Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Young Tree in Spring by Maude Egerton King

O sky, you know me?  I am come again
            Out of a bare black sleep!
Sun-summons, wash of wind and thrill of rain
Beat on the doors fast closed, but all in vain,
            For life that lies too deep
For any frost will rise a bidden guest
            At Spring’s glad festival!
Without a dream my soul lay lost in rest,
            Till, at that touch and call,

The original Young Tree in Spring? (about 100 years ago!) -
Bramley apple tree in my garden in what was once Foundry Meadow
with the side of the Dye House in the distance

I grew aware of life, an inner fire
            Of memory and belief
Ran upwards, outwards, in a great desire,
             And lo! Then leaf by leaf,
Remembering my other springs, I rose;
And earth around remembers too, and grows           
            Into her ancient grace,
With ‘here my daisies – there before it froze
            A tiny rill did race.’
The wild young wind that ever caught me so
            Still takes me at his will,-
The dark, sweet violet, still hiding low,
And over the hedge in golden dance and glow
            The jocund daffodil,-
The bird that in my budding branches sings,
            The happy, happy bird,
A creature careless, being blessed with wings,
How far a-field his mid-air foothold swings
            By random breezes stirred,
Voice of that passion of life that moves in me
To a mute growth of glory, - the first bee
            Crooning in early shine
Round risen buds, dear in his memory
            As a deep honey-mine,
All the quaint gladness Spring did ever yield
To frolic lambs in daffodilly field,-
            The woodlands living peace
Of hourly growth, and gentle lives unsealed
            In revels of release, -
All, all are here, and Spring fulfils her troth,
And here the happy pain, and gladness both
            That bring me a bud’s birth,

And thy warm hold on my wild tiptoe growth
            O Earth, dear Earth, dear Earth!
The wind, the wind in my hair, the passing wing,
            The beat of sunwarmed rain,
The joy of life, the hope of another Spring,
            Are mine, they are mine again!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Joseph King MP - A Political Reading List

The LSE has what is probably the most complete collection of Joseph King books outside of the British Library.  I need to update my literature listing to reflect my findings!

Two of Joseph King's books, nestled in the LSE library
(the rest are in the archives!)
King's first work in 1890 reflects his legal training, then in the early 1900s he has an electoral reform focus, then from 1918 there is a distinct interest in the Russian and German political situation, and then in the 1930s an interest in educational reform.

  • King, Joseph, The position and powers of the justice of the peace, 1890
  • King, Joseph, Electoral reform: an inquiry into our system of parliamentary representation, 1908
  • King, Joseph and Raffety, F.W., Our Electoral System: the demand for reform, 1912
  • King, Joseph, Filius nullius: nobody's child, 1913
  • King, Joseph, The Russian Revolution: the first year, 1918
  • King, Joseph, Three bloody men: Mannerheim, the butcher; Denikin, the K.C.B.; Koltchak, the bloody one, 1919
  • King, Joseph, Bolshevism and Bolsheivks: the history of the Russian socialist party called Bolsheviks, etc., 1919
  • King, Joseph, Soviets and Soviet government: how it arose in Russia, how it works there, etc., 1919
  • King, Joseph, Our policy towards Russia: what it has been and what it might be, 1919
  • King, Joseph, Why does killing go on in Russia?: a scathing exposure of the Allies' efforts to crush new Russia in the interests of capitalists and financiers, 1919
  • King, Joseph, Political crooks at the Peace Conference, 1920
  • King, Joseph, The collapse of Germany: the facts about reparations, 1923
  • King, Joseph, The Ruhr: the history of the French occupation of the Ruhr, its meaning and consequences, 1924
  • King, Joseph, The German revolution: its meaning and menace, 1933
  • King, Joseph, The new education, 1939
  • King, Joseph, The school-leaving age raised, 1939
  • King, Joseph, Invasion today, 1941

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Peasants or Princesses?

I have a few more pictures of the Wheel and Spindle Club which I thought I should share with you following my last post.  Unfortunately I did not note down the journal that they came from, but I am sure I will track it down again!

