Thursday, 29 December 2011

St Christopher's Church and the unidentified Woven Hanging

St. Christopher's Church has a beautiful large piece of weaving for which they did not have specific details as to the origin.  The extremely helpful and friendly ladies of the church showed it to me.  They kindly laid a part of it out over the church chairs which are six chairs wide in each aisle.  This is a large and very heavy piece of weaving.  It was probably hung on one side of the altar, and so there may have been two of these hangings but now the church has only one.

Woven hanging, St Christopher's Church, Haslemere

All of the church's furnishing are handmade and numerous items were made locally; this suggests that this piece was made in Haslemere.  Whilst the hanging is not recognizably Peasant Arts, the grape and vine motif was popular with the movement and so therefore it seemed plausible that this was made by the Haslemere Weaving Industry on Kings Road.   The birds hiding in the corn seemed to be out -of-character however.
Detail of woven hanging, St Christopher's Church,
Having then found the publication Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture (Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C.,  Technical Journals Ltd., London, c.1910) where Charles Spooner (the architect of St Christopher's) states "Another interesting feature of the interior is the curtain dividing the choir stalls...It is a very fine piece of colour, and was woven at Haslemere", this would seem to support the view that the hanging above was made in Haslemere.  Therefore making it either a product of the St Edmundsubry weavers, whom did not appear to produce such primitive styles, or be produced by the Haslemere Weaving Industry, one of the Peasant Arts industries.  However this was before I had found the article quoted in my previous post (Art Journal, February 1911), whereby it can be identified that the curtain being referred to is Luther Hooper's wool curtain.
Detail of woven hanging, St Christopher's Church,

By chance my recent discovering of the Art Journal  online at British Periodicals conclusively solved the mystery.  This is not a Peasant Arts woven hanging.  Reading R.E.D. Sketchley's article 'Haslemere Arts and Crafts' (Art Journal, November 1906) I saw this hanging illustrated!  It is titled as "Vineyard Poplin, designed by Edmund Hunter, woven at the St Edmundsbury Weaving Works" (ibid).  
Vineyard Poplin, designed by Edmund Hunter
from Art Journal, November 1906
As Sketchley reports "The weaving works of Mr. Luther Hooper and M. Edmund Hunter are not peasant-industries.  They demand in the work a higher executive skill than is necessary for the (latter)...In place of the primitive treadle-looms a Jacquard hand-loom is used...The St. Edmundsbury works had their beginning in Mr Hunter's experience as a designer for manufacture, a pattern-maker for materials and processes whose possibility is only theoretically apprehended...It had final issue in the starting of weaving works at Haslemere, with skilled weavers from Spitalfields to carry out their traditional craft, under the direct supervision of the designer....In the church textiles which are an important part of his industry, as in the more ornate designs for brocade, Mr Hunter's use of animal forms among the emblematic flowers points to inspiration from the great textiles of mediaeval Sicily, the wonderful webs whose romantic fantasy captures the sense of all those who respond to imagination in art.  But when he uses traditional forms, conventional or symbolic, the designer regards them for the purpose of the present, and in that spirit has produced in twentieth-century Haslemere some works of rare and quick beauty."

To have re-discovered the designer of this hanging, and that it was not the designer whom was expected feels quite remarkable.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

St Christopher's Church and Luther Hooper Part 2

Having done some more searching, I have found some more details about Luther Hooper's work at St Christopher's.  Unfortunately I have not physically located the actual works!
St. Christopher's Church, Haslemere c.1911
from Art Journal, February 1911

In the Art Journal (February 1911) Luther Hooper wrote the first of two articles under the heading 'Art of To-day.  Fine and Otherwise: Art in the Church'.  Hooper uses St Christopher's Church, Haslemere to illustrate his message "In the church, if anywhere, everything should be made or carefully selected for its special place and use; all should be of the best of its kind and in harmony with all the rest.  In fact art, in the church particularly, should be alive.  This can never be if things are used which have been made at the lowest rate simply for money, and safely stocked by the tradesman and sold merely for profit...About St Christopher's, Haslemere there is nothing commonplace or ordinary, and at the same time nothing is bizarre or out of harmony.  The church was built a few years ago, Mr. Charles Spooner being the architect , and from the first the committee wisely resolved not only to entrust the design of the fabric to him, but to take his advice on all matters of detail and furnishing.  At the beginning only the absolutely necessary items were provided, and the congregation has been adding to them from time to time as circumstances allowed."
Portion of Silk Damask, Side Curtain to Altar,
St. Christopher's, Haslemere
designed by Luther Hooper
from Art Journal, February 1911

