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The Arts and Crafts Movement in the Cotswolds

RODMARTON MANOR AND ARTS AND CRAFTS IN THE COTSWOLDS

Ernest Barnsley who built Rodmarton Manor was a follower of William Morris, who was one of the leaders of the English Arts and Crafts Movement towards the end of the 19th Century. The movement was a reaction against poor design and the increasing use of machinery and unnecessary decoration that had featured in the Victorian era. The manufacturers were calling the tune rather than the craftsmen. Furniture was being mass-produced and poorly made.

The Industrial Revolution had devalued the work of the craftsman. The aim of the Arts and Crafts reformers was to reestablish a harmony between architect, designer and craftsman and to emphasise the importance of handcraftsmanship to the production of well-designed, affordable everyday objects with individual and regional expression, honesty of construction, simplicity, and fitness of purpose. Inspiration would be drawn from the past but with fresh interpretation and the quality of the material being used was emphasised with designs from nature.

Cotswold Arts and Crafts as evidenced by the Sapperton group is very distinctive. Both the architecture and the furniture as well as the fixtures and fittings were superbly and accurately executed by hand with local materials. Nothing was second rate. All this can be seen at Rodmarton Manor.

CR Ashbee was impressed when he visited Rodmarton in 1914 and he wrote "I've seen no modern work to equal it, nothing I know of Lutyens or Baker comes up to it. And when I ask why I find the answer in the system, the method rather than the man. It is a house built on the basis not of contract but of confidence, and Barnsley has been allowed a free hand to put all his personal knowledge and techniques into the work. The English Arts and Crafts Movement at its best is here - so are the vanishing Traditions of the Cotswolds." (Entry in C.R.Ashbee's Journals, Vol 16, 1914. October 24th. Journals now in King's College Library, Cambridge).


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