Paul Gooderham started trading as a potter at Easter 1976. His first studios were rented outbuildings in a former coach-house in Handsworth to the west of Birmingham. Due to a successful start he quickly outgrew his studio space and after a short search came across a village church in rural South Staffordshire which had been declared redundant due to a dwindling congregation.

The church had been built in 1849 by architect G.T.Robinson on behalf of Henry and Jane Ward of Rodbaston. Henry Ward was an industrialist whose father, William, had established a pig-iron foundry and colliery in Priestfield near Wolverhampton. The church was built to accommodate the Christian needs of his family, residents and employees on the family estate in and around the village of Gailey. After the death of Henry and Jane the family emigrated to America, Rodbaston was sold and became an agricultural college and Gailey slowly fell into decline. The church took on a new life despite this decline and by 1980 had become a working pottery.

The building had presented itself as an ideal opportunity for Paul to own his own premises. It was 1979 and barn conversions were being viewed as somewhat eccentric; how exotic then must it have seemed when he decided to buy and renovate an old church? The opportunity had been seized and by 1980 Gailey Pottery was established.

The ongoing renovation of this old building has been a labour of love. Buying it had proved to be an astute decision both commercially and artistically. The building retains much of its original detail complementing its new use, with Paul finding a connection to the past in the ongoing restoration.

As part of this renovation a new double door entrance was required at the East end of the building. New doors would have been adequate but at the same time however the Victorian church that Paul’s family frequented when he was a youngster was to be demolished. A meeting was arranged with the contractors and one of the sets of doors that would otherwise have been destroyed was purchased by Paul. This purchase held personal significance as these were the doors that Paul’s Mother and Father stood in front of on their wedding day.

The Old Church