The damask above is described as "red-gold silk damask altar curtains", from the photograph of the altar taken around the time, and also illustrated in the Art Journal.  Spooner describes that the "altar curtains are of red silk damask with copper coloured silk lining, designed by Luther Hooper" (Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C., Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture, Technical Journals Ltd., London, c.1910).  I cannot identify the silk damask hung in the photograph below to be the same as that shown in detail above.  Hooper describes that "their copper-coloured silk lining was woven by Messrs. Warner and Sons of London to the design of the writer" (Art Journal, ibid).
Holy table by Arthur Romney Green,(Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C., Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture, Technical Journals Ltd., London, c.1910)
The damask identified in the previous post is reproduced in the Art Journal and is shown in situ.  "Behind the choir stalls, opposite to the organ, is the choir vestry.  It is only divided from the chancel by a heavy curtain.  This curtain, of rich, bright colour, is not one of the least features of the decoration of the church.  It is very heavy and wide.  It measurer nine feet in height by twenty-two feet in width when extended.  As it occupies only a space of eleven feet it naturally gathers up into beautiful and ample folds.  It will be seen by the photograph that the curtain is not gathered formally into the usual band, but is allowed to hang in free folds from a lacing of leather thongs which suspend it more than a foot below a strong iron rod.
Luther Hooper wool hanging fromHand-loom weaving, plain & ornamental,
Pitman & Sons, London, 1920

"The material of which the curtain is woven is fine wool and the colours are scarlet, cream, green and dark blue.  The dark blue is the background.  The vase and conventional plant is green, as is also the acanthus leaf which forms the structure of the design the latter being outlined with cream colour.  The cream colour also outlines the brilliant scarlet lily which gives point and character to the whole.
Curtain of Woollen Tissue, St Christopher's Church,
designed by Luther Hooper, woven by Percy C. Hooper,
from Art Journal, February 1911

"...On the reverse side, facing the choir vestry, the curtain is lined with a soft, strong material made of pure mercerised cotton.  This is shown below the design "shows the somple design design of vine leaves and grapes and boundaries.  The colours in the ornament are the same as those the wool surface of the curtain - blue, green and red - but these are much modified in strength by being interwoven with the cream colour of the ground." (ibid).  Unfortunately the British Periodicals copy of the Art Journal online (I have access through my University) is not a good photocopy, and hence the pictures are very dark.

Reverse Side of Curtain (from above), Woven in pure cream mercerised cotton,
ornamented with green, blue and scarlet wool
Art Journal, February 1911
Spooner states that "another interesting feature of the interior is the curtain dividing the choir stalls from the vestry...It is a very fine piece of colour and was woven at Haslemere" (Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C., Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture, Technical Journals Ltd., London, c.1910).  Hooper states that the wool damask was woven in the weaving house which was at the time of his writing the location of the Country Church (on Kings Road).

Monday, 26 December 2011

A Peasant Xmas!

Having a last minute gift tag disaster, I quickly knocked up some tags using a few Christmas-like images from Godfrey Blount's Arbor Vitae and Ethel Blount's Gifts of St Nicholas.  Combined with our printer having a fondness for green, we quickly had some reasonably passable festive gift tags.

I am not sure the Blounts would have approved, but they looked quite nice.

Merry Christmas!

Images from Blount, Godfrey, Arbor Vitae, 1899 and Blount, Ethel, Gifts of St Nicholas

Friday, 23 December 2011

Arthur Romney Green & the Peasant Arts people

Arthur Romney Green (A.R.G.) had holidayed in Haslemere during his childhood, his parents being friends with Sir Robert and Lady Hunter.  When A.R.G. and his wife Florence moved to Haslemere in 1902 from Bosham at the age of 30, they first lived in a rented house called 'Down End' in Hindhead.  Elkin reports that the Hunters "introduced Green and Florence to the local circle of cultured, and often wealthy, people...Green took a little workshop in Foundry Road, near Haslemere railway station.  There he often met, and made friends with, the sort of company which Florence disliked - social reformers, social philosophers, pamphleteers and champions of 'bottom dogs'." (Elkin, Susan, Life to the Lees, Cromwell Press, 1998).
Arthur Romney Green at his Christchurch workshop in the 1920s
(in the doorway wearing a black jacket).  Note the chair back glimpsed in the window
and his name above the door

