Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Peasant Arts Guild - an advert

In a 1912 Peasant Arts Fellowship paper, there is a page setting out the beliefs of the Peasant Arts Guild.  The subheading explains ""The true strength of a Nation lies in the spiritual and economic welfare of its Peasantry.""

by Blount, Godfrey, from
Arbor Vitae, Fifield, 1899

"The Peasant Arts Guild has for its object the re-creation and the re-vitalising of the social and personal life of the country folk, leaving to other organisations the equally necessary and important matters of land, housing, and wages, all of which problems must be satisfactorily solved if the country is to be saved in the only way possible- through its peasantry.

The stagnation of the country village must be broken up or its younger members and new settlers cannot be expected to resist the false lure of the towns; the Handicrafts of the people, which of old provided outlet for their artistic and creative instincts, must be restored, interesting occupations and recreations must be placed within their reach, and of a kind which (unlike mere show-gazing) will draw out their own faculties and reveal within themselves the seeds of happiness.

All these things can be done with the co-operation of a few of the more influential members of a village who will be willing to share some of their advantages with their poorer neighbours.
by Blount, Godfrey, from
Arbor Vitae, Fifield, 1899

Advice as to how to set to work will gladly given by the Peasant Arts Guild, which is also ready to send out trained teachers of Spinning, Weaving and Vegetable Dyeing, Toy Making, Wood Carving, etc. and to make suggestions for the introduction of such Country Arts as Folk Dancing, Folk Singing, Traditional Festivals, Games, etc.

Pupils can be taken in the Guild's School of Handicrafts and it is hoped that through the missionary zeal of some of these pupils, brightness and interest may be carried into many a village home where now is so frequently heard the complaint that "there is nothing to do" in the long winter evenings.

Inquiries will be welcomed and all particulars given upon application to

The Secretary of the Peasant Arts Guild
17, Duke Street, Manchester Square,
London, W."

Friday, 27 May 2011

A Toy Armoury

Ethel Blount (Gifts of St Nicholas: A Study of Toys) goes on to describe the toy weapons they make at the John Ruskin School.  I am not sure that much of this armoury would be allowed in toy shops today!   There are no more pictures of the armoury, so I've included some other toy pictures instead. 
Illustration of a toy bird on wheels
by Ethel Blount, 
Gifts of St Nicholas: A Study of Toys
"Our armoury has a great array of guns, from a tiny red cannon on yellow wheels up to the long deadly rifle with tin-foil-paper barrel.  Its wooden bullet, two inches in length, is tied to it firmly by due of string, while this pistol next to it shoots forth a captive cork with a terrible pop.  Swords and daggers are equally alarming and suggestive.  The blades are of fine, fine wood, pointed.  The black scabbards have, as a rule, patterns on them in yellow, and, as I well remember, just the same taste as the heads of Dutch dolls.
"Roundabout geese" from
Ethel Blount, Gifts of St Nicholas: A Study of Toys

Here is a cross-bow and bolt.  You set it, place the bolt and whiz - who knows what you may have hit?  And this bow, too, with its arrows that travel so lightly and deviously, this links you with Robin Hood and Little John, and all good men who ever lived under the greenwood tree.  It has a long ancestory.  The cloth-yard shafts of Senlac were among its forebears, and the arrow-heads of the Stone Age man."

Toys: the Baby Flapper

In Ethel Blount's book Gifts of St Nicholas: A Study of Toys there are numerous illustrations of toys that presumably represented the traditional toys made and sold by 'The John Ruskin School', in St George's Hall, Kings Road (situated where there is now St George's Flats).  I presume that the illustrations were by Ethel herself, as they were in her other book, The Story of the Homespun Web.  Ethel relays her thoughts on toys and the child imagination.  
A sword and baby flapper from Blount, Ethel
Gifts of St Nicholas: A Study of Toys

For example she writes that toys "are unreal and suggestive; furnished with them the child learns to live in this world of fact because they hold the door open into the other world, the world of imagination.  If that door were shut childhood would die, and the nursery would have a population of pigmy men and women.  So while the rich people not unfrequently give their babes diminutive facts to play with, the poor, the meek, who are to inherit the kingdom, have only symbols of earth and heaven to give theirs.  Whom shall we pity?"

Modern baby
Ethel talks about the baby 'flapper', which we would now call a 'baby castanet'.  Her playful narrative is quite captivating: "To us it is a poor joke, but the baby sees the point of it, and of its woven rattle too.  It and all true toys may be absurd, but their absurdity is above, not below reason.  Only untrue toys are below reason, such as large, bottle-nosed rag policemen, golliwogs and the like.  The true ones are either implements of sport, imitations of lovely or useful fact, or pure symbols of imagination, and, of course, the kinds overlap. The baby's rattle is his attempt at sport.  Would you see it nearer?  Then come with me among my toys, and come reverently, for you are entering the temple of the child's spirit."

