A guide to the best Art and Crafts venues to visit in the West Midlands and the Cotswolds
From June 27 – September 13 2015, Compton Verney Art Gallery, near Stratford-upon-Avon, is hosting two exhibitions - The Arts and Crafts House: Then and Now and The Hart Silversmiths: A Living Tradition, as well as a William Morris inspired meadow designed by Dan Pearson.
To celebrate, Culture24 has teamed up with the gallery to produce a new Arts and Crafts trail helping you to explore the numerous Arts and Crafts venues which can be found close by in the West Midlands and Cotswolds.
1. Wightwick Manor - Sat Nav: WV6 8BN
The legacy of a family's passion for Victorian art and design
© Courtesy Wightwick Manor and Gardens
In 1937, Geoffrey Mander MP did something remarkable - he persuaded the National Trust to accept a house that was just 50 years old. The local paint manufacturer and Liberal MP had been left the timber-framed house by his father Theodore.
Taking inspiration from a lecture on 'The House Beautiful' by Oscar Wilde, Theodore and his wife Flora decorated its interiors with the designs of William Morris and his Arts and Crafts contemporaries.
This house of the Aesthetic Movement was, by 1937, a relic of an out-of-fashion era. Yet so complete was the design that it was worthy of preservation. Having given the house to the trust, Geoffrey and his second wife Rosalie became its live-in curators, opening the house to the public and adding to its contents.
In particular they added a remarkable collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Rossetti, Burne-Jones and their followers.
So take a step back in time and visit the ever-changing family home that’s also the world’s most unlikely art gallery.
Address: Wightwick Bank, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, WV6 8EE.
Telephone: 01902 761400
2. Stoneywell – Sat Nav LE67 9QE
The home of a family who lived and loved the Arts and Crafts
© Courtesy Stoneywell National Trust
The National Trust’s first house in Leicestershire and a rare example of an Arts and Crafts designed home was built as a summer home by Arts and Crafts architect-designer Ernest Gimson for his brother Sydney.
Stoneywell zigzags from its rocky outcrop amid rhododendrons and heather. Every turn conjures childhood memories of holiday excitement, dashing down the winding steps –- one way to the fort, the other to the woods beyond.
Reminisce as you explore the cottage which has been restored to how the Gimson family would have known it when they moved in in the early 1950s. Uncover the story behind the bull horns above the fireplace, dash down the winding steps from Olympus and have a swing in the garden before adventuring through the woodland beyond.
Please note that booking is essential. Advance booking (including for members) is required due to the size of Stoneywell. See below for more details.
Address: Whitcrofts Lane, Ulverscroft, Leicestershire, LE67 9QE
Telephone: 01530 248040
3. Compton Verney – Sat Nav CV35 9HZ
Experience the influence of the Arts and Crafts in two new exhibitions
Compton Verney Art Gallery, near Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, is hosting two new Arts and Crafts related exhibitions this summer, between June 27 and September 13 2015.
The Arts and Crafts House: Then and Now
Encounter the spirit of the Arts and Crafts House with this celebration of historic and contemporary design. From the Garden to the Dining Room, this exhibition explores the Movement’s fascination with the creation of the Home and its continued influence today.
Beginning with John Ruskin and William Morris, the exhibition looks at the source material which inspired a new era of domestic creativity and crafts practice. Celebrated designers and collaborators such as Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll, Alfred and Louise Powell, the Barnsley Brothers and Ernest Gimson are explored alongside today’s leading designers such as Sebastian Cox, Rosa Nguyen, Dan Pearson, Andrew Wicks, Jim Partridge and Liz Walmsley.
A number of key Arts and Crafts houses are also featured including Morris’ homes at Kelmscott Manor and Red House, Lutyens and Jekyll’s Munstead Wood and Rodmarton Manor.
The Hart Silversmiths: A Living Tradition
The Hart family have worked in the Silk Mill in Chipping Campden for more than a century, and this exhibition brings together commissions and the spectacular drawings that inspired them. It also tells the story of a tradition, skill and the way of life of the Silversmith.
Address: Compton Verney, Compton Verney, Warwickshire, CV35 9HZ
Telephone: 01926 645500
4. Hidcote Manor Gardens - Sat Nav GL55 6LR
Experience one of the country’s great Arts and Crafts gardens
© Paul Schreeve via geograph.org CC licence
Hidcote is an Arts and Crafts garden in the north Cotswolds, a stone’s throw from Stratford-upon-Avon. Created by the talented American horticulturist Major Lawrence Johnston, its colourful and intricately designed outdoor ‘rooms’ are always full of surprises. It’s a must-see if you’re on holiday in the Cotswolds.
Explore the maze of narrow paved pathways and discover secret gardens, magnificent vistas and plants that burst with colour. Many of the plants found growing in the garden were collected from Johnston’s many plant hunting trips to faraway places. It’s the perfect place if you’re in need of gardening inspiration.