From these pictures and those in my previous post it is evident that the Peasant Arts movement was performing a worthwhile community function through the Wheel and Spindle Club, which seems to have brought a number of young girls together to learn spinning and weaving.  From the "garland day" picture it is evident that boys were also included in some events at Sandhouse.  

The Wheel and Spindle Club, Sandhouse, Witley
The picture above would appear to have been taken at a special Wheel and Spindle Club event taking place in the gardens of Sandhouse, Witley, Joseph and Maude Egerton King's home.  The girls all dressed in white wearing bonnets make for a curious sight, and the older women at the back appear to be wearing what I would call formal 'event' hats.  

In the book Rearing an Imperial Race (Hecht, Charles, National Food Reform Association, 1913) Ethel and Maude are quoted with reference to an address by a Miss Gordon on the place of handiwork in education: ""There is nothing," said Miss Gordon in an inspiring address, which like her paper, claimed for her subject a high place in the educational curriculum, "like handiwork for helping men and women to find their level; in other words, there is nothing like craftsmanship for character building and character building is the whole object of teaching, I take it"".  There is then a footnote quoting "To give a little girl the use of her hands is to bring a disinherited princess back into her kingdom"  (‘Our experience of the Influence of Handicraft upon the Workers’, Peasant Arts Guild Paper, No. 10 , Ethel Blount and Maude E. King).
Garland Day in a MPs garden,
from 'The Ailing Countryside, and prescriptions for some forthcoming physic'

The mass of flower garlands on heads in the picture above, and the poor quality of the photo and photocopy(!), make it hard to make out individual faces.  The distinctive chequer work of Sandhouse is more easily visible.  In some parts of England, May Day (1st May) is called Garland Day, and it seems in other parts of England, like Derbyshire, it is at the end of May.  The picture appears to be testimony that the Kings were holding a quaint 'country' community event. 

The girls in these pictures do appear to be closer perhaps to Princesses than the 'country peasant' that the Blounts and Kings wrote about.  The Kings were clearly wealthy, as the magnificence of their house, Sandhouse, testifies, and the Blounts and Greville MacDonald were also comfortably off.  Maybe as a result of their wealth, their concept of the 'country peasant' which they were aiming to inspire through their movement, was a little distorted?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Weaving and the Emancipation of Princesses: The Wheel & Spindle Club

As well as targeting adults, the Peasant Arts movement also reached out to children.  The teaching and inclusion of children in the weaving activities is exemplified by the Wheel and Spindle Club that Ethel Blount and Maude Egerton King established in 1912 “to teach local girls to spin.  

The Wheel and Spindle Club, Sandhouse, Witley
Carding and spinning.
Reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum

The youngest, seven to nine years old, carded wool, while older children, nine to fourteen years old, spun on spinner and spindle wheels…The half-day sessions (from 3 to 6.30pm) finished with singing sessions” (Myzelev, Craft Revival in Haslemere: she, who weaves…, Women's History Review, Vol 18, Issue 4, 2009).  Myzelev reports that these sessions ended with the singing of folk songs of Cecil Sharp.  This links up with Mrs Godfrey Blount being recorded in 1908 as a member in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society.
Maude Egerton King working the loom,
The Wheel and Spindle Club, Sandhouse, Witley
Reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum

Blount and King reported on this venture that “To give a little girl the use of her hands is to bring a disinherited princess back into her kingdom” (‘Our experience of the Influence of Handicraft upon the Workers’, Peasant Arts Guild Paper, No. 10 , Ethel Blount and Maude E. King).  Myzelev surmises that “Beautiful traditional tunes and the practice of handicrafts had the power to stimulate young girls, allowing them to escape reality, to imagine travelling to enchanted lands.”  This reminds me of Greville MacDonald’s statement in Reminiscences of a Specialist (MacDonald, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1932) “I am increasingly sure that fairy-tale is a necessary corrective to the inevitably mechanical of much school education.  It is a wild flower for the child adventurer to clutch at and gather for his joy: from its free, untutored glory all literature has grown.” 
Going to class,
The Wheel and Spindle Club, Sandhouse, Witley
Reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum

