Arts And Crafts Trail: Cheltenham, the Cotswolds, Midlands and Lake District

| 01 January 2004
Shows a grey stone-built manor house with a neat lawn, small trees and other greenery in front of it.

Kelmscott Manor, Morris' country pile, seemed to him to grow out of the land rather than being built there. Courtesy Kelmscott Manor.

Part 1: Cheltenham and the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds became an important centre for the Arts and Crafts Movement in the early 20th century. Craftsmen and women followed in William Morris' footsteps, whose country home was at Kelmscott Manor, and settled in villages throughout the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire. This part of the trail takes us to Morris' home and to Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, Cotswold villages, Rodmarton Manor and Owlpen Manor.

We start in Cheltenham where the Cotswolds meet Gloucestershire and where the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum has the definitive Arts and Crafts collection in the UK.

From the 1920s close links were forged between the local designers, artists and makers and the Art Gallery & Museum 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.

photo of a gallery frontage with light shining through a domed window

Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum has been collecting work by local craftspeople for many years. Courtesy Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum.

Arts and Crafts work was acquired by the Art Gallery & Museum from the 1930s. Featured designers include Gimson and the Barnsleys and the husband and wife team, Alfred and Louise Powell. Since the 1970s the collection has been developed to give a national overview including pieces by William Morris, CFA Voysey, MH Baillie Scott, Eric Gill, A Romney Green, and Archibald Knox. Also represented are Arts and Crafts designs aimed at the popular market by Liberty's, Heal and Son and other manufacturers.

In 2002, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum launched the Arts and Crafts Movement website

Leading Arts and Crafts practitioners were drawn to the Cotswolds by its rich craft tradition, its accessibility to London and Oxford and by the cultivated charm of the landscape.

The existing architecture served as an inspiration for the numerous large and small buildings undertaken by Arts and Crafts architects. From 1871 –1896 William Morris spent his summer at Kelmscott Manor; in the 1890s three young architect designers, Ernest Gimson and the brothers Ernest and Sidney Barnsley, settled near Cirencester.

a black and white photograph of William Morris with thick curly hair and beard. He is seated and holds his hat

William Morris has left an indelible mark on the the world of art and design in the UK. The designs of Morris & Co. are still in production whilst the principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement continue to influence new generations of craftsmen and designers. Picture © William Morris Gallery.

The migration of craftsmen continued in 1902 when CR Ashbee and some 100 followers settled in Chipping Campden, bringing with them the ethos of the Guild of Handicraft originally set up by Ashbee at Toynbee Hall in 1888. Throughout the Cotswolds, there are many villages and churches where the work of Arts and Crafts Movement designers can be seen, although many houses are still in private ownership and not open to the public. Of course, the exteriors are still free to view!

Details of architectural work can be found in the Gazetteer to Arts and Crafts Movement Architecture in the Cotswold Region by Catherine Gordon, available from Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, price £1.95.

A Tour of the Cotswolds

This tour starts in the north, at Chipping Campden with its rich legacy of work by the Arts and Crafts architect CR Ashbee and the members of the Guild of Handicraft. From here the Guild of Handicraft came to have a worldwide influence as profound as that of the Morris company, providing a model of communal living, profit sharing and joyous labour.

Shows a photo of an intricately patterned piece of fabric draped on a table, with three decorative vases and a plate. There are also some tiles with pictures on them.

William Morris furniture and textiles, with pottery by William De Morgan, and silverwork by WAS Benson. Courtesy Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum.

Among the many surviving buildings is Elm Tree House which Ashbee converted into Campden School of Arts and Crafts in 1904 .The Ashbees lived in Woolstapler’s Hall from 1902-11 which has Arts and Crafts interior features.

In nearby Broadway another craftsman, Gordon Russell, established a workshop and showrooms. The Lygon Arms is the former manor house dating back to 1620. It was taken over by Gordon’s father, SB Russell, in 1904. The architect CE Bateman added the Great Hall as a new dining room with plasterwork by the Birmingham Guild.

South of Cheltenham is Painswick with a number of Arts and Crafts buildings: the Congregational Church in Gloucester St has a window by Morris & Co; the Gyde Almshouses in Gloucester Road were designed by Sidney Barnsley in 1913, as were the public baths in St Mary’s Street. The Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen has its own exhibition every August and shows the variety and excellence of their workmanship.

Other places of interest outside Painswick are Holcombe House, Olivers, Paradise, and Painswick Lodge, the latter altered and restored by Sidney Barnsley in 1925/6.

Shows a photo of a large stately building with Union Jacks flying out front.

The Lygon Arms is now a luxury hotel. Courtesy the Lygon Arms.

At Sapperton are several buildings designed by Arts and Crafts architects for themselves. Norman Jewson made interior alterations at Batchelor’s Court, an 18th century Farmhouse. Beechanger was built by Sidney Barnsley for himself and The Leasowes was designed and built by Ernest Gimson for himself. Upper Dorvel House was built by Ernest Barnsley, for his own use, and he also built the village hall in 1913 with assistance from Norman Jewson.

Near Cirencester, Gloucestershire, is Rodmarton Manor, one of the last country houses built and furnished using local stone and timber, by Ernest Barnsley and the Cotswold Group of craftsmen. The house, built for Claud and Margaret Biddulph, took 20 years to complete (it was finished in 1929).

There is furniture and pottery by Alfred and Louise Powell, wall hangings by Helda Benjamin, lead and brass designed by Norman Jewson and iron work by Fred and Frank Baldwin and Alfred Bucknell. The garden was designed by Barnsley. Click here to find out about visiting Rodmarton.

Shows a very wide building, in front of which is a neat, round lawn.

