The Watts Seat was originally commissioned for the gardens of the Watts Gallery in Surrey. It draws its lines from a terracotta seat designed by Mary Seaton Watts (1849 – 1938), founder of Compton Pottery.
In 1886 Mary married George Frederic Watts (1817 – 1904), a renowned Victorian painter and sculptor who is often referred to as ‘England’s Michelangelo’. After they wed, they commissioned Arts and Crafts architect Sir Ernest George to build their home ‘Limnerslease’ in Compton.
Mary, formally a fine artist, began to focus on design and architecture and founded Compton pottery and the Compton Potters’ Arts Guild to promote traditional handicrafts among the local community. Their products were sold through fashionable retailers such as Liberty&Co on Regent Street, and even though Liberty held a policy that everything should be sold under the Liberty brand, they allowed Compton ware to be marked with its own stamp.
The Watts Gallery currently houses a collection of over 200 Compton pottery pieces and the original pottery building is now a tea shop for visitors.
Left: Mary’s terracotta Seat which inspired Gaze Burvill’s Watts Seat
The Watts Chapel, also at the Artist’s Village in Compton, was Mary’s artistic vision. It is built in brick with an extraordinary interior decorated in beautiful coloured gesso relief and decorative terracotta clay tiles, crafted by the potters and local residents whom Mary taught at evening classes.
A unique masterpiece, the building of the Watts Chapel was financed by G F Watts painting commissioned portraits. G F and Mary Watts both rest in Watts Cemetery, as do many other people who have played a role in the Artists’ Village over the years. It remains a working village parish chapel, having been given to the people of Compton by the Watts’.
The Watts Gallery, Chapel and Artist’s Village are a fascinating visit and you can find many of Gaze Burvill’s Watts Seats dotted about the estate. They provide perfect spots to sit and admire the work of both artists and that of their talented community which they founded.
Right: A Gaze Burvill Watts Seat at the Watts Gallery, Compton.