In this, and other references, Ethel seems to be reflecting the values of today's Steiner Waldorf teaching.  

Sunday, 22 May 2011

17 Duke Street, Manchester Square W1: home to The Peasant Arts Guild

I tried to find this address last week and was a little disappointed to see that it no longer exists.  I have since discovered that the block of houses where the Peasant Arts Guild was based was bombed during World War 2.

Duke Street runs alongside Selfridges off Oxford Street and leads to Manchester Square, where at the top of the Square, the Wallace Collection, in Hertford House, has been open to the nation since 1897.  Greville MacDonald lived a few minutes walk away, at 85 Harley Street, until 1919.
17 Duke Street, W1 must have existed where the 'Coll' appears on the map above,
on the section of Duke street just below Wigmore Street

site of 17 Duke Street, W1 in 2011

Work is currently taking place on the site where 17 Duke Street must have stood.  At the end of this block, the first older style property is 27 Duke Street, which possibly could be similar in style to the original no. 17.  The Selfridges store ends diagonally opposite where 17 Duke Street must have stood.
27 Duke Street, W1 in 2011
The other side of Duke Street, the corner of Selfridges in 2011

I have found some interesting accounts of the bombings at Selfridges online.  The Selfridges website says "the store survived the war comparatively unscathed - although the Blitz destroyed the famous roof gardens, which never re-opened to the public again.  Flooding put the lifts out of action for the duration, while further bombing destroyed the Palm Court Restaurant.  The ground floor windows – deemed too dangerous to be exposed – were bricked up.  A Doodle Bug (V.2 bomb) smashed into Duke Street in 1944, narrowly avoiding the main store. Flooding impacted on the activities of the top-secret U.S. Army Signal Corps Telecommunications system code-named SIGSALY, installed deep in Selfridges sub-basement." 

Selfridges with bricked up front windows, sometime after 1940,
from Selfridges website

The fascinating West End at War website recounts the bombings of 1940, 1941 and 1944 at Selfridges, all of which must have impacted upon 17 Duke Street, and presumably one or more resulted in it no longer standing!  "On 18 September 1940 – in the same raid which destroyed John Lewis’s further east along Oxford Street – Selfridges was hit by a single high explosive bomb and by several incendiaries. The store’s elegant roof gardens – popular in the 1920s and 1930s as a place for strolling after shopping – were badly damaged. They were closed, never to open again. Broken glass from Selfridges’ many upper storey windows fell into surrounding streets. Owner H.Gordon Selfridge’s own prized signature window - autographed by dozens of celebrity visitors to the store since its opening in 1909 - was shattered. The sight reportedly reduced the 84-year-old American retail magnate to tears.

V2 strike on Duke Street, 1944 (view from Selfridges Annex)
Copyright Westminster City Archives

...After the 18 September raid, the ground floor windows – normally used for the store's world famous shop front displays - were bricked up for the war’s duration... St Marylebone Civil Defence records detail further incendiary bomb damage inflicted in a night raid of 17 April, 1941. In this attack, fire destroyed the store's Palm Court Restaurant, venue for the rich and famous...

One of Selfridges’ sub-basements was converted to hold a secret Bell Telephone ‘X-System’ communications system. Codenamed ‘Sigsaly’, and operated by US Army technicians, specialist cryptographic signal equipment scrambled top-secret phone calls between Britain and her Allies.  From 1943, this system – linked from Selfridges to the Cabinet War Rooms in Whitehall - provided Prime Minster Winston Churchill with a secure telephone link to his US counterpart, President Franklin D. Roosevelt....

V2 strike opposite Selfridges, 1944 (Duke Street/Barrett Street).
Copyright Westminster City Archives
At 11pm, 6 December 1944, a V2 rocket hit the Red Lion pub on the corner of Duke Street and Barrett Street, just yards from Selfridges. A canteen situated in the Selfridges Annex building – bordering Somerset, Wigmore and Orchard streets and nicknamed the SWOD - was massively damaged. Eight American servicemen were killed and 32 injured. Ten British civilians - some in passing vehicles - were killed and seven injured. Selfridges’ shop-front Christmas tree displays were blown into Oxford Street. "

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Toys, Fairyland and the Peasant Imagination Part 1

Fairyland and toys played an important influence on the Peasant Arts movement and most of the key members were directly involved.