Find a quiet spot and sit on one of the ornate benches and watch green woodpeckers search for their lunch or listen to the calls from the buzzards circling overhead. Time it right and you might catch a glimpse of the elusive hummingbird moth.
Meander through the intricate gardens and into the Wilderness. This secluded stretch of tall trees is just right for a picnic. Take a glimpse beyond the boundary and see the garden blend effortlessly into the countryside beyond.
The Monarch’s Way path runs close-by. Follow it for a brief time from the car park and into the chocolate-box Cotswold hamlet of Hidcote Bartrim. You’ll be treated to traditionally thatched stone cottages that were once home to Johnston’s gardeners. They’re now owned by the Trust and rented out.
Address: Hidcote Bartrim, near Chipping Campden, Gloucesteshire, GL55 6LR
Telephone: 01386 438333
5. Kiftsgate Court Gardens – Sat Nav GL55 6LN
Three generations of female gardeners
© Courtesy Kiftsgate Court Gardens
Frequently described as an Arts and Crafts Garden, the story of Kiftsgate is the story of three generations of women gardeners: Heather Muir, Diany Binny and Anne Chambers. Each, in her unique way, contributed throughout almost a century to make Kiftsgate the world-renowned garden that visitors and gardeners alike have grown to know and love.
Heather Muir created the garden at Kiftsgate, which up until 1920 had consisted of a paved formal garden in front of the portico, with a field and wooded banks beyond. Heather was helped and inspired by her lifelong friend Lawrence Johnston, of Hidcote Manor.
She decided that the garden would develop organically as she was inspired, rather than planning everything on paper. This has given the garden a distinctly feminine feel, almost in direct contrast to the more masculine lines being employed by Johnston at Hidcote.
By 1930 the steep banks were tackled and the steps to the lower garden were put in place, along with the delightful summerhouse taking advantage of the views to the west.
Today, perched atop the Cotswold escarpment overlooking the Vale of Evesham, it is a spectacular sight throughout the seasons. Home of the famous Kiftsgate Rose, the largest rose in England, it also contains many unusual and fascinating plants.
Address: Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, GL55 6LN
Telephone: 01386 438777
6. Court Barn, A Museum of Craft and Design – Sat Nav GL55 6JE
The story of the Arts and Crafts movement and its legacy
© Courtesy Court Barn
Court Barn celebrates the skill and imagination of talented designers and craftspeople who have worked in Chipping Campden and the north Cotswolds since the beginning of the 20th century.
This is a story of the Arts and Crafts movement and its legacy that begins in 1902, when CR Ashbee, the radical Arts and Crafts designer best known for his elegant silverwork, moved his London East End workshops to Chipping Campden.
It was part of his romanticism to think that craft would be at home in the country; he wanted to give his craftsmen a healthier life. Find out how a small town became a gathering place for designers and craftspeople of national and international reputation, including Ashbee, Gordon Russell, Hart Silversmiths and Robert Welch.
Throughout the year Court Barn runs an exciting programme of exhibitions, events, workshops and lectures. In summer 2015, it will feature the exhibition Morris & Company Tiles, showing some of the finest pattern and story tiles produced by the artists such as Edward Burne-Jones.
Address: Court Barn Museum, Church Street, Chipping Campden, GL55 6JE
Telephone: 01386 841951
7. The Hart Silversmiths – Sat Nav GL55 6DS
An Arts and Crafts Living Tradition
The Hart Gold & Silversmiths are a team of craftsmen specialising in the best traditions of handmade silver.
Specialising in a wide range of domestic silverware from cutlery to bowls, jugs, condiment sets, silver tea and coffee services and the largest of salvers, they also have a great knowledge in the designing and making of Ecclesiastical and Civic silver.
The workshop is the last operating remnant of the Guild of Handicraft which C.R. Ashbee established in 1888. George Hart was a silversmith with the Guild when it moved to Chipping Campden in 1902 and from 1912 he took on the running of the workshop, joined in 1930 by his son Henry.
This high tradition is now carried on by his grandson David Hart along with Derek Elliott, and William and Julian Hart. Visitors are always welcome to come and see the silversmiths at work, and inspect the articles they have for sale.
Address: Sheep Street, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire GL55 6DS
Telephone: +44 (0) 1386 841100
8. Gordon Russell Design Museum – Sat Nav WR12 7AP
The workshop of a leading force in the Arts and Crafts Movement
© Courtesy Gordon Russell Museum
Opened by Sir Terence Conran in 2008 the Gordon Russell Design Museum is housed in the company’s former Grade-II-listed workshop in Broadway, Worcestershire.
Internationally recognised for his contribution to design and craftsmanship and a leading force within the Arts & Crafts Movement, Sir Gordon Russell (1892-1980) became Director of the Design Council in 1947.
He played a major part in the utility furniture campaign and his brother, Dick Russell, designed cabinets for Murphy Radio from the 1930s. Examples of these designs can be seen in the unique collection of furniture, decorative art and archival material on display in the museum.
