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

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Godfrey Blount's Bushey Watercolours

I recently came across these watercolours listed under the BBC's 'Your Paintings' website.  This website holds 79,000 paintings, with a target to achieve 200,000 paintings.  I had not heard of this project before, but it is a really interesting archive.
Section of re-discovered Cloisters of Herkomer's Art School,
Rose Garden, Bushey,
Hertsmere Borough Council 

Godfrey Blount studied at Bushey sometime between 1881 when he was recorded on the census at Cambridge University, and 1887 when he married Ethel Hine who he met whilst studying at the Slade School of Art.  Blount studied at what was then the Herkomer's Art School, which was in operation between 1883-1904, so that narrows the time frame down to 1883-1887.  "Herkomer had some 500-600 artists studying there before he eventually grew weary of the responsibility of overseeing the school." (Hertsmere Borough Council website).  
Sir Herbert von Herkomer's Rose Garden, Bushey c.1915
Hertsmere Borough Council

Bushey Rose Garden, 2010
Royal Horticultural Society
Herkomer demolished the school in 1912 and built himself a 'Bavarian Castle' of a house called 'Lululuand' after his second wife Lulu.  The house does not remain, the gardens that Herkomer commissioned Thomas Mawson to design in 1913, are now called the Rose Garden.  Mawson created the garden in exchange for a portrait by Herkomer.  The garden is now owned by Hertsmere Borough Council and holds a Grade II listing for a Park and Garden of Special Historic Interest.  The Cloisters photographed above appear to have been recently rediscovered in the Rose Garden.  Doubtless Godfrey Blount would have sat in those cloister contemplating art and life.
Lululuand, Herkomer's house built on the site of Herkomer's Art School

Perhaps Blount is depicted in the painting below.  

'Evening in the Studio with my Students', Herbert von Herkomer, 1886
Goldenage Paintings
When I first saw these Blount watercolours, I thought I was looking at some mislabelled Henry G. Hine paintings.  However, as they are held by Bushey, I believe they must be genuine Godfrey Blount.  I will need to follow this up with the Bushey Museum to see if they have any more information or works by Godfrey Blount.

Sunset over the Downs, Godfrey Blount c.1883,
Bushey Museum at Your Paintings 
There are some interesting parallels not just in the depiction of the light in these watercolours, for which Henry G. Hine (who was to become Godfrey Blount's father-in-law in 1887) was noted, but also in the subject matter of painting the Downs.  

These paintings, particularly the 'Sunset over the Downs' make me wonder whether Blount was at least acquainted with Henry G. Hine at this time.  It is said that he met Hine's youngest daughter, Ethel, at the Slade School of Art where Blount went on to study after he left Bushey.  Indeed I do not understand why Blount would have studied art at Bushey and then gone on to study art at the Slade - did he leave Bushey having completed his studies?  Or did he continue his studies at the Slade in more depth?  

Surrey Landscape, Godfrey Blount c.1883
Bushey Museum at Your Paintings 
The rural setting of Herkomer's Art School, and the attraction this had in drawing artists into the area, who then stayed on to establish studios, must have had some influence upon Blount's later lifestyle in Haslemere.  It is also interesting to see that Blount is expressing an interest in the landscape somewhere within the surrounding regions of Haslemere in these two paintings, a good 15 years before he actually moved to Haslemere.  Whilst Blount's family were based in Bagshot, I am still not clear what led the Peasant Arts members to locate in Haslemere.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Francis Troup's Cheap Cottage Makeover

Francis Troup designed the Peasant Arts houses and workshops on Kings Road, Haslemere.

I was amazed to come across some more photographs of Francis Troup's cheap cottage in Letchworth Garden City.  This was the cottage for which he won first prize for the 'best wooden cottage costing under £150 to build' in 1905.  Troup won £50.  I posted some RIBA pictures of the cottage in a previous post.  This cottage, 124 Wilbury Road, looks similar in appearance to the Dye House on Kings Road.

Francis Troup's cheap cottage, 1905
from the Garden City Museum
The Garden City Museum website has a wealth of fascinating pictures of the building of Letchworth Garden City.  It's an interesting coincidence that the St Edmundsbury Weaving Works relocated to Letchworth Garden City in 1908.

The impetus behind the cheap cottage exhibition is explained by the Garden City Museum: "By the late 19th century the cost of building houses for farm workers was so high and wages so low, that it was not economical to build houses for agricultural labourers. Part of the problem was the restrictive bye-laws that allowed only expensive materials such as brick and stone to be used. This was one of the factors leading to a mass exodus of farm workers from country to town and a subsequent lack of labour.

To try to change this, Mr J St Loe Strachey, editor of The Specator and owner of the Country Gentleman Land & Water Magazine, wrote an article starting a campaign for the £150 Cottage which would use cheaper building materials and could be let to a rural labourers for an affordable £8 a year.
In an article in October 1904 he proposed a competition where entrants could display examples of cottages, free from byelaws, and thus able to utilise innovative new building methods and materials."
Postcard of the Cheap Cottages Exhibition  by Frank Dean, 1905
Garden City Museum
The Exhibition was opened in July 1905 by the Duke of Devonshire, the exhibition had a huge impact at the time "The exhibition acted as a publicity magnet.  In 1905, Letchworth was a household name with nationwide press coverage appearing in hundreds of national and local newspapers and the exhibition attracting between 60,000 to 80,000 visitors to the fledgling Garden City.  A new temporary stop was created on the Great Northern Railway to accommodate the throng – Letchworth was literally put on the map."
Cheap Cottage Exhibition, Letchworth, 1905
Garden City Museum
What is really fascinating about the Troup cheap cottage, is that I have come across a current photograph of the house online, so I feel able to share it here.  Below is one of the pictures I have posted previously of the cottage.
Cheap Cottage, designed by Francis Troup, Letchworth, 1905
And here is the cottage today, there have obviously been a number of changes, but the cottage still remains recognisable from the 1905 pictures.  The changes made are fascinating, it looks almost like a new house, rather than one over 100 years old.  I wonder if they have any of Troup's trademarks still, like the very wide, robust front doors.  
Francis Troup's Letchworth cheap cottage, present day
Francis Troup's cheap cottage, 1905
from the Garden City Museum

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A Peasant Break

After a busy few months completing my final project for my Finance MBA with Manchester Business School, I'm back and raring to go with some more Peasant Arts research!

My project was slightly thinner than Volume 1 of The Vineyard, edited by Maude Egerton King and Greville MacDonald.

The Vineyard, Fifield, edited by Maude Egerton King
& Greville MacDonald
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