Maude Egerton King, with some of her work,
Reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum
The wonderful pictures in this post have been kindly obtained from the Haslemere Educational Museum.  They place the Wheel and Spindle Club at Sandhouse, the Kings home in Witley.  It is fascinating to see the teaching of the Peasant Arts movement at work.  It would appear that the club met in one of the outbuildings at Sandhouse.  The pictures of Maude and another of a girl climbing the outside stairs of a building, appear to be of them entering the building where the Club was held.  
Girls carrying their spinning wheels to class, Sandhouse driveway
The Wheel and Spindle Club, Sandhouse, Witley
Reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum

There appear to be a number of outbuildings on the Sandhouse site with outside staircases to the first floor, very much like the Dye House at Kings Road, all presumably designed by the architect Francis Troup.  The outside brickwork in the pictures of the stairs seems to match the distinctive chequerwork of the main Sandhouse building, and the picture of the girls walking down the driveway carrying spinning wheels has a Sandhouse gatepost (which are still there) in the background.  I had thought that the picture of the girl climbing the stairs was of Maude’s only child, Katherine King, but she was born in 1893, and so should have been at least 17 years old in these pictures; perhaps she is the lady in white carrying the spinning wheel in the picture above, and below looking down by the second spinning wheel.  The font of the 'Wheel and Spindle Club' posters in the pictures have the distinctive Peasant Arts feel to them.
Reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum

Sandhouse, Witley c.1902
Built for Joseph and Maude Egerton King by Francis Troup
from the Francis Troup Archive, RIBA

Teaching Weaving in Haslemere: Spreading the Word

The first step towards the Peasant Arts movement was in teaching, and teaching is one of the cornerstones of the beliefs of the movement.  Teaching features strongly in the literature they produced, for example the Blount’s key books were written to assist others in creating art: Ethel Blount’s The Story of the Homespun Web taking the reader all the way through the weaving process from scouring and dyeing the wool to weaving and waulking, and Godfrey Blount’s Arbor Vitae subtitled as ‘a book on the nature and development of imaginative design for the use of teachers, handicraftsmen and others’.  
Leaflet detail: the Hall of St George is now St George's Flats, Kings Road, Haslemere

The number of different organizations that the movement set up is confusing, as there seems to be a different named Peasant Arts or weaving organization referred to in almost every old leaflet at the time.  They ran at different times at least four ‘schools’ for learning handicrafts: the Spinning and Weaving School at the Hall of St George (Kings Road.  Leaflet in a previous post), the St Cross School of Handicraft (at their house St Cross, Weydown Road) producing wooden toys (a request for craftswomen to carry out woodcarving is covered in a previous post), The Peasant Arts School of Spinning, Weaving and Vegetable Dyeing and The Peasant Arts School of Toy-making.  Greville MacDonald listed one of the Peasant Arts Guild’s operations as “sending into country-places teachers of spinning and weaving”. 

Lower Bertley, now Lower Birtley, Witley
detail of 
A House at Lower Bertley, William Egerton Hine, 1895 (Maude and Ethel's brother)

The origins of the Peasant Arts movement were firmly grounded in the teaching of handicrafts, after all handloom weaving was not an everyday skill at the turn of the century.  Myzelev (Myzelev, Craft Revival in Haslemere: she, who weaves…, Women's History Review, Vol 18, Issue 4, 2009) writes that in 1894 “the Kings moved to Lower Bertley, near Haslemere, set up the Wheel and Spindle Guild, which produced plain and figures materials in linen, cotton and silk.  Maude King taught a few local women to weave in a class run through the HAIA (Home Arts and Industries Association); the products of the class were shown at the annual Home arts exhibition held at the Albert Hall in 1895.  The textiles of the Lower Bertley weavers sold successfully, with the Princess of Wales and the Duke of York purchasing pieces, encouraging the expansion of the workshops…In 1897, Maude and Joseph King moved the weaving workshop to a purpose-built studio at Foundry Meadow (now Kings Road).  By that time, all of Maude King’s students from the Lower Bertley workshop had small Swedish looms in their houses.”