Doubtless Elkin is referring to the Blounts and the Kings when she writes this, who ticked all those boxes: Joseph King MP being the most prominent social reformer, Godfrey Blount being the social philosopher and, them both, including their wives Maude Egerton King and Ethel Blount producing pamphlets and championing the peasant life.  The Weaving House and Tapestry Studio which they operated would have been well-known in 1902, and A.R.G.'s workshop would have been located within  a 100 metres of them.  Behind the workshop, Godfrey and Ethel Blount may still have been living in Foundry Cottage on Foundry Lane (where they were in the 1901 census), or they may have moved into St. Cross on Weydown Road.  I wonder how the Christchurch workshop pictured above, compared to the Foundry Road workshop?  As noted in a previous post, the workshop must have been a reasonable size because A.R.G. and Harold Murray "started an Independent Labour Party (ILP) group which met in the showroom...Sometimes as many as 40 or 50 people attended the meetings: a mixture of small tradesmen, artisans, the men who worked for Green, and sometimes, a sprinkling of local bigwigs".  For A.R.G. to be holding such meetings on Foundry Lane sounds very similar in pretext to the Blounts and Kings political and religious meetings also held locally.

Arthur Romney Green from
Green, A. Romney, A Craftsman's Anthology, 
University Press, Aberdeen, 1948 (edited and abridged by Joan Yeo)
Elkin only refers specifically to one of the Peasant Arts people, Godfrey Blount.  A.R.G. left Haslemere in disgrace when he left his wife and child for Bertha Murray; Bertha left her husband and two children to be with A.R.G.  Elkin describes how the Murrays had moved from Hampstead where they had lived in the late 1880s and early 1890s.

Harold Murray had an established dental practice and it is probably through living in Hampstead that he knew Ethel and Godfrey Blount and perhaps also Maude and Joseph King.  The Murrays moved to California to pursue a new career in fruit farming but after a while ill health and financial difficulties caused Harold to give this up and take on the managership of a small gold mine.  "Then the proprietor of the mine defrauded Murray out of a year's salary.  This completed their ruin.  The couple - with a son in his early teens and a new baby daughter - returned to England, probably in 1902, with the help of their old friend Godfrey Blount.  They had to leave behind the piano, their library of books and almost everything they had of value.  It was at Blount's house in Haslemere that Green first met them." (ibid).  A.R.G. went on to organize political meetings with Harold Murray that he held in his workshop.  I wonder how Godfrey Blount felt a few years later, when A.R.G. and Bertha Murray left Haslemere to be together, about having first introduced the Murrays to A.R.G.

I had hoped that A.R.G.'s A Craftsman's Anthology (University Press, Aberdeen, 1948) would include some writings by the Blounts, Kings or Greville MacDonald.  Sadly they do not feature.  Amidst the extracts of Walt Whitman, Emerson, Carlyle, Shakespeare and Homer, the nearest links to the Peasant Arts movement are Tennyson (Haslemere resident), G.K.Chesterton who was patron of the Peasant Arts Guild in 1925 and the writings of John Ruskin which also inspired the Peasant Arts movement.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

St Christopher's Church & Arthur Romney Green's chair

As well as designing the altar table for St Christopher's Church, Arthur Romney Green (A.R.G.) also designed the altar chair.  The chair displays Green's distinguishable design traits, through the geometric seat back to the carved back uprights and arm supports.  The shaping on the legs is reminiscent of the shaping of the altar table legs, however it is closer in design to the Gimson 1906 chair legs of my previous post, although ARG's chair dates I believe from 1903, the same year as the altar table.

Altar chair, by Arthur Romney Green c.1903  

Altar chair, by Arthur Romney Green c.1903

Altar chair detail, by Arthur Romney Green c.1903
The 'dash' design that borders the chair arms, seat, rail and base is repeated on the front oak choir stalls, suggesting therefore that these are also from A.R.G.'s Foundry Meadow workshop.

