Dis­cover de­sign

Cel­e­brat­ing artistry, hon­est ma­te­ri­als and sim­ple forms, this rev­o­lu­tion­ary de­sign move­ment is in­creas­ingly still rel­e­vant to­day. Im­merse your­self in the works of such lu­mi­nar­ies as Wil­liam Mor­ris at the best places to visit in Bri­tain

Period Living - - Contents - Fea­ture Me­lanie Grif­fiths

A look at the best Arts and Crafts prop­er­ties, mu­se­ums and gar­dens to visit across the UK

In the late 19th cen­tury, Bri­tain ex­pe­ri­enced a de­sign re­form. Tired of fac­tory-pro­duced goods and de­clin­ing stan­dards in dec­o­ra­tive arts and crafts­man­ship fol­low­ing the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion, lead­ing de­sign­ers and ar­chi­tects sought to re­cap­ture and cel­e­brate lost tra­di­tional skills.

Yet, the ethos be­hind the Arts and Crafts move­ment went be­yond mere aes­thet­ics. Early in­flu­encer

John Ruskin, who among his many oc­cu­pa­tions was an art critic and po­lit­i­cal thinker, ar­gued that in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion had im­pacted negatively on so­ci­ety, to the point that the work­force had turned into ‘servile labour’. He be­lieved that it was healthy for work­ers to de­sign the things they made, and to make them by hand.

Among those to take note of Ruskin’s phi­los­o­phy was Wil­liam Mor­ris, who was in­spired to not only de­sign beau­ti­ful in­te­ri­ors, wall­pa­pers and tex­tiles, but have a hand in their man­u­fac­ture, too. So ex­quis­ite was his work and so in­flu­en­tial the man, Mor­ris drove for­ward the move­ment, and to­day his name is syn­ony­mous with Arts and Crafts.

The move­ment only lasted at its peak for three decades, from around 1880 un­til the start of World War I, but its in­flu­ence spread through ar­chi­tec­ture, in­te­ri­ors, art, dec­o­ra­tive ob­jects, jew­ellery, and even gar­dens. It made an im­pact around the globe, too, in­spir­ing sim­i­lar move­ments on the con­ti­nent, the United States and, some years later, Ja­pan.

To­day, as we in­creas­ingly es­chew mass-pro­duced uni­form goods in favour of unique ar­ti­san pieces, Arts and Crafts de­sign has never been so pop­u­lar. Whether you en­joy a Wil­liam Mor­ris print, a stately home or a ro­man­tic gar­den, there is a wealth of re­mark­able places to visit across the coun­try.


The Na­tional Trust is cus­to­dian of many of the finest Arts and Crafts prop­er­ties in Eng­land, and there are thou­sands of hand­made trea­sures wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered within their walls, along­side evoca­tive sto­ries of the fam­i­lies who lived in them. The

Trust’s many high­lights in­clude the Ernest Gim­son de­signed Stoney­well in Le­ices­ter­shire, the em­bod­i­ment of one man’s vi­sion of pu­rity for the move­ment; the in­te­rior of Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton, with its pro­fu­sion of Mor­ris wall­pa­pers at ev­ery turn and fab­u­lous De Mor­gan ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tur­ing the work of ce­ram­i­cist Wil­liam and his artist wife Eve­lyn; and God­dards in North York­shire, the charm­ing hand­crafted house built for the Terry fam­ily (of Choco­late Or­ange fame). How­ever, the most iconic and in­flu­en­tial of them all is the Red House, which gave birth to a new era of ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign.

Per­fectly sit­u­ated in Bex­ley­heath, Kent, the

Red House was built by Wil­liam Mor­ris in 1860 as a home for him and his new wife Jane. Mor­ris col­lab­o­rated with friend and ar­chi­tect Philip Webb, and sought the in­te­rior de­sign as­sis­tance of artist friends such as Ed­ward Burne-jones. He wanted the house to be ‘me­dieval in spirit’ (the era he be­lieved to be a great time of artistry, when peo­ple took plea­sure in their work), with a sim­pli­fied gothic ap­pear­ance, and for every­thing, in­side and out, to cel­e­brate art, na­ture and crafts­man­ship. The house pos­sesses many Arts and Crafts hall­marks now ubiq­ui­tous with the move­ment’s ar­chi­tec­ture, such as a high, steeply pitched roof in­cor­po­rat­ing ‘cat­slides’ (which ex­tend down be­low the main eaves height), dom­i­nant chim­neys, and win­dows po­si­tioned for light rather than for­mal­ity. Few of the fur­nish­ings were bought ready-made, as Mor­ris and Webb de­signed and made al­most every­thing – and some of these items re­main to­day.

