Beauty Overload


Chipping Campden, viewed from up the road following a shower

I spent last week in England doing research for a Popular Woodworking book on English Arts and Crafts furniture. Monday took me with my good friend Bronwen to the impossibly picturesque Gloucestershire village of Chipping Campden, where C. R. Ashbee moved his Guild of Handicraft in 1902.

Although the original Guild was dissolved in 1908 due to financial troubles–the move from London to Chipping Campden made it harder to reach the necessary clientele, an unfortunate (though predictable) problem that was compounded by a widespread economic slowdown–it was reorganized as a trust and operated until 1914. Some of the craftsmen continued their work independently thereafter.

One vestige of Ashbee’s Guild still operates today: Hart Silversmiths, located in a small workshop on the second floor of the old silk mill building on Sheep Street.


Historical marker on the building’s facade

Here’s a brief virtual tour.


Derek Elliott has worked at Hart’s for 35 years, since he finished high school.


On the day of our visit Derek was working on this silver bowl, which started out as a circle cut from this sheet. The decanter is one of many variations on a signature Ashbee design.


The view from Derek’s bench


A wood stove stands at the middle of the workshop.


A no-frills filing system takes care of invoices paid, which must by law be kept for several years (those are pinned to the rafters) and those still due (the white ones clipped in a sheaf).


Amidst all the history, you will still find a few plastic-handled tools, modern light bulbs, and even a telly.


The guest book includes evidence of a visit by a certain American architect in 1910.


No doubt some wit will point out the oddness of the bolts on the outside of the door. Rest assured, there was a variety of locks on the inside as well.


Visiting Chipping Campden was like bringing the pages of a Penelope Hobhouse gardening book to life.


Lots of thatched roofs


My dear friend Bronwen (left) drove us to Chipping Campden. We went for tea after visiting Hart’s.


2 responses to “Beauty Overload

  1. Looking forward to the new book.

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