Choir stall, St Christopher's Church
possibly designed by Arthur Romney Green
A.R.G. has chairs in other churches, most notably at Christchurch Priory where this ceremonial chair (c.1926) is in the Lady Chapel.
Ceremonial chair by Arthur Romney Green,
Christchurch Priory from 
Elkin, Susan, Life to the Lees:
A Biography of Arthur Romney Green
, The Cromwell Press Limited, 1998

Friday, 9 December 2011

St Christopher's Church & Arthur Romney Green's table

The work of Arthur Romney Green is prominent in St Christopher's Church.  In the words of St Christopher's architect, Charles Spooner, "the oak, "Holy Table" was made in the local workshop of Mr. Romney Green and is set against a reredos of oak with carved enrichments gilded and a number of panels which are to be decorated with tempera paintings by Mrs. Spooner" (Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C., Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture, Technical Journals Ltd., London, c.1910).   

Holy table by Arthur Romney Green,(Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C., Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture, Technical Journals Ltd., London, c.1910)
A current woodworker called Bert Wynn is quoted as stating that Arthur Romney Green's "best work (is) outstanding for 'the sheer quality and artistry of the design.'  Having himself tried to make tables and chairs to Green's designs, he finds that 'the reason modern furniture makers cannot produce those things is that they can be executed only with hand tools.  I think Green was easily the most gifted designer working in the period 1900-1940, although he goes largely unrecognised' (Elkin, Susan, Life to the Lees: A Biography of Arthur Romney Green, The Cromwell Press Limited, 1998).

Arthur Romney Green was based in Foundry Meadow from 1902 to 1908 or 1909.  He had a workshop with a showroom above it.  I wonder whereabouts on the current Kings Road he would have been based.  I presume his workshop and showroom would have stood either between the Dye House and Greenbushes, or on the other side of the road, backing onto the railway line somewhere past the Tapestry Studio, up to anywhere opposite the Dye House.  
Handicrafts of Haslemere leaflet, 1902
reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum,
Arthur Romney Green's Woodworking Industry features
at the bottom of the listing shown

The building must have been reasonably large given that himself and Harold Murray "started an Independent Labour Party (ILP) group which met in the showroom...Sometimes as many as 40 or 50 people attended the meetings: a mixture of small tradesmen, artisans, the men who worked for Green, and sometimes, a sprinkling of local bigwigs" (Elkin, ibid).  It was with Harold's wife, Bertha, that Green would leave Haslemere "in disgrace" some years later, but more on that in another post!  It does however make you wonder what the parishioners must have thought in 1909 about having a Holy Table made by a local married man who had "ran off" with another local man's wife.

Sadly the beautifully decorated table legs of the Holy Table are now hidden by the altar cloths.  Clearly the legs were intended to be seen, as shown in the photograph above.  The hexagonal shaping of the legs, decorated with interspersed diagonal stripes and leaves is clearly recognizable as a Arthur Romney Green (A.R.G.) design.  Much of A.R.G's work reflected his mathematical training through strong geometrical patterning.  

Peeping under the altar cloth,
detail of Arthur Romney Green 'Holy Table'
at St Christopher's Church, Haslemere
The detail can be better seen in the photograph below, which is taken from the Record recently made by the Haslemere Decorative and Fine Art Society (DFAS) which painstakingly recorded every item within St Christopher's Church according to a standard format designated by the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS).  I had thought the leaves depicted were oak leaves, but looking at the detail on the photograph below, perhaps they are vine leaves which the Peasant Arts movement frequently used to decorate craft pieces.

Arthur Romney Green 'Holy Table' leg detail,
St Christopher's Church, Haslemere
from St Christopher's Church DFAS Record
A present day picture without the altar cloth, contained in the DFAS Record provides a contrast to the c.1910 photograph of the same subject.  Mrs Spooner's tempera panels are now in place.

Holy Table by Arthur Romney Green,
St Christopher's Church, Haslemere
from St Christopher's Church DFAS Record
'Holy Table' by Arthur Romney Green at
St Christopher's Church, Haslemere
from Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C.,
Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture,
 Technical Journals Ltd., London, c.1910
The Holy Table as it is seen in St Christopher's Church today, with no clue of what lies beneath the altar cloth.

St Christopher's Church Holy Table, Haslemere

There are a number of examples of tables designed by A.R.G. on the internet, although none look similar to the Holy Table.

