The Arts and Crafts Movement in the Cotswolds
As architects, designers and makers developed ideas for new ways of living and working, they began to look beyond the polluted cities. The countryside represented the vanishing rural idyll and an opportunity to live the simple life. Gloucestershire became the main rural centre for the Arts and Crafts Movement.
The Cotswolds, with their remote hills and valleys and stone built villages, were rediscovered at the end of the 19th century. The area had been through a catastrophic economic depression with the loss of the wool trade to newly industrialised centres in the north of England. A second blow was the crisis in farming in the 1870s. As a result many people left the area.Workshops and cottages were readily available and relatively cheap.
William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti jointly leased Kelmscott Manor, near Lechlade, as a rural retreat in 1871. Craft communities developed around Ernest Gimson and Sidney and Ernest Barnsley, who moved to the south Cotswolds in 1893. C R Ashbee’s Guild of Handicraft – over 50 craftsmen and their families – moved to Chipping Campden from London’s East End in 1902.
The Cotswold Arts and Crafts tradition has been an enduring one. Its legacy today includes the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen. The Cotswold style is known throughout the world for its high quality workmanship and simple designs.
Gimson, the Barnsleys and the craftspeople of the South Cotswolds
Ernest Gimson and Ernest and Sidney Barnsley moved to the south Cotswolds in 1893.
Ernest Barnsley concentrated on architecture. Rodmarton Manor was his major achievement.
Sidney Barnsley preferred to work alone, producing hand-made furniture. This settee was designed and made by him in about 1920 for friends William and Eve Simmonds.
Ernest Gimson set up woodworking and metalwork workshops in Sapperton near Cirencester. This cabinet was made in his workshop around 1903.
Gimson also set up a metalworking business in Sapperton, working with the son of a local blacksmith, Alfred Bucknell. These fire dogs were made to Gimson's design in the early 1920s.
Peter Waals was Gimson’s foreman. He was a skilled cabinetmaker and carried on the business after Gimson’s death in nearby Chalford, near Stroud. This bookcase was designed by Waals and made in the workshop in 1936.
Harry Davoll was another of Gimson’s foremen, who also continued working in wood until his death. This sideboard was made for his daughter in 1946.
Alfred Powell, the architect and ceramic artist, was good friends with Gimson and moved to Far Oakridge after staying with Gimson. This charger was made about 1920.
His wife, Louise, worked alongside him. Together they re-introduced hand-painting at Wedgwood Pottery and produced hundreds of ceramic designs. This jug was produced about 1916.
William Simmonds and his wife Eve were friends of the Powells and moved to Tunley. Simmonds was a woodcarver and artist. Autumn Calf was created in 1952.
Eve Simmonds was a highly skilled embroiderer. This embroidery from 1919 was a gift to the poet and playwright John Drinkwater.
Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher, the textile designers, moved to Painswick in 1930. Eve Simmonds introduced them to each other. This scarf was designed and made by them about 1925.
C R Ashbee, the Guild of Handicraft and the craftspeople of the North Cotswolds
Craft communities were formed in the north of the county as well, all stemming from C R Ashbee’s Guild of Handicraft. Over 50 craftsmen and their families moved to Chipping Campden from London’s East End in 1902.
The Guild of Handicraft specialised in metalwork. This buckle was made about 1895 for Ashbee's wife, Janet.
They also made furniture. The piano case was made between 1898 and 1900, and was a wedding present from Ashbee to his wife.
Ashbee's Essex House Press produced Private Press books. The Prayer Book of Edward VII was produced in 1902.
George Hart was a member of the Guild, but when the Guild closed in 1908, he decided to stay in Chipping Campden. Hart’s Silversmiths are still a major business in the town. This cup and cover were produced in 1935.
Alec Miller came all the way from Scotland to join the Guild. He was a woodcarver who became well known for his architectural carving and sensitive portrait sculpture. He moved to California in 1939. This 1927 carving is of his daughter Jane.
Paul Woodroffe was a friend of Ashbee who moved to Chipping Campden in 1904. He was a book illustrator and stained glass designer. This piece depicts the nursery rhyme, Taffy the Welshman.
Gordon Russell came to Broadway, just over the border in Worcestershire, as a boy and learned furniture making from the Cotswold Arts and Crafts makers. He became one of the country’s foremost furniture retailers. This print cabinet was designed by him in 1924.
His brother, R D Russell, embraced the new modernist style and produced cutting edge design. Gordon Russell Ltd. became well known for its radios, such as this one.
Michael Cardew was inspired by the potter Bernard Leach in St. Ives to set up his own rural pottery. He acquired the old Greet Pottery in Winchcombe in 1926. This charger was made by him in 1935.
The Winchcombe Pottery continued under his pupil Ray Finch, and the Finch family still run the pottery today. This cider jar was made by Ray in 1950.
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