The vast expanse of Rodmarton Manor, near Cirencester. Courtesy Simon Biddulph.

To the west of Stroud is Owlpen Manor, dating from the 15th century with a magnificent Tudor Great Hall, Jacobean wing and Georgian parlour.

The manor house was repaired by the outstanding Cotswold Arts and Crafts architect Norman Jewson in 1926, after it had become something of a sleeping beauty, dwarfed behind enormous yews and uninhabited for over 100 years.

On view is a collection of Cotswold Arts and Crafts furniture and associated items by Sidney Barnsley, Norman Jewson and Ernest Gimson, among others. Visit the Owlpen Manor website for more information on visiting.

A tour of the Cotswolds would not be complete without a visit to Kelmscott Manor at the eastern end of the Cotswolds on the way to Oxford.

William Morris chose it as his summer home, signing a joint lease with the pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the summer of 1871. Morris loved the house as a work of true craftsmanship, totally unspoilt and unaltered and in harmony with the village and the surrounding countryside.

He considered it so natural in its setting as to be almost organic, it looked to him as if it had "grown up out of the soil"; and with "quaint garrets amongst great timbers of the roof where of old times the tillers and herdsmen slept".

Kelmscott Manor is owned and managed by the Society of Antiquaries of London. See for further details.

shows a contemporary photo of Jane Morris in a long dress and thick tressled hair

Jane Morris, wife of William, posed and photographed by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. As well as being a muse, model, mother and wife she also found time to produce a selection of tapestries. Picture © William Morris Gallery.

Part 2: The Midlands and the Lake District

This trail now heads north to Birmingham, Leicester and Wolverhampton and then on to the Lake District, via Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; 78 Derngate, Northampton; Belgrave Hall, Leicestershire; Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton; Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal; and Blackwell, Bowness on Windermere.

The Birmingham Group was set up by teachers at the Birmingham Art School in the 1890s developing Arts and Crafts influences in mural decorations, book illustrations, embroideries and enamelling and received many local commissions. Most outstanding were the library and chapel of Madresfield Court, near Malvern, Worcestershire. Some of their work as well as that of other Arts and Crafts designers and artists feature in this tour.

At Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery the collection includes Arts and Crafts artefacts by members of the Birmingham Group as well as pre-Raphaelite paintings.

Shows a photo of a dark-painted room with a black and white fireplace and a modern electric chandelier.

The parlour of 78 Derngate - a daring design even now. Courtesy 78 Derngate.

To the south-east in Northampton, is 78 Derngate, opened to the public for the first time in 2003, after eighteen months of careful restoration.

The house, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, has been returned to its 1917 appearance. The adjoining property, number 80, has been transformed from a small Georgian terrace into a modern gallery. It houses an exhibition about the 1917 design of number 78 and about Bassett-Lowke (the original owner) and his business. It includes a display of many fine model ships and trains. The entrance is through number 82, where one can see a short video and a display about how the restoration was undertaken (pre-booked tours only).

Wightwick Manor on the outskirts of Wolverhampton is a Victorian house constructed to give the appearance of a home that has evolved over several hundred years. The house is decorated and furnished in the Arts and Crafts style, and is probably the most complete example of a property of this type.

Many original William Morris fabrics and wall coverings are used in Wightwick Manor. Fine paintings and furniture, Kempe glass and de Morgan ware are on display. Wightwick Manor was built by the Manders family, on the back of their successful paint manufacturing business; a business which continues today. The contents of Wightwick Manor are a reflection of the family's tastes and create a very comfortable and homely feel.

Shows a photo of a large mock tudor building, set in a grassy surrounds with bluebells at the foot.

The impressive building of Wightwick, a perfect example of Arts and Crafts style. © National Trust

Attractive gardens of around seven acres surround Wightwick Manor, which when it was built, was in open countryside. The growth of Wolverhampton has now completely surrounded the Manor, but you hardly notice it.

The Lake District marks the end of this trail with a visit to Blackwell, a superb example of Arts and Crafts architecture and to Abbot Hall Art Gallery.

Blackwell was built between 1897-1900 by MH Baillie Scott, a leading architect in the movement, for Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy Manchester brewer and his family. It occupies a stunning position overlooking Windermere and has recently been restored and opened to the public in 2001 as a gallery for craft and applied arts.

Shows a white building in the Arts and Crafts style with a trim lawn and a buttressed wall to one side.

Blackwell - quintessentially Arts and Crafts - was only opened to the public in 2001. Courtesy the Lakeland Trust.

Blackwell is a quintessential house of the Arts and Crafts Movement and an excellent example of innovative house design. On view today are the original fittings as well as furniture chosen to complement rather than recreate the original house including 17th century oak court cupboards and chests, Simpson furniture and objects from the Keswick School of Industrial Art as well as studio pottery by makers such as Bernard Leach, Hans Coper and Lucie Rie. Paintings and sculpture from Abbot Hall's collections are also displayed at Blackwell to create a truly 'artistic house' within the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

The Lakeland Trust, which saved Abbot Hall and turned it into a magnificent art gallery, is also the owner of Blackwell. There is a fine collection of paintings at Abbot Hall but most of the Arts and Crafts collection is displayed at Blackwell. There are temporary exhibitions at both Abbot Hall and Blackwell.

A Rebellion of Substance and Style / The Victoria and Albert Museum, Greater London and the South East / Glasgow and the Scottish legacy


  • Back to top
  • | Print this article
  • | Email this article
  • | Bookmark and Share


  • 1 mile
  • 2 miles
  • 3 miles
  • 4 miles
  • 5 miles
  • 10 miles
  • 20 miles
  • 50 miles
  • Any time
  • Today
  • This week
  • This month
  • This year