12. The Arts and Crafts Movement and Court Barn Museum, Chipping Campden

Court Barn Museum in Chipping Campden (to the right of the picture) is just down the road from St James' Church. Picture courtesy Court Barn Museum.The interior of Court Barn Museum in Church Street, Chipping Campden. Picture courtesy Court Barn Museum.Court Barn Museum, which opened in Chipping Campden in 2007, tells the story of the world famous Arts and Crafts Movement and its legacy and how this small Cotswold town became a gathering place for designers and craftspeople of national and international repute.

The Arts and Crafts Movement emphasised the importance of creative manual work and the breakdown of the barrier between designer and maker, looking for inspiration to the English countryside.

William Morris, one of the Arts and Crafts Movement's leaders, was greatly influenced by the Cotswold countryside and Kelmscott Manor, near Lechlade, became his country home from 1871 until his death in 1896.

Many craftsmen and women followed in Morris'sThree generations of Harts who have worked as silversmiths in Chipping Campden for over a century. Picture courtesy Court Barn Museum. footsteps, and settled in villages throughout the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire, drawn by the area's rich craft tradition, its accessibility to Oxford and London and by the charm of the landscape.

In 1902, C R Ashbee brought some 100 followers from his Guild of Handicraft, based in East London, to the beautiful Cotswold town of Chipping Campden.

Sadly, the guild did not prosper beyond its first few years and its failure in 1908 sent many craftsmen back to London, but by then the craft momentum had begun and in subsequent years the Cotswolds has continued to be a centre for arts and crafts.

One of C R Ashbee's followers was George Hart, a silversmith with the Guild of Handicraft who came to Chipping Campden in 1902 and in 1912 he took on the running of the workshop. He was joined by his son Henry in 1930 and the family tradition is now carried on by his grandson David Hart, his son William and nephew Julian Hart, along with Derek Elliott.

William Morris, a leading light in the Arts and Crafts Movement in the Cotswolds.Their workshop in Sheep Street is the last operating remnant of the Guild of Handicraft which C R Ashbee established in 1888.

Court Barn Museum, in Church Street, Chipping Campden, focuses on the creative work of nine artists, designers and craftspeople associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Exhibition cases display work by the nine, including C R Ashbee (jewellery and silver and the Essex House press) the Hart family (silver) and Alec Miller (woodcarvings).

The museum has been created by a group of local enthusiasts, the Guild of Handicraft Trust, which was established in 1990. The Trust received generous financial help from the Heritage Lottery Fund to create the Court Barn Museum to foster the appreciation of these people and their work and to encourage craft and design work of good quality in the present day.

A 17th Century listed barn has been carefully and imaginatively adapted to house a permanent exhibition of art, craft and design; a space for lectures, temporary exhibitions and demonstrations.

A mezzanine level is used for administration and archive storage. There is also a museum shop, inspired by its collections, which offers handcrafted gifts, contemporary jewellery, locally made pottery, books and cards.
As a charity, the museum relies on private donations to bridge the gap between its income from the admission charge and its overheads. It also has an acquisitions fund to assist it in acquiring more works by its nine featured craftspeople.

Chipping Campden was also home to the renowned silversmith and designer Robert Welch who in 1955 set up a studio in the same silk mill that had been used by C R Ashbee decades before. Although he died in 2000, the Robert Welch studio shop is still going strong in the town centre.

Throughout the Cotswolds, there are many villages and churches where the work of Arts and Crafts Movement designers can be seen.

More information

Court Barn Museum
North Gate Lodge, Church Street, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire GL55 6JE  
01386 841951 

© Loving The Cotswolds. 2021.