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


  1. How interesting that Dolly Diamond`s has such a similar ethos to the Peasant Artists. I`m sure that the Blounts would have approved! I also feel that they would have approved of the revived interest in home crafting .

    From Kath Kidston and Kirstie Alsop to the "Knit and Stitch" groups that are popping up in all our communities. Maybe they are partly a modern reaction to our over-mechanised, mass production society and a way that people can be creative and express their individuality? Does the buying and wearing vintage clothing satisfy the same sort of nostalgia for good quality, hand produced clothing? I`m sure it is not just about fashion.

  2. Thank you. Yes I agree; the latter day movement of crafting and rediscovering the old skills of knitting etc. espouses some similar views to the Peasants though perhaps less extreme.

    A friend has suggested I should write a book setting out how to apply the Peasant Arts beliefs to the present day. Hmm maybe!


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