Arthur Romney Green table
at Hill House Antiques
The legs on the table designed by Ernest Gimson, another and more famous woodworker of A.R.G.'s time, below have been attributed to H. Pugsley, and appear to be similar to the Holy Table legs.  Hill House Antiques note the similarity of what they describe as "heavily chamfered/ typically fawcetted legs" to A.R.G.'s work, and suggest that he was influenced by Gimson's work.  No doubt he was, but this piece appears to have been made after A.R.G.'s Holy Table: the Gimson table was made in 1906, whereas the Holy Table is attributed to A.R.G. in the October 1903 Parish Magazine (St Christopher's Church DFAS Record).

Gimson table c.1906
from Hill House Antiques
Chamfered table leg detail, Ernest Gimson
from Hill House Antiques

Sunday, 4 December 2011

St Christopher's Church & Luther Hooper Part 1

Whilst there are no remaining pieces held at the church, it is clear that Luther Hooper damasks were once on display at St Christopher's.  I expect the damasks that St Christopher's had were all specially made, as Luther Hooper himself described the below wool hanging, "designed, draughted, and arranged for weaving by the Author for St. Christopher's Church, Haslemere.  The colours are scarlet, blue, green, and white."

Luther Hooper wool hanging from
Hand-loom weaving, plain & ornamental,
Pitman & Sons, London, 1920

Hooper describes the making of this in detail “on a ground of fine cream-coloured, mercerised cotton.  The ground is a treble-thread tabby, but shows very little on the face of the web – only, in fact, in the bold outlines of the conventional lily and large leaf forms compose the trellis of the design.  The lily is in scarlet wool, and is only tied down by a satin, which is made on the simple cords of the figure harness.  This loose tie allows it to stand well above the general surface of the cloth.  The green vase and foliage, and the dark blue background, are tied by a four-handle, single-thread twill, made by the binder harness.  It is often found more convenient to weave this kind of material face upwards as the present example was made.” (Hooper, Hand-loom weaving, plain & ornamental, Pitman & Sons, London, 1920).

St. Christopher's architect, Charles Spooner, describes another Luther Hooper piece at the church "the altar curtains are of red silk damask with copper-coloured silk lining, designed by Mr. Luther Hooper" (Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C., Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture, Technical Journals Ltd., London, c.1910).
St. Christopher's Church altar curtains by Luther Hooper,
from Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C., Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture, Technical Journals Ltd., London
Luther Hooper was based at Greenbushes, on the corner of Foundry Meadow and Foundry Lane.  This 'Handicrafts of Haslemere' leaflet annotated by Godfrey Blount shows that Hooper was working in Haslemere from 1901-1908.  Hooper was not recorded in the census in 1901 as being at Greenbushes, instead Maude Egerton King and Ethel Blount's sister, Marion Hine, was living there.  Perhaps this was before Luther Hooper moved in, and Marion moved further up the hill to Silverbirches on Longdene where she was on the 1911 census.  Luther Hooper perhaps moved a few hundred metres further down the road to the site of the present day St George's Flats, or maybe he operated from both venues.  This is indicated by Blount in my earlier post, the Country Church was opened in "the weaving shops vacated by Luther Hooper (in 1908)".
I wonder what has happened to the church's Luther Hooper pieces, and where they are today?  The Victoria & Albert Museum have numerous examples of his work, but unfortunately they have no images of them.  

Saturday, 3 December 2011

St Christopher's Church & the Foundry Meadow artisans: Part 1

After talking to the lovely ladies of St Christopher's Church at the Haslemere Society AGM, I had a really interesting visit and tour of the church a few days ago.  This beautiful Arts and Crafts church was consecrated in 1903.  It contains identified work by Arthur Romney Green (woodwork) and Luther Hooper (silk damasks) who both worked in Foundry Meadow, Kings Road, Haslemere.   In addition, they have a wall hanging which is probably the product of the Haslemere Weaving Industry, the Weaving House, Kings Road.  