John Ruskin School advert

  • Godfrey Blount made ‘traditional and new’ toys that were sold by the ‘The John Ruskin School’, in St George’s Hall, Kings Road, and wrote about these in Toys True and False (Peasant Arts Guild Paper No. 28)
  • Ethel Blount wrote about the relationship between toys and the child’s imagination in Gifts of St Nicholas: A Study of Toys.
  • Greville MacDonald wrote numerous fairytale books such as Trystie’s Quest (1912) and Jack and Jill (1913), and wrote about the impact of fairy in various publications such as The Fairy Tale in Education (Peasant Arts Guild Paper No. 16).
  • Maude Egerton King was described as “writing children’s stories of valuable socialist intent” (La Chard, Therese, A Sailor Hat in the House of the Lord, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1967) although I have not found any of these stories so far.
Trystie's Quest by Greville MacDonald

Greville MacDonald (whose father’s influence as one of the most famous writer’s of fairy tales of all-time cannot be ignored) described his thoughts on ‘fairy’ in a chapter called ‘Fairy-Tale Influences’ of his memoirs (Reminiscences of a Specialist, London, George Allen and Unwin, 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.  As the child is father of the man, so is fairy-tale greater than its intellectual offspring, more significant of the spiritual, passionate consanguinity of weed and rose, tiger and lamb, dragon and saint, that binds all creatures into a destined harmony.  

Similarly long ago it was the unschooled peasant folk and craftsmen – painters, masons, glass-stainers – who built their cathedrals, unmatchable in glory even now when millionaires’ superfluous money thinks to build better ones.  Nor were these simple men afraid of honestly carving cruelty on their gargoyles, or devils in cowls and cassocks, as if to declare the power of evil.  Correspondingly fairy-tale is always pointing the conflict between good and evil, and the stubborn facts of hard-heartedness and greed.” 

Similarly, on toys, Ethel Blount wrote “But the toys themselves – let us consider them a little.  To their creation the influence of poverty and tradition seem necessary, and it is the children of the poor who have the most real toys.  For the rich child there are changing fashions in them, clockwork acrobats today, phonograph dolls to-morrow, and nursery aeroplanes the days after; but the child of poverty clasps her rag doll to her heart while her brother plays with the almost elemental monkey-on-a-stick.” (Gifts of St Nicholas: A Study of Toys)

Saturday, 7 May 2011

A historic walk down Kings Road

I thought I'd put all the old pictures I've found of Kings Road, Haslemere in some order:

Entrance to Kings Road c.1910 - the railway house on the right was demolished in 1960
 from Winter and Collyer, Around Haslemere and Hindhead in Old Photographs,
Alan Sutton Publishing, 1991

'The Hazels' on Kings Road c. 1910 this was a private temperance hotel, restaurant and confectioners

from Winter and Collyer, Around Haslemere and Hindhead in Old Photographs,
Alan Sutton Publishing, 1991

W.H.Stoneman & Co c.1920 - next to the Three Counties Church viewed from near Fosters Bridge.  This builders merchant business began around 1908.  There is a petrol pump outside (underneath the 'lavatories' sign).  Aruna House now stands on this site.

from Winter and Collyer, Around Haslemere and Hindhead in Old Photographs,
Alan Sutton Publishing, 1991

The Kings procession 1903 - "A great procession followed King Edward VII along Kings Road towards Midhurst in 1903...the building on the left was the gasworks.  The Haslemere Gas Company was incorporated in 1868 with a nominal capital of £1, 1917 the Limited Company was dissolved and re-incorporated as The Haslemere and District Gas Company, becoming part of the Southern Gas Board following nationalization on 1 May 1949.  The old gas works was closed in 1972 when the area was converted to natural gas"  (Winter and Collyer, Around Haslemere and Hindhead in Old Photographs, 
Alan Sutton Publishing, 1991).  

Note there appears to be a man sitting on the window at the gas company, you can see his feet and hands.  All that remains of the building now is  a brick wall between the terraced houses pictured and some new houses, Holmwood Heights.  After the King's visit, Foundry Road or Gasworks Road as it was named became Kings Road.

Somewhere along the road, the King would be reported to say "that he had always heard of Haslemere as a pretty town, but now was disappointed"(Rolston, Haslemere 1850-1950, Phillimore, 1964).

from Winter, Tim, Around Haslemere,
Tempus Publishing Limited, 2002

The Weaving House and the old Studio - behind the horse in the background.  The side of the hill between Kings Road and Longdene is much less developed, some buildings can be vaguely seen in the Foundry Meadow area.  In the foreground is a horse-powered pug mill, puddling clay before it was used to make bricks and tiles.  The site of the photograph is what is now the Wey Hill car park.  Wey Hill was previously known as Clay Hill, where there were brickworks.
Looking across to Kings Road from Weyhill c. 1910
from Winter, Tim, 
Around Haslemere, Tempus Publishing Limited, 2002

The Weaving House - an old postcard.  The weaving sign of three shuttles can clearly be seen by the gate.  A notice on the gate is headed ‘Haslemere Weaving’.  The entrance door is on the first floor of the building, demonstrating the steep slope that the house is built on.  The entrance ‘bridge’ crosses a small stream referred to historically as ‘Brittons Water’. 

