Life keeps putting me in the way of the Arts and Crafts movement. The movement focused on craftsmanship and design around the turn of the 20th century, and there are still people carrying on its ideals and techniques today. Over the last few years, my travels around the UK have taken me to some of the best examples of the movement’s historic architecture, furniture, art, and textiles, and today I want to share 15 of the best Arts and Crafts movement places in Britain with you.
Arts and Crafts Movement Places in Britain
Before I begin, it’s worth giving a bit more background about the movement itself. Originating as a reaction against the Industrial Revolution and the mechanization of manufacturing in 1880s Britain, it aimed to set up new principles for working and living. Focusing on good design, traditional craftsmanship skills, and improving the lives of everyday people, it advocated reform of both art and society.
There are great places to visit to get into the Arts and Crafts spirit all across Britain. From the Cotswolds to the Lake District, the big cities to the small villages, the UK has a lot of historic examples and continuing traditions. This post has by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it inspires your inner designer and creator and encourages you to seek out more Arts and Crafts movement places in Britain.
1. Chipping Campden
The Cotswolds school of the Arts and Crafts movement is one of the biggest and best known strands. Many of the leaders of the movement settled here, and their homes, workshops, and legacies are still on display today. This is particularly true in Chipping Campden.
On Sheep Street, the historic home of the movement’s Guild of Handicrafts is still up and running. Third-generation silversmith David Hart maintains a workshop from the period, complete with a guestbook dating back to 1903. Down the high street, the Court Barn museum is dedicated to the designers and craftspeople of the Arts and Crafts movement.
The area’s highlights aren’t exclusively in town, either. Just outside Chipping Campden is Hidcote Manor Garden, an expansive Arts and Crafts garden with “rooms” full of flowers, topiary trees, and other lovely surprises.
Not far from Chipping Campden, Broadway is another of the best Arts and Crafts places in Britain. The Gordon Russell Design Museum is full of the 20th-century furniture designer’s work, complete with secret compartments and other hidden elements.
On the high street sits the Lygon Arms hotel. It was owned by Gordon Russell’s father and houses some of his son’s furniture.
Just outside of town lies Broadway Tower, a romantic 18th-century folly. The second-highest point in the Cotswolds, it offers exhibits on residents and guests like William Morris, who is often considered the founding father of the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain.
Another Cotswolds location with an Arts and Crafts connection is Sapperton. The churchyard of St Kenelm’s holds the graves of Ernest Gimson and the Barnsley brothers, important leaders in the movement who lived and worked here. Their houses are also in the village, and nearby is the grave of Norman Jewson, another figure in the movement.
4. Owlpen Manor
Speaking of Norman Jewson, his home at Owlpen Manor isn’t far from Sapperton. It’s a spectacular Tudor house surrounded by terraced gardens with topiary yews and box parterres. Inside, a Tudor hall with an enormous fireplace, a chamber with exquisite 18th-century painted cloth wall hangings, and Jewson’s own Arts and Crafts touches all make for a journey through time.
Elsewhere in Gloucestershire, Cheltenham is home to The Wilson. Formerly called the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, it’s well-known for its collection of Arts and Crafts furniture. The Wilson has impressive pieces from big names like Ernest and Sidney Barnsley, as well as rare works and unique one-offs.
Up in the Lake District, Brantwood was the home of John Ruskin, a leading Victorian art critic and social reformer who founded the Art Workers’ Guild with William Morris in 1884. The guild was an important part of the Arts and Crafts movement, and aimed to break down barriers between architects, artists, designers, and makers. Brantwood is lovely to see inside, and the gardens and walking paths around it are beautiful.
Nearby is Blackwell, one of the most famous Arts and Crafts movement places in Britain. This house in the Lake District is a total work of art, and everything from the furniture to the stained-glass windows pays homage to the movement. The interiors and Arts and Crafts furniture reveal its creators’ embrace of the style and keen attention to detail.
Up in Scotland, the Glasgow School formed another strand of the Arts and Crafts movement. Architects like Charles Rennie Mackintosh pioneered a new modern style showcased in buildings like the Glasgow School of Art. The striking white interiors of his home take the idea indoors and can be seen at the Hunterian Museum.
9. Kellie Castle
Another famous Arts and Crafts architect was Sir Robert Lorimer, who spent much of his childhood at Kellie Castle in Scotland’s Fife. The 14th-century castle’s exterior is beautiful in its own right, but Lorimer’s interiors and the spectacular Arts and Crafts garden make it worth a special trip.
10. Lindisfarne Castle
Over the border in Northumberland, Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island is known for its Arts and Crafts renovation by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. But there’s more to it than just the building, including acclaimed designer Gertrude Jekyll’s stunning garden.
Down in Leicestershire, Leicester‘s New Walk Museum and Art Gallery an important Arts and Crafts collection. The city was also Ernest Gimson’s birthplace (there’s a blue plaque on a nearby building where he lived), and has a lot of history relating to him and the movement. There’s even a Leicestershire heritage trail dedicated to the regional highlights.
Just outside Leicester, Stoneywell house was designed by Ernest Gimson for his brother Sydney at the end of the 19th century. A stunning example of Arts and Crafts architecture, it’s now a museum where tours reveal the intimate interior and allow visitors to explore the wild landscapes outside.
12. Wightwick Manor
Another famous Arts and Crafts house, Wightwick Manor is a Victorian home in the West Midlands. It features striking half-timbered exteriors and gorgeous William Morris interiors. It also has an impressive collection of Pre-Raphaelite art and beautiful gardens to explore.
13. Bedales Memorial Library
And speaking of gorgeous interiors, the Memorial Library at Bedales school in Hampshire is a temple to books and wood. Designed by Ernest Gimson in the Arts and Crafts style, it’s Grade I listed and considered one of the finest examples of the movement’s architecture in Britain. Inside are handmade rush-seated chairs, an Arts and Crafts tradition that has been handed down over generations and is still carried on by Lawrence Neal in Warwickshire today.
14. William Morris Gallery
Back in the capital, London is another of the best Arts and Crafts places in Britain. Walthamstow is home to the William Morris Gallery, a Georgian house full of his work and that of his family. Intricate textiles, wallpapers, and interactive exhibits make it an inspiring place for learning and doing.
15. The V&A
In central London, the V&A has a range of pieces from the Arts and Crafts movement. From architectural plans by Philip Webb to firescreens by W.A.S. Benson, it’s a great place to get a taste of the works created by leading figures of the time.
There are far more places to explore Britain’s Arts and Crafts movement history, but I hope these give you a good starting point. They’ve certainly inspired me to be more creative, and while I’m probably not going to take up architecture or handicrafts any time soon, I like to think I can now better appreciate the skills and craftsmanship of those who do.
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