The Ernest Gimson Archive
‘I never feel myself apart from our times by harking back to the past – to be complete we must live in all the tenses – past – future as well as present.’ Ernest Gimson
This resource explores Arts and Crafts Movement designer Ernest Gimson’s life through his process of making from observing and sketching, through creating designs, to the making of the finished object. The Wilson holds Gimson’s archive of inspiration – his sketchbooks and photographs – as well as over 1500 plans and drawings from throughout his working life. These are brought together with the objects they inspired and Gimson’s words from the many letters by him in the museum’s collection.
Supported by DCMS/Wolfson
Who was Ernest Gimson?
Ernest Gimson moved to Gloucestershire in 1893 and stayed there for the rest of his life. A Leicester man, he trained as an architect in Leicester in his teens and then in London in his twenties. In London he made many friends among his fellow Arts and Crafts Movement designers and makers. He and his friends Sidney and Ernest Barnsley wanted a simple life in the countryside where they could enjoy their work as architects and makers. They searched England and eventually settled in the Cotswolds. They made Sapperton near Cirencester their home.
What did Ernest Gimson do?
Gimson designed for many different materials and crafts. He considered himself first and foremost an architect. He set up furniture and metalworking workshops in Sapperton to execute his designs. He designed embroidery that was made by members of his family. He made chairs and plasterwork himself. He sought to be true to the materials he used and to go back to nature and the past for inspiration. The art critic Nikolas Pevsner described him as the ‘greatest of the English artist-craftsmen’.
How did Cheltenham come to hold his archive?
The Wilson holds over 2000 designs and drawings of furniture and metalwork by Ernest Gimson, which, alongside letters, sketchbooks and his personal photograph collection were acquired by the Librarian Curator Daniel Herdman at the time of the death of Gimson’s widow, Emily, in 1941. Herdman attended the sale at their house, the Leasowes in Sapperton and spotted in Gimson’s old office the heap of plans and drawings. When he asked about it, he was told it was going on the bonfire! Herdman was able to act fast and secured the archive for the nation. On his way back to Cheltenham he stopped off at friends at the Whiteway colony and wept at their kitchen table as he thought what might have happened. The archive has been part of Cheltenham’s collection ever since, one of our most important archive collections.
Explore Ernest Gimson's process of making from sketch to finished product
Arts and Crafts designers: Ernest Gimson
Ernest Gimson was an architect and designer, who lived and worked in Sapperton, Gloucestershire.
Observation: Ernest Gimson's sketchbooks
Explore Ernest Gimson's sketchbooks, showing sketches of buildings, furniture and more from his travels as a young man.
Imagination: Ernest Gimson's designs
Explore Ernest Gimson's designs and plans for furniture, architecture, metalwork and more.