The Chipping Campden Arts and Crafts Movement
The Chipping Campden arts and craft movement is renowned internationally. The town has two histories. There is a long history of wool and wealth and wonderful stone buildings, lasting more than a thousand years. And there is a short history, about a hundred years long, of the skill and creativity of artists and designers who have worked in Chipping Campden and the surrounding area. Stand in Church Street and you will see the long history spreading gloriously around you, in the towering church of St James, the remains of Old Campden House, and the seventeenth-century almshouses. In the middle of Church Street is a modest building, Court Barn Museum. Open the door and the short history will unfold before you in a glittering display of silver, jewellery, printing, bookbinding, sculpture, furniture, pottery and industrial design, all created in and around Chipping Campden since about 1900. The Arts and Crafts movement flourished in Britain in the years round 1900 and its followers valued old skills, work done by hand, the simpler, pre-industrial life of the countryside.
It was in this spirit that the architect and designer C. R. Ashbee moved the workshops of his Guild of Handicraft – silversmiths, jewellers, cabinetmakers, blacksmiths, printers – from the East End of London to Chipping Campden in 1902. He felt that he was bringing them home to the land. They set up workshops in an Old Silk Mill in Sheep Street, and produced beautiful things, though the experiment was short-lived. It closed down in 1908 and most of the craftsmen went back to the towns. Ashbee’s country experiment was a turning point in the history of Campden. Some of his best craftsmen stayed on, like the silversmith George Hart, whose grandson and great-grandsons are still running the family silversmithing business in Old Silk Mill today. (Visitors are always welcome in the Hart workshop.) And other artists and craftspeople settled in the town, notably F. L. Griggs, artist and etcher, who loved the town with a passion, and did all he could to save it from modernisation.
Outside Campden, this craft-flowering included the furniture-designer Gordon Russell in Broadway, and the Winchcombe Pottery which, like the Hart silversmithing business, is still going strong. From 1955 until his death in 2000 the distinguished silversmith and industrial designer Robert Welch worked on the top floor of the Old Silk Mill in Sheep Street, and his business is now run by his children. His designs can be bought in the Robert Welch Shop on the corner of Sheep Street. There are many other artists and craftspeople working in Campden today, and their work can be seen in galleries and craft shops in the town.