Extract of Blount, Godfrey, Arbor Vitae, A.C. Fifield, 1910
The Peasant Arts Guild at 17 Duke Street, Manchester Square advertised ‘The Peasant Arts School of Spinning, Weaving and Vegetable Dyeing: In which instruction in Homespun Tweed, Linen, Cotton and Rug Weaving is given.” And also “The Peasant Arts Industry and School of Toy-making”  The teaching in an undated leaflet below was advertised as:

“Spinning and Weaving.  Single lesson of three hours                         £0.50
            “            “            Per Week of five days, three hours daily             £1.50…
Pile Carpet Weaving.  Single Lesson of three hours                                    £0.76
Vegetable Dyeing. “                         “                        “                                    £0.76…
Toy-Making.  Single Lesson of three hours                                                £0.50
            “            “Per Week of five days, three hours daily                        £1.50…

Terms for engaging the Guild’s Teachers for Villages and elsewhere.
Per Week                                                                                                £2.00...

Board, Lodging and Travelling Expenses Extra.”

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Teaching Weaving in Haslemere – Sowing the Seed

The teaching of weaving, spinning and dyeing was central to the beliefs of the Peasant Arts movement; in Ethel Blounts word to “reconquer the ancient crafts of the home” would “in a thousand ways affirm the truths that imaginative hand-labour is honourable” (Blount, Ethel, The Story of the Homespun Web, 1910).  
Napkin (detail) made by the Haslemere Weaving Industry,
reproduced courtesy of The Dartford Warbler

The progress of the Peasant Arts movement's teaching can be seen in an article in The Times on 21st March 1924 which reported on the Peasant Arts Guild: 

“Mr Joseph King presided on Wednesday afternoon at the annual general meeting of the Peasant Arts Guild in the Conference Hall, University of London Club, 21 Gower Street.   The seventh annual report stated that the success of the Guild’s two Industries – Country Toys and the Homespun and the rug-weaving industry carried on at Haslemere – had been very noticeable.  The range of brilliant and beautiful vegetable dyes, and the instruction in the use of them, had been widely extended.  During the year 50 weaving lessons had been given, 20 in wheel-spinning, and 24 in vegetable dyeing. 

21 Gower Street, London
- location of the Peasant Arts Guild 7th AGM in 1924
(now The Academy hotel)

The pupils came from America, Switzerland, Wales, and Hungary.  It was recorded that in the death of Mr. Maurice Hewlett the Guild had lost one of its most valued members and patrons.  Dr Greville MacDonald, one of the wardens, in an address, said he believed absolutely in the necessity for the work they were doing.  There was something more in it than the restoration of spinning-wheels, looms, and hand-made tools.  It was the gathering of seed which had been almost forgotten, sowing it broadcast, and letting it spring up where it might.  Mr Godfrey Blount also spoke on a Country Party.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Haslemere Cranks - Part 2

In Therese La Chard’s memoirs A Sailor Hat in the House of the Lord (George Allen & Unwin, London, 1967) she relates her move to Haslemere to teach in an elementary school, “I was able to rent a small bungalow used as his studio by a well-known artist Godfrey Blount before he had built a home for himself.  The bungalow was lightly furnished from his family scrapings and I paid five shillings a week for it.  It consisted  of a large studio with two small bedrooms and a tiny kitchen.  The outdoor sanitation was well away in the woods.  A huge butt supplied rain-water for the wash-tub bath, and a stout Pither stove, planted in the middle of the studio, heated the whole building…”
Little St Cross or the Country Church, St Cross reproduced courtesy of The Dartford Warbler

Following on from the generous receipt of information from the Dartford Warbler, I have deduced that the bungalow that La Chard rented was in the grounds of St Cross, Weydown Road and was to later become Little St Cross or the Country Church.  This is where the Blounts held Supernatural Society meetings in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  The Country Church was originally held in St George’s Hall on King’s Road and must have transferred to St Cross at some point.  From the photographs of it, it would appear that some of the creeds on the beams of the main St Cross house were also written on the beams at Little St Cross.  As La Chard does not mention the writing on the beams of her bungalow, it would appear that they first were used in St Cross itself.
Little St Cross or the Country Church, St Cross reproduced courtesy of The Dartford Warbler

