Cucumber dish

When modernism goes bad
Alfred Burgess Read/John Adams/Ruth Pavely
Nationality of Designer
Poole Pottery
Manufacturers Location
Poole, England
2.5 x 32 x 11.4 cm
Purchase Price


A low, ribbed serving dish in grey glaze 


Second-hand shop 



Why it's in the Collection

This dish is a playful interpretation of modernist functionality. Originally designed in the 1930s by John Adams, it was revived by Alfred Read with the assistance of Ruth Pavely in the 1950s. It embodies the revision of modern design that took place after the war - far greater quantities of the later version were produced and at lower cost reaching a wider audience helping to develop Poole tableware's iconic status. 

The dish's form not only follows its function but openly advertises it, like a serving suggestion. It was integrated into Poole's Twintone range but colourful patterns were also introduced under the supervision of Pavely which pre-empt sixties style. There is a disconnect between this dish and the stripped back, minimal design of the Bauhaus and de Stijl which was then gaining popularity in Britain. It has an uneasy relationship with the criteria of cool functionalism usually applied to design from the period. It is crafted without aspiring to the status of 'high design'. 

Poole Pottery's designs played a key role in reviving Britain's ceramics industry after the Second World War. 

About the Designer/Maker

Alfred Burgess Read (1898-1973) joined Poole in 1951 following the departure of Claude Smale after the Festival of Britain. Read studied at the Royal College of Art where he was taught by Harold Stabler, the Cumbrian born Arts and Crafts metal worker and ceramicist. Stabler co-founded Carter, Stabler and Adams with John Adams and the family of Jesse Carter, which would eventually become known as Poole Pottery. Read was, therefore, a clear choice for Poole with the need to re-energise their business as their founding generation stepped back from their leadership roles after the war. He had also been awarded the esteemed title of Royal Designer for Industry. 

Ruth Pavely had been a stalwart member of Poole's design team since before the war, contributing designs and showing her aptitude for painting in the mid-thirties. She was eventually appointed Head of Painting and acted as assistant to Claude Smale, notably working on the famous range for the Festival of Britain, before working with Read until her retirement in 1965. 

John Adams was a renowned artist-potter who joined Poole as a founder member in 1921 having been introduced to Owen and Charles Carter by Harold Stabler. He had taught at Durban School of Art but after joining with Stabler and the Carters, he helped to define the art deco ceramic style in Britain between the wars.

About the Manufacturer

Originally based in Poole, Dorset, Poole Pottery began under Jesse Carter as 'Carter's Industrial Tile Manufactory' on the town quayside in 1873. The firm produced medieval- and Celtic-inspired stoneware around the turn of the century as well as colourfully glazed lustre-pots for Liberty & Co. In 1921, Harold and Phoebie Stabler and John and Truda Adams joined with the Carter family to form 'Carter, Stabler, and Adams'. Initially specialising in relief tiles and architectural or ornamental ceramics, the company's reputation grew as they diversified into a range of homeware. They were contracted to supply a large quantity of tiles for the London Underground stations built between the wars but their popular reputation in the period was established by through hand painted vases instructed under the supervision of Truda Adams (later Carter). 

During the Second World War Poole developed a range of utility ware under state direction with limited staff. Their facilities were damaged and dilapidated by 1945 and enduring economic difficulties slowed their return to conventional production. By the early fifties Poole had re-established themselves as leaders in British ceramics with mass produced tableware ranges and more expensive limited, hand thrown and painted studio ranges. In the sixties and seventies they defined modern British ceramics with their Aegean and Delphis ranges developed through the design leadership of Guy Sydenham and Robert Jefferson. 

Bibliography & Further information

Jennifer Hawkins, The Poole Potteries, (London: Barrie and Jenkins, 1980)