from Winter, Tim, Around Haslemere,
Tempus Publishing Limited, 2002

The tree in the middle of the road - another view of the Weaving House where Foundry Lane joins Kings Road.  The girl is holding a hoop.
from The Craftsmen, January 1902

The Old Studio c.1982 - with the Weaving House in the background

from T.D.L. Thomas, 'Rustic Renaissance: Arts and Crafts in Haslemere', Country Life, April 15, 1982

Spinning wool outside in Kings Road - Miss Flora Synge at her spinning wheel in 1917, it is not clear where exactly on Kings Road she is.  Flora's great niece has told us that Flora "was a second cousin of Joseph King and a very independent lady, a graduate of Cambridge and wove all her life, settling in Hawkshead in later life.  She used to take her spinning wheel on the train when she returned home to Liverpool to visit her parents".

from  Janaway, John,  Surrey: A Photographic Record 1850-1920,
Countryside Books, 1984

The Dye House

The side of the Dye House from
The Changing Face of Shottermill, Acorn Press, 1987
Back view of part of The Dye House 1933 - this picture by Francis Frith was taken from Longdene and appears to show the side of Honey Hill, Foundry Lane, on the left.  The small black hut in the middle of the photograph, with the 'white' window, was attached to the rest of the Dye House, which is hidden by trees, when it was turned into a residence around 1950.  The building on the left of the black hut must be St George's Hall, site of the Country Church, where St George's Flats now stand.  The view across to St Christopher's Green is now blighted by the Weyhill car park.  The buildings which flank the current car park can be seen on the right.  The photograph has two horizontal lines: the train line nearest the Dye House hut and then the main road through Weyhill.

from the Francis Frith archive
The Foundry 1876 - from which Foundry Road (now Kings Road) originally got it's name.  Winter (Around Haslemere, Tempus Publishing Limited, 2002) states: "Puttick's Mill Foundry was almost certainly between the present-day Foundry Lane and Kings Road, about where St George's Hall and the old Dye House were later built on the south side of the road.  In August 1876 there was still the 'shadow' of a water wheel visible on the wall behind the short ladder (in the picture below).  The 1886 Ordnance Survey map showed two buildings, close together, with a leat carrying water to them from the stream near Foster's Bridge.  From the mill wheel the water ran away into the stream towards Sicklemill.  This is now piped below the small side road of houses, built where the first Haslemere sewage works was sited, and, later, a builder's yard used by Riley & Whishaw.  The approach road to the foundry led from the old coach road that crossed the railway line through a crossing gate at the corner of St Christophers Road.  At this time there was not continuous road through on the present line of Kings Road.  It is not known when the foundry closed but William Puttick was listed at the Lion Foundry, Shottermill, perhaps near Lion Green, in a later nineteenth-century trades directory."

from Winter, Tim, Around Haslemere,
Tempus Publishing Limited, 2002

Friday, 6 May 2011

The HAIA & the Peasant Arts Movement

The Peasant Arts movement mirrored the activities of the Home Arts and Industries Association (HAIA) by running craft classes, sending teachers into communities and exhibiting their products.  Mrs G.F. Watts (Mary Seton Fraser Tytler) of nearby Compton was a notable HAIA figure.
Example of Compton Pottery c.1902,
A successful HAIA venture.  Tankard wording: 'Compton in Surrey',
'St Nicholas on a pilgrims way shed sweeter roses day by day'
A good overview of the HAIA is given by Myzelev (Craft Revival in Haslemere: she, who weaves…, Women's History Review, Vol 18, Issue 4, 2009): "Organisations such as the HAIA which provided patronage and exhibition venues for various craft schools, classes, and workshops,   were regarded as amateurish.  The HAIA's products, although often accorded serious critical attention, with reviews of the annual exhibitions in The Studio were purchased because of the desire top support the cause of ameliorating the plight of the labouring classes.  The HAIA belonged to the tradition of the peasant arts revival that sought to re-establish or revive indigenous crafts; this pan-European movement linked the crafts with National Romanticism....
Newlyn Cooper,
another successful HAIA venture

The HAIA functioned as a sponsoring institution for many independent ventures, unifying disparate craft classes and workshops established in isolated communities.  Its national and regional exhibitions encouraged exchange of ideas and experience plus sharing resources.  Classes were primarily aimed at the rural population: men, women and children taught a variety of crafts to enrich their lives and to ‘open their eyes’ to the beauty of the surrounding countryside.  The principal aim was to provide ‘rationale recreation’, to steer workers away from bad influences…Only a few organizations under the auspices of the HAIA became viable rural industries; the Compton Pottery, the Keswick Industrial Art School and Newlyn Copper representing the success stories.”

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