La Chard goes on to explain “Haslemere was at that time a charming little centre of crankdom and, because of my quaint bungalow, I was from the first counted one of the cranks.  My neighbours were two good women with unswerving faith in handweaving.  They had almost squeezed themselves out of their homes by the number of handlooms they had installed.  The Blounts invited me to their barnlike house with its open roof.  The cross-beams bore strange inscriptions of which the one facing the door ran: ‘Be in league with the toad and the stone’, while the inner side of the beam gave to esoteric reason for this command: ‘For mine are the cattle on a thousand hills.’  The meals seemed to consist largely of salads and haricot beans eaten with horn spoons off heavy pottery plates laid on handwoven strips.  When taking tea on the lawn, the stately old gardener could occasionally be seen passing slowly by with two buckets of human excrement on their way to remoter fertilizing duty.  In nature nothing was held to be unpleasant or unclean.  In a beautiful country house nearby, Maude Egerton King was writing children’s stories of valuable socialist intent.  It was all very kindly and very amusing.”

The View from the Surrey Hills – Haslemere cranks Part 1

It’s interesting to read a few observers reports of the lifestyle of Godfrey and Ethel Blount.  They provide revealing glimpses of what must have seemed a very unusual way of life at the turn of the century.

In The Surrey Hills (F.E. Green, Chatto & Windus, London, 1915) Green journeys around the Surrey Hills speaking to locals along the way.  After relating some tales from locals about being driven off the land due to the Enclosure Acts he relates “There is another kind of peasant at Haslemere who is enrolled in the Peasant Arts Society – at least it is a paper peasant if not a real one – the peasant that is put to the potter’s wheel, the carpenter’s bench, or to the hand-loom.  The wild moorland peasant, sprung from a struggling, poaching stock and turn aesthete, would be something to wonder at, could he be found.
The Devil's Punch Bowl, Hindhead from The Surrey Hills (F.E. Green, Chatto & Windus, London, 1915) 

I do not know if it is the air at Hindhead and Haslemere or the romantic scenery, or the literary and scientific heritage left by unconventional folk in the world of letters, that has enriched this neighbourhood with a number of striking and interesting individualities.  They desire not only a life beautiful for themselves, but also for other people.  The aesthete of Haslemere believes in the dignity of hand-labour.  The prophet, priest, and organiser of this interesting band of workers is Mr. Godfrey Blount.  He has even provided a country church for the taming of the peasant, where services of an unconventional character are carried out, and the unpaid priest is robed in a cinnamon suit of hand-woven stuff.  On the notice board of The Country Church, which is a humble green barn, (NB. This was in St George’s Hall on King’s Road, where St George’s Flats now stand) we learn that it is “oratory of the New Crusade for the true liberty of Life and Thought.  Warden, Godfrey Blount.”
St Cross hand-loom workers, Studio International, SVol 43, February 1908

Mr Blount lives at St. Cross, a house in which everyone is blessed “who cometh in the name of the Lord,” so we are told by the writing over the front door.  Work at weaving the wool spun at the spinning-wheel is carried on indoors at hand-looms, where the stuff is woven into cloth.  Mr. Blount designs, and Mrs. Blount generally arranges the colour schemes.  Here, too, some of the “peasant girls” work under Mrs. Blount’s guidance.  The large drawing-room is perhaps the most original I have ever entered.  The arresting note of the room comes from the large oaken beams overhead.  Here, one could read at a glance from the bold letterings the religious inspiration from which Mr. Blount wove his philosophy – his traditional reading of the earth, to which he adds the feelings of a prophet of the twentieth century.

On the first beam are the words, “I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, whence cometh my help,” and on the other side of it, “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

On the middle beam is inscribed, “Thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field, and the beast of the field shall be at peace with thee,” and, “Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.”
Little St Cross reproduced courtesy of The Dartford Warbler;
the first beam says "In heaven the only art of living is forgetting & forgiving",
the other two beams repeat what is said below

And on the third beam are these words of hope, pregnant with a promised fullness of life, “Awake thou that sleepest: arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light,” and, “I am come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.”
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