Jour­ney across county bor­ders to dis­cover an­other Philip Webb tri­umph, Standen in West Sus­sex, which was com­pleted in 1894 for the fam­ily of a wealthy solic­i­tor. The house was in­tended to look as though it has al­ways been there, grown out of the land­scape. It was a mod­ern home, built with electrics and cen­tral heat­ing, while Mor­ris & Co in­te­ri­ors cre­ate an invit­ing feel, mak­ing it home­lier than many grand prop­er­ties. To­day the house is dressed for a week­end stay in 1925, and its de­light­ful gar­den has been re­cently re­stored.

Ven­tur­ing out­side the Na­tional Trust, Black­well, with its stun­ning views over Win­der­mere in the

Lake Dis­trict, is con­sid­ered a mas­ter­piece of 20th-cen­tury de­sign, and its in­te­ri­ors re­main re­mark­ably in­tact. Wealthy in­dus­tri­al­ist, and later lord mayor of Manch­ester, Sir Ed­ward Holt com­mis­sioned MH Bail­lie Scott to de­sign the house as a hol­i­day home. Bail­lie Scott de­vel­oped his own ➤

take on Arts and Crafts style, in­flu­enced by the lo­cal ver­nac­u­lar and other lu­mi­nar­ies, such as CFA Voy­sey. From fire­places dec­o­rated with De Mor­gan tiles, stained glass and carved pan­elling to mo­saic floors, wall hang­ings, and fur­ni­ture and ob­jects by many lead­ing Arts and Crafts de­sign­ers and stu­dios, there is much to ab­sorb.

One of the last great houses built to Arts and Crafts prin­ci­ples, Rod­mar­ton Manor in Cirences­ter was cre­ated by Ernest Barns­ley and the Cotswold Group of Crafts­men for the Bid­dulph fam­ily, who still own the prop­erty. The house was in­tended to pro­vide em­ploy­ment and keep alive craft tra­di­tions in the area. Ar­chi­tect CR Ash­bee de­scribed it as ‘The English Arts and Crafts move­ment at its best’, and to­day the manor and glo­ri­ous gar­dens are open to the pub­lic on se­lected days. This Septem­ber, the house is host­ing the Glouces­ter­shire Guild of Crafts­men for a new con­tem­po­rary craft and de­sign fes­ti­val, Crafts Alive. (See page 18 for de­tails.)


While you can’t beat the im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence of ex­plor­ing a his­toric prop­erty, for a deeper in­sight into the Arts and Crafts move­ment it pays to visit one of the ex­cel­lent mu­se­ums show­cas­ing a wealth of hand­crafted trea­sures. The Wil­liam Mor­ris Gallery in Waltham­stow, Lon­don, of­fers the best of both worlds, al­low­ing vis­i­tors to stroll through the rooms of Mor­ris’ stately fam­ily home, from the ages of 14 to 22, and dis­cover the story of his evo­lu­tion – from a bored priv­i­leged stu­dent with no for­mal arts train­ing to the fa­ther of Arts and Crafts. Many of his works are on dis­play, in­clud­ing a full range of Mor­ris & Co de­signs, while the house it­self is a fine ex­am­ple of Ge­or­gian de­sign, set amid park­land.

Else­where in Lon­don, the V&A mu­seum has many ex­quis­ite pieces in its col­lec­tions, from

Mor­ris him­self to the con­tem­po­raries he in­spired in­clud­ing CFA Voy­sey and Wil­liam De Mor­gan, and even Mor­ris’ own idol, John Ruskin.

To go be­yond Mor­ris and ap­pre­ci­ate the wider in­flu­ences of the move­ment he be­gan, head to the Cotswolds, which be­came an im­por­tant cen­tre for Arts and Crafts as de­sign­ers such as Ernest Gim­son and CR Ash­bee re­lo­cated there in the early 1900s, at­tracted to its idyl­lic land­scape, rich tra­di­tion of craft and ac­ces­si­bil­ity to Lon­don, Birm­ing­ham and Ox­ford. The Wil­son in Chel­tenham holds its own Arts and Crafts mu­seum fea­tur­ing many internationally sig­nif­i­cant works. As well as show­cas­ing the colourful de­signs and craft skills

of the mak­ers, the col­lec­tion con­veys the so­cial mes­sage of the move­ment with its em­pha­sis on creative man­ual work.