Address: Russell Square, Broadway WR12 7AP
Telephone: 01386 854695
9. The Wilson, Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery – Sat Nav GL50 3JT
An Arts and Crafts collection designated as national importance
© Courtesy the Wilson
The Wilson, Cheltenham’s newly extended art gallery and museum, reopened its doors to the public on October 5 2013 with a new building housing expansive fine art and touring exhibition galleries for the first time.
Renewed gallery spaces allow visitors to explore highlights from the Museum’s collections - including a new gallery space dedicated to the internationally renowned Arts & Crafts collection, open archives showing tales of local heroes including the great Edward Wilson (one of Scott's key men on his 1912 expedition to Antarctica) and temporary exhibition spaces filled with varied programming including fun shows for families.
From the 1920s close links were forged between the local designers, artists and makers and the venue by the librarian-curator, Daniel Herdman. Exhibitions of work were held regularly in Cheltenham, Painswick and Chipping Campden. In 1951 a major exhibition of Cotswold craftsmanship was organised by the gallery as part of the Festival of Britain.
Address: Clarence Street , Cheltenham, GL50 3JT
Telephone: 01242 237431
10. Kelmscott Manor – Sat Nav GL7 3HJ
The Cotswold retreat of William Morris and his family
© Copyright Bill Nichols via geograph.org CC licence
Kelmscott Manor was the Cotswold retreat of William Morris and his family, friends and colleagues. When Morris first saw the Manor in 1871, he was delighted by this 'loveliest haunt of ancient peace'; he signed a joint lease for the property with his friend and colleague Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the Pre-Raphaelite artist.
Morris loved the house as a work of true craftsmanship, totally unspoilt and unaltered, in harmony with the village and the surrounding countryside. He considered it so natural in its setting as to be almost organic, looking to him as if it had "grown up out of the soil"; with "quaint garrets amongst great timbers of the roof where of old times the tillers and herdsmen slept".
Its beautiful gardens, with barns, dovecote, a meadow and stream, provided a constant source of inspiration for Morris until his death in 1896. After his death, his wife Jane purchased the house, and his daughter, May, spent most of her adult life there. The entire family—William and Jane Morris and their children, Jenny and May—are buried in the grounds of nearby St George's church.
The village of Kelmscott also contains cottages designed by Webb and Gimson as well as the Morris Memorial Hall (also Gimson), all of which have associations with the Morris family.
Today owned by the Society of Antiquaries, visitors can still experience the beauty and seclusion that inspired many of William Morris's most important designs and writings and influenced his ideas on conservation for both the built and natural environments.
This 17th century, Grade I-listed Manor house on the river Thames - perhaps the most evocative of all the houses associated with Morris - contains an outstanding collection of the possessions and works of Morris, as well as of his family and associates (Benson, Burne-Jones, Rossetti and Webb among them) that includes furniture, original textiles, pictures and paintings, carpets, ceramics and metalwork.
The estate also boasts a beautiful garden with easy access to the Thames Pathway, as well as a licensed Tearoom and Shop.
Address: Kelmscott, Lechlade, Gloucestershire, GL7 3HJ
Telephone: 01367 252486
11 Rodmarton Manor Sat Nav GL7 6PF
Stunning example of Cotswold Arts and Crafts building and furniture
© Courtesy Rodmarton Manor
Rodmarton Manor is the supreme example of a house built and all its furniture made according to Arts and Crafts ideals. It is one of the last country houses to have been built and furnished in the old traditional style, when everything was done by hand with local stone, local timber and local craftsmen.
Ernest Barnsley was a follower of William Morris. Together with a group of Cotswold Craftsmen, Morris built and furnished the house for Claud and Margaret Biddulph, beginning in 1909. They were responsible for the revival of many traditional crafts in the Cotswolds which were in danger of dying out.
During the 20 years that it took to create the house, many people were involved in building, woodwork, metalwork, needlework, painting, gardening - all done to a very high standard.
Most of the furniture was made specially for the house, either in the Rodmarton workshops or made by Sidney Barnsley, Edward Barnsley or Peter Waals. Some furniture was bought after the house was built, but all of the pieces are directly or indirectly attributable to the original craftsmen or people who had connections with them such as Harry Davoll, Owen Scrubey, Oliver Morel.
There is furniture and pottery painted by Alfred and Louise Powell, applique wall hangings designed by Hilda Benjamin (Sexton), leadwork and brass designed by Norman Jewson and ironwork by Fred and Frank Baldwin and Alfred Bucknell.
Address: Cirencester Gloucestershire, GL7 6PF,
Telephone: 01285 841442
List of venues with map:
1. Wightwick Manor WV6 8BN
2. Stoneywell LE67 9QE
3. Compton Verney CV35 9HZ
4. Hidcote Manor Gardens GL55 6LR
5. Kiftgate Garden GL55 6LN
6. Court Barn GL55 6JE
7. Chipping Campden
8. Hart Silversmiths GL55 6DS
9. Gordon Russell Museum WR12 7AP
10. Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery
11. Rodmarton Manor GL7 6PF
12. Kelmscott Manor GL7 3HJ