Historical Society of the Plymouth & Exeter District of the Methodist Church 1982