St. Christopher's Church, Haslemere
designed by Charles Spooner, 1903
The fact that all of these establishments could be viewed across the railway line, from the churchgate, reflects the value of local craftmanship that underpins the whole design and build of the church.  Indeed the church congregation originally met on Kings Road.  According to Philip Unwin (St. Christopher's: the first 75 years, pamphlet) "for a few years at the turn of the century, to meet the needs of the growing population in Weyhill and Camelsdale, Misson services in the evenings only had been held from September to Easter Day in a little iron roofed hall in Gas Works - now Kings Road.  There, a future Vicar of Grayswood, the Rev. Martin Leake conducted them from a temporary altar and pulpit erected each Saturday evening.  By 1901 the idea of a new church was under discussion..."
St Christopher's Church is across the railway line
from Foundry Meadow, now Kings Road

I had first thought that this may have been the 'Country Church' which met in St George's Hall, Kings Road and founded by Godfrey Blount.  However reading a letter written by Godfrey Blount held by Haslemere Educational Museum, it is clear that these churches both started on Kings Road a few years apart: "I opened the Country Church in 1908 in the weaving shops vacated by Mr Luther Hooper, in Foundry Meadow, Kings Road.  The buildings were used by the Roberts of Collards for the manufacture of rainwater separators before Mr Joseph King bought the meadow off Mr Roberts...I painted and decorated the upper storey and opened it for services." (Godfrey Blount).
Looking across to St Christopher's Green from Foundry Meadow today
with the back of the Dye House in the foreground

St Christopher's is known as a fine example of the Arts and Crafts movement.  Listed as a Grade II building, it's importance is described as "A little altered Arts and Crafts Free Late Gothic style church built by the notable Arts and Crafts architect Charles Spooner. It is built of beautifully crafted local materials and has good quality interior fittings of varying dates by Spooner and his wife, the artist, Minnie Dibden Davison. An additional point of interest is that, unusually for a Church of England church, it was built by a Quaker who ran the company on co-operative principles." (British Listed Buildings).  
St Christopher's Church, Haslemere c.1910
from Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C., Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture,
Technical Journals Ltd., London

Unwin (ibid) calls the Rev. George Herbert Aitken "the guiding spirit behind its creation"; he was Rector of Haslemere from 1897-1917.  Aitken is quoted in another church leaflet recounting that "the Committee resolved from the first that they would not be content to put into our little House of Prayer anything cheap or ordinary.  Each piece of furniture has been specially designed and made..."Only the best" we have said "for the Service of God's House"".
St. Christopher's Church, Haslemere

Charles Spooner was a member of the Art Workers Guild (1887) and was elected to the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in 1890 and won the Royal Academy Travelling Studentship (Dictionary of Scottish Architects).

I did not appreciate the uniqueness of this church until I went inside.
St Christopher's Church, Haslemere

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Haslemere Society & the Peasants

A big thanks to everyone who came to the AGM last night and listened to my talk, and to the Haslemere Society for asking me there.  It was great to get some locals enthusing about our important Peasant Arts heritage.

I got plenty of new leads and information on Hill Farm, Wildwood, Little St Cross, St Christophers Church and the Dolmetsches, so watch this space!

A pensive pre-talk me...some people did turn up, honest!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Godfrey Blount & Gandhi

I had vaguely wondered why I occasionally get searches from India on Godfrey Blount and The New Crusade.  Then I found the Gandhi connection.  I never would have imagined that Blount was an influence on such a notable figure on the World stage.

M.K. Gandhi, in London c.1890

Gandhi wrote Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule in 1909 as he travelled from London to South Africa.  In this Gandhi explains his argument for Indian independence and vision of self-sufficient communities.  The book is described as "a political pamphlet, and a paraphrase in Gujarati of John Ruskin's Unto This Last.  This last essay can be considered his programme on economics." (Wikipedia).  One of the themes in the Hind Swaraj is that "India will never be free unless it rejects western civilization itself...he is deeply critical of western civilization, claiming "India is being ground down, not under the English heel, but under that of modern civilization."...He argues that "Western civilization is such that one has only to be patient and it will be self destroyed."  It is a profound repudiation.  Not only is Western civilization unhealthy for India, but western civilization is by its own virtue, unhealthy." (Wikipedia).

Hind Swaraj, M.K. Gandhi, c.1909
Godfrey Blount's 'The New Crusade' is listed in the Hind Swaraj under further reading.

