The Arts and Crafts Movement in Surrey
PUBLISHED: 16:08 14 March 2011 | UPDATED: 10:04 25 March 2015
One hundred years ago, the acclaimed garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, a key member of the Arts and Crafts Movement, donated her entire collection of artefacts relating to 'Old Surrey' to Guildford Museum. Discover the importance of the movement
The Arts and Crafts Movement can be an intimidating subject for new-comers. Here, the honorary secretary of the Society for the Arts and Crafts Movement in Surrey, Denise Todd, reveals what it meant for the county
A REACTION to the ethos, products and buildings of an industrial age, the Arts and Crafts Movement was not so much about a style but about a philosophy of design.
Generally defined as the period from 1870 to 1920, it saw a focus in all forms of art and architecture on the principles of simple honest design, taking inspiration from nature, and using handcraftsmanship and natural local materials where possible.
Here in Surrey, the ‘Golden Triangle’ (as the area between Guildford, Farnham and Haslemere is often known) is recognised as having a wealth of Arts and Crafts buildings and gardens designed by architects such as Edwin Lutyens, Charles Voysey, Baillie Scott and Hugh Thackeray Turner.
Our county was also home to artists such as Helen Allingham, Miles Birkett Forster and WH Allen who captured in their paintings the fast disappearing ways of cottage life, country skills and agricultural work.
At Haslemere, workshops collectively known as ‘Haslemere Peasant Industries’ were established to specialise in spinning, weaving and tapestry, while at Compton, Mary Watts taught pottery skills to the local villagers – involving them in the decoration of the Watts Cemetery Chapel’s terracotta panels.
Over in Farnham, meanwhile, WH Allen of the Farnham School of Art co-operated with Absalom Harris of Farnham Pottery to give his students the opportunity to acquire traditional skills. This resulted in the sale of Farnham ‘art pottery’ in Liberty’s of London at the turn of the century.
A time for giving
Philanthropy featured, too – one example is Whitley Village, near Walton-on-Thames, where cottages, two churches and other community buildings, designed in the Arts and Crafts style by consulting architect Walter Cave and six other architects, were to be occupied as ‘homes for aged poor persons’ as provided for in the will of William Whitley, owner of the London department store of the same name.
Back in Farnham, the youthful Harold Falkner designed and gave funds for a fine archway entrance to the new open air swimming baths for the town (now the entrance to the Victoria Garden) built adjacent to an early building by Lutyens, The Liberal Club.
And in Compton, the philanthropic heritage of the aforementioned Mary Watts and husband George, the eminent Victorian artist, may be explored at Watts Gallery, due to open this year after a refurbishment.
Another fine achievement of the period is The Phillips Memorial Cloister at Godalming. Named after John George (Jack) Phillips who, as well as being a resident of Farncombe, was chief wireless telegraphist on the Titanic and remained at his post as the ship sank on April 15, 1912. The cloister was built in 1913, through public subscription, to commemorate his selfless act. The building was designed by Hugh Thackeray Turner and the garden inside and around the cloister was planned by Gertrude Jekyll.
Made in heaven
Justifiably celebrated in Surrey is the creative partnership between Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. Both were well versed in the local vernacular; Jekyll had grown up in Bramley and later lived at Munstead and Lutyens had spent his youth at Thursley. A Lutyens house with a Jekyll garden, as portrayed in the pages of Country Life magazine, was an Edwardian dream.
The combination of Lutyen’s clever geometry expressed in brickwork and stonework and clothed with Jekyll’s billowing planting with gradations of colour saw expression in over a hundred projects. Tilford Village Institute and Goddards, Abinger Common, can still be viewed in the county today.
As for the legacy of the movement for the 21st century? Well, we might look to the Garden City movement founded in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard – the concept still provides a template for good community living – or to William Morris for the beginning of the conservation movement for the care of heritage buildings with the founding of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings (SPAB).
The principles of the movement may be carried forward in the sensitive adaptation of buildings for reuse, the use of local and sustainable materials in construction, the introduction of apprentice training for the acquisition of craft skills and in adherence to good design and aesthetics as practised today by many local craftsmen and women throughout the country.