Tie in a visit to a mu­seum with a stroll around in­de­pen­dent shops, gal­leries and tea­rooms, in the pic­turesque mar­ket town of Chip­ping Cam­den. Its Court Barn Mu­seum cel­e­brates fa­mous and lesser known de­sign­ers from the Arts and Crafts move­ment through to the present day. Beau­ti­ful Broad­way, just a 10-minute drive away, of­fers a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence at the Gordon Rus­sell De­sign

Mu­seum, lo­cated in the orig­i­nal work­shop of the renowned 20th-cen­tury fur­ni­ture de­signer. Rus­sell came un­der the in­flu­ence of the com­mu­nity of crafts­peo­ple who had re­cently moved to the area, but he be­lieved that good de­sign should be avail­able to all, and sought to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­i­ties ma­chines of­fered in mass-pro­duc­ing qual­ity pieces. The mu­seum tells the fas­ci­nat­ing story of his life and busi­ness, trac­ing de­signs over the decades that fol­lowed.


De­signed at the same time, Arts and Crafts houses and gar­dens were usu­ally mar­ried to­gether in ap­pear­ance and fol­lowed the same prin­ci­ples of us­ing nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and crafts­man­ship. There wasn’t an ex­act style for gar­dens, but they tended to be ro­man­tic, mix­ing manor house for­mal­ity with charm­ing cot­tage gar­den plant­ing, and roses in abundance. There were of­ten more struc­tural el­e­ments, too, such as neat lawns, box hedg­ing and top­i­ary.

The most in­flu­en­tial gar­dener and hor­ti­cul­tur­ist work­ing to an Arts and Crafts ethos was Gertrude Jekyll, famed for her colourful, painterly ap­proach to plant­ing and hardy flo­ral bor­ders, as well as her col­lab­o­ra­tions with Ed­win Lu­tyens, one of the move­ment’s lead­ing ar­chi­tects and de­sign­ers. To­day, the gar­den of Jekyll’s own home, the Lu­tyens-de­signed Mun­stead Wood in Go­dalm­ing, Sur­rey, is open by ap­point­ment, and there are a num­ber of her gar­dens open on se­lected days through the RHS Open Gar­dens scheme.

One of the great­est Arts and Crafts gar­dens is Hid­cote near Chip­ping Cam­p­den, cre­ated by Amer­i­can hor­ti­cul­tur­ist Lawrence John­ston and now in the care of the Na­tional Trust. It fea­tures a se­ries of linked ‘rooms’ with no ob­vi­ous or­dered route, while se­cret gar­dens and hid­den-away seat­ing ar­eas await at ev­ery turn. Beds burst with coun­try gar­den favourites, wild mead­ows and wood­lands cre­ate a ro­man­tic feel, and for­mal hedg­ing, cir­cles and top­i­ary add structure. Of­ten re­ferred to as a gar­den for all sea­sons, through­out the year there’s a flo­ral spec­ta­cle to drink in, from sum­mer roses to win­ter snow­drops.

Pho­to­graph Mal­colm Men­zies

Clock­wise from top: The Draw­ing Room at Standen, fea­tur­ing a grand fire­place and Arts and Crafts prints; the main hall at Black­well, dec­o­rated with carved pan­elling and stun­ning pea­cock frieze, look­ing into the din­ing room with its delft-tiled fire­place; God­dards was de­signed byWal­ter Bri­er­ley for Noel Goddard Terry, of the choco­late-mak­ing firm; stained glass at Black­well fea­tur­ing a rowan mo­tif; Wil­liam De Mor­gan Daisy tile at Black­well

Clock­wise from top left: TheOld Gar­den at Hid­cote, one of the finest Arts and Crafts ex­am­ples; tex­tile em­broi­dered panel, silk thread on linen, by Mor­ris’ daugh­ter May, for Mor­ris & Co, early 1890s, on dis­play at The Wil­son; the Works of Ge­of­frey Chaucer, printed by the Kelm­scott Press, 1896, on dis­play at The Wil­son; bronze bust of Mor­ris on dis­play at the Wil­liam Mor­ris Gallery, in his old fam­ily home

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