I believe that the Chapter 19 called 'Machinery' reflects Blount's influence.  Gandhi begins by stating "It is machinery that has impoverished India.  It is difficult to measure the harm that Manchester has done to us.  It is due to Manchester that Indian handicraft has all but disappeared...Machinery has begun to desolate Europe.  Ruination is now knocking at the English gates.  Machinery is the chief symbol of modern civilization; it represents a great sin."   Referring to the production of cloth in Manchester's factory mills.
Gandhi with textile workers in Darwen, Lancashire, 1931,
SGI Quarterly

"As long as we cannot make pins without machinery, so long will we do without them...we will make wicks, as of old, with homegrown cotton, and use hand-made earthen saucers for lamps...Machinery is like a snake-hole that may contain between one to a hundred snakes.  Where there is machinery there are large cities, there are tram-cars and railways; and there only does one see electric light.  English villages do not boast these things."  Is it too fantastical to presume that Gandhi visited the Peasant Arts industries in Haslemere?  Gandhi first came to London in 1888 to 1891 to study and returned in 1909 after being released from prison in South Africa, where he lobbied for Indian rights against South Africa's Black Act.
Godfrey Blount, courtesy of the Dartford Warbler,
the wealthy man that Gandhi refers to?

Gandhi states that to succeed in the struggle for home rule, for an individual "strength will be available to him only who....2. if a lawyer, will give up his profession, and take up a hand-loom;...8.although a doctor, will take up the hand-loom...10. if a wealthy man, will devote his money to establishing hand-looms, and encourage others to use hand-made goods by wearing them himself."  Again perhaps it is too extreme to suppose that Gandhi is referred to Blount as the 'wealthy man' in his recommendation no.10? Joseph King was a lawyer, and Greville MacDonald a doctor, all of them wealthy men.

There are a handful of authors recommended for further reading.  Gandhi refers to them as 'Testimonies by Eminent Men', Blount appears on the first page underneath a number of Tolstoy literature, and above Ruskin.

I believe this link firmly places Blount and the Peasant Arts movement on the world stage at the turn of the century.

from Hind Swaraj, Gandhi, M.K., c.1909
recommending the reading of Godfrey Blount

Haslemere Society Peasant Arts talk

Yikes, I better start thinking of something to say!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Peasant Arts Society & Dolly Diamond

Having looked across the Peasant Arts shop and Society locations in London, I have only found one building which still exists.  The Duke Street, New Cavendish Street and Queensway addresses all seem to have been demolished, possibly bombed, and replaced with newer buildings.

Peasant Arts Society motto and 51 Pembridge Road address

The Peasant Arts Society address printed on the front of the large hymn sheets of Godfrey Blount's Song of the Sower and Our Daily Bread is "51 Pembridge Road, Bayswater".  This address would now be described as being in Notting Hill, seeing as it is a short walk from Notting Hill Gate tube station.

The Peasant Arts Society motto can be clearly seen in the picture above, saying in latin "Di tutte le arti maestro e amore", which can be translated as "of all the arts, the chief is love"

cover of Our Daily Bread, Godfrey Blount,
Peasant Arts Society from Haslemere Educational Museum
51 Pembridge Road is still a shop, and in some ways it has parallels with the Peasant Arts Society, in that it is a vintage clothes shop called Dolly Diamond.  When I recently visited Dolly Diamond, the shop assistant, Tracey, was most accommodating to my unusual request to snoop around.  It was fascinating to see what may be an otherwise mundane courtyard and basement, and imagine what meetings and musing may have taken place there over a hundred years ago.  It's highly unlikely that there are any remnants of the Peasant Arts Society at the address, but maybe they will let me know if they find anything!

Dolly Diamond, 51 Pembridge Road, London
51 Pembridge Road, London
I wonder what the Peasant Arts Society would have made of their present day neighbours?

Pembridge Road, London

Courtyard of the Peasant Arts Society,
51 Pembridge Road, London

Basement with a big under-road storage area for Peasant Arts Society literature and goods?
51 Pembridge Road shop interior
51 Pembridge Road shop interior
I think that the Peasant Arts Society would have quite liked the current establishment operating from their old address.  The connection to the past through vintage clothing and the values of choosing quality items above the newest mass-produced fashions is something Ethel and Godfrey Blount espoused, most significantly in their committee membership of the Healthy and Artistic Dress Union as discussed in a number of previous posts on the subject of suffragette connections.

Things could have been a lot worse, there is a Starbucks down the road!

Vintage clothing, Peasant Arts style!
Peasant Arts Society catalogue c.1900
Perhaps the shop layout of 51 Pembridge Road looked something similar to the Peasant Arts Society Country Shop in Haslemere.

Peasant Arts Society 'Country Shop', Haslemere c.1908
reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum
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