- The museums of Guildford, Godalming, Farnham and Haslemere have displays about some of the individuals mentioned in this article. The Society for the Arts and Crafts Movement in Surrey exists to celebrate and foster interest in all forms of art, architecture and design of the period. The society runs a programme of events and the 2011 spring lecture series is listed on their website www.artsandcraftsmovementinsurrey.org.uk
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The Gertrude Jekyll Collection at Guildford Museum
At Guildford Museum, they will be celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of Jekyll’s donation of ‘Old Surrey’ artefacts, and the resulting move to new premises, with a special exhibition, including a pair of Jekyll’s boots. Collections officer Mary Alexander explains more
THE CELEBRATED garden designer Gertrude Jekyll had a happy childhood, growing up in Bramley, near Guildford, wandering the lanes of south-west Surrey, watching craftsmen and helping cottagers by collecting wood for their fires.
As Miss Jekyll grew older, she realised that their old but unique possessions were being discarded in favour of new, machine-made items, which she thought ugly. So she began collecting these artefacts, and wrote a book about the old, timeless ways of the cottagers.
In 1907, she gave her entire collection to Surrey Archaeological Society, who were based at Castle Arch in Guildford. This gift prompted them to find more space, and a new gallery was built in 1911 to display their collections.
Gertrude Jekyll’s artefacts comprise mostly of items from the home, and each one is individual. A standing candlestick has a spiral base like a coiled snake, with a snake’s head at the end. A pair of brand-tongs, for picking a piece of wood out of the fire, has ends shaped like hands. Then there’s a chimney crane, for holding a cooking pot or kettle over the flames, which is decorated with exuberant iron tulips – quite unnecessary, but lovely to look at. Each item is different in some way.
- Gertrude Jekyll’s collection is on permanent display at Guildford Museum, Castle Arch, Guildford GU1 3SX. Tel 01483 444751. Their new exhibition, 100 years at Guildford Museum, opens on February 1. See www.guildford.gov.uk
Gertrude Jekyll inspired gardens
Surrey Life gardening expert Leigh Clapp shares her favourite Arts and Crafts garden to visit in our county, plus a few tips on how to create your own
THE PARTNERSHIP between gardener Gertrude Jekyll and architect Edwin Lutyens encapsulated many of the ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement, with their blend of planting and architectural elements.
Although a number of the gardens they created together in Surrey have been lost, others have been restored and even new gardens have been designed, inspired by their style or plans.
It is particularly interesting to see Jekyll’s work in smaller settings, such as at Foxhill, in Elstead, where a series of terraces designed in 1923 have been restored along with much of the original planting scheme.
Here, there is imposing stonework, softened by grey toned planting, as well as replanted borders following the original Jekyll plans.
- Foxhill, Elstead GU8 6LE opens via the National Gardens Scheme. See www.ngs.org.uk
Create your own Arts and Crafts garden...
- Link the house and garden with appropriate materials and style to suit the location
- The scale of the garden should echo the house
- Use natural and local materials, such as stone, for structural elements like pergolas, terraces, rills and arbours
- Include traditional detailing with seating and urns, but don’t overpower the planting
- Keep it simple and use beautiful things – whether hard landscaping or planting
- The framework of the garden is formal, almost Italian in style, with long, straight lines, while the planting appears more informal, harking back to exuberant cottage gardens
- Make use of clipped hedging to divide garden ‘rooms’
- Plants flow from colour to colour harmoniously, with attention to textures and forms in herbaceous borders
- Use a complete range of planting – from vines softening walls, through trees, herbaceous plants and shrubs, to bulbs and self-seeding annuals
- Choose plants that grow well in your conditions, including an array of native varieties
Holiday at a piece of Arts and Crafts history
For those who eat, sleep and breathe their history, the Arts and Crafts house Goddards at Abinger Common is available to rent as a holiday home. Built by Edwin Lutyens from 1898 to1900, it is considered one of his most important early houses, designed in the traditional Surrey style and with a garden laid out in collaboration with Gertrude Jekyll. Created as a holiday home for ‘ladies of small means to repair’, today it can be rented via The Landmark Trust at www.landmarktrust.org.uk.
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2011
One hundred years ago, the acclaimed garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, a key member of the Arts and Crafts Movement, donated her entire collection of artefacts relating to ‘Old Surrey’ to Guildford Museum. To mark this anniversary, it seemed an apt time to look at the importance of the movement in Surrey, and to hear from some of the county’s leading experts about its inspiring legacy today
Compiled by Matthew Williams