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 Cotswold villages, Rodmarton
Manor and Owlpen Manor.
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
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.
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.
The migration of craftsmen continued in 1902 when C.R. 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!
A Tour of the Cotswolds
tour starts in the north Cotswolds, 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.
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
In nearby Broadway another
craftsman, Gordon Russell, established a workshop and showrooms.
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
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.
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.
To the west of Stroud is Owlpen
Manor, dating from the 15th century with
a magnificent Tudor Great Hall, Jacobean wing and Georgian
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. See Owlpen
Manor for more information.
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.
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
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".
Manor is owned and managed by the Society
of Antiquaries of London.