A vision of beauty and social harmony, the Art and Crafts movement was a body of educated artists who wanted to improve society through the medium of art. The result was an organic style that has left a lasting imprint in the Cotswolds region and the world of design.
What was the arts & crafts movement?
The Arts and Crafts movement was born in the late 19th century by writer and artist William Morris in reaction to lack of creativity in decorative arts.
The collective began with a group of friends from Oxford University, Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and others were spurred on by the works of Keats, Shelley and later Ruskin to form a movement that was both radical and romantic. They championed simple, old-fashioned craftsmanship and promoted anti-industrial social reform.
When William Morris first laid eyes on Kelmscott it was love at first sight, greatly admiring this ‘’loveliest haunt of ancient peace’. Along with family, friends and colleagues from the Movement, many a summer day would be spent writing and creating pieces of art in this Cotswolds retreat.
Kelmscott Manor is a beautiful 17th-century house on the banks of the River Thames. Its gardens, barns, meadows and dovecote are peaceful and magical – it is easy to see how the place would become such an inspiration to its residents.
The house contains a fascinating collection from the Arts & Crafts Movement by Morris and his famous colleagues. There is furniture, pictures, paintings, ceramics and metalwork that demonstrate the passion and skill of the artists.
CYCLE TOUR STOP: BIBURY
Another place that greatly inspired the works of William Morris was the little Cotswold village of Bibury. This stop on our Pedal England bike tour is always a favourite, as Cotswold villages don’t come much more enchanting.
In fact, William Morris loved Bibury so much when he visited that he described it as ‘the most beautiful village in England’. And with its lovely River Coln and stunning display of Cotswold stone, it’s easy to see why.
This small Cotswold town also has strong links to the Arts & Crafts era and The Guild of Handicraft – an offshoot that promoted communal living and profit sharing through the production of metalwork. In 1902 C.R Ashbee moved his workshop to the Old Saw Mill on Sheep Street. Today, this is Hart’s Silversmiths, the last operating facility of the Guild.
Hidcote Manor and Gardens
Close to Chipping Campden is the sublime stately home and gardens of Hidcote Manor. The grounds are famous for its intricate ‘room-like’ landscaping and its Arts and Crafts design.
Styled by Lawrence Johnson at the beginning of the 20th century, each small garden is walled off by hedged boarders of rare trees and shrubs, creating the feeling of moving from room to room as you journey about the grounds. Each section contains a different theme, such as the Fuchsia Garden and the White Garden; it is a joy to experience.
The great work of William Morris, the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Guild of Handicraft has left a permanent mark on the art world.
The designs of Morris & Co. are still in production and sold around the globe. Works from the movement can be seen in many homes, churches and establishments throughout the Cotswolds, so keep your eyes peeled.