Friday, 23 December 2011

Arthur Romney Green & the Peasant Arts people

Arthur Romney Green (A.R.G.) had holidayed in Haslemere during his childhood, his parents being friends with Sir Robert and Lady Hunter.  When A.R.G. and his wife Florence moved to Haslemere in 1902 from Bosham at the age of 30, they first lived in a rented house called 'Down End' in Hindhead.  Elkin reports that the Hunters "introduced Green and Florence to the local circle of cultured, and often wealthy, people...Green took a little workshop in Foundry Road, near Haslemere railway station.  There he often met, and made friends with, the sort of company which Florence disliked - social reformers, social philosophers, pamphleteers and champions of 'bottom dogs'." (Elkin, Susan, Life to the Lees, Cromwell Press, 1998).
Arthur Romney Green at his Christchurch workshop in the 1920s
(in the doorway wearing a black jacket).  Note the chair back glimpsed in the window
and his name above the door

Doubtless Elkin is referring to the Blounts and the Kings when she writes this, who ticked all those boxes: Joseph King MP being the most prominent social reformer, Godfrey Blount being the social philosopher and, them both, including their wives Maude Egerton King and Ethel Blount producing pamphlets and championing the peasant life.  The Weaving House and Tapestry Studio which they operated would have been well-known in 1902, and A.R.G.'s workshop would have been located within  a 100 metres of them.  Behind the workshop, Godfrey and Ethel Blount may still have been living in Foundry Cottage on Foundry Lane (where they were in the 1901 census), or they may have moved into St. Cross on Weydown Road.  I wonder how the Christchurch workshop pictured above, compared to the Foundry Road workshop?  As noted in a previous post, the workshop must have been a reasonable size because A.R.G. and Harold Murray "started an Independent Labour Party (ILP) group which met in the showroom...Sometimes as many as 40 or 50 people attended the meetings: a mixture of small tradesmen, artisans, the men who worked for Green, and sometimes, a sprinkling of local bigwigs".  For A.R.G. to be holding such meetings on Foundry Lane sounds very similar in pretext to the Blounts and Kings political and religious meetings also held locally.

Arthur Romney Green from
Green, A. Romney, A Craftsman's Anthology, 
University Press, Aberdeen, 1948 (edited and abridged by Joan Yeo)
Elkin only refers specifically to one of the Peasant Arts people, Godfrey Blount.  A.R.G. left Haslemere in disgrace when he left his wife and child for Bertha Murray; Bertha left her husband and two children to be with A.R.G.  Elkin describes how the Murrays had moved from Hampstead where they had lived in the late 1880s and early 1890s.

Harold Murray had an established dental practice and it is probably through living in Hampstead that he knew Ethel and Godfrey Blount and perhaps also Maude and Joseph King.  The Murrays moved to California to pursue a new career in fruit farming but after a while ill health and financial difficulties caused Harold to give this up and take on the managership of a small gold mine.  "Then the proprietor of the mine defrauded Murray out of a year's salary.  This completed their ruin.  The couple - with a son in his early teens and a new baby daughter - returned to England, probably in 1902, with the help of their old friend Godfrey Blount.  They had to leave behind the piano, their library of books and almost everything they had of value.  It was at Blount's house in Haslemere that Green first met them." (ibid).  A.R.G. went on to organize political meetings with Harold Murray that he held in his workshop.  I wonder how Godfrey Blount felt a few years later, when A.R.G. and Bertha Murray left Haslemere to be together, about having first introduced the Murrays to A.R.G.

I had hoped that A.R.G.'s A Craftsman's Anthology (University Press, Aberdeen, 1948) would include some writings by the Blounts, Kings or Greville MacDonald.  Sadly they do not feature.  Amidst the extracts of Walt Whitman, Emerson, Carlyle, Shakespeare and Homer, the nearest links to the Peasant Arts movement are Tennyson (Haslemere resident), G.K.Chesterton who was patron of the Peasant Arts Guild in 1925 and the writings of John Ruskin which also inspired the Peasant Arts movement.


  1. I too wonder how the Blounts reacted when ARG and Bertha finally eloped together, having met at the Blount`s home in Haslemere. Did they stay in touch I wonder? Knowing that the Blounts visited Bournemouth in their later years, I wonder if they caught the train along the coast to Christchurch, to talk about old times with Green?

    ARG`s old workshops in Bridge Street, Christchurch is now a large restaurant in the Prezzos chain. It is easy to imagine the space inside being furnished with his workbenches. The bow fronted windows have hardly changed at all.

  2. I would like to think that they stayed in touch. The Blounts appear to have been very warm-hearted people, so you would think they would not have cut them out of their lives. However I was surprised that they were not quoted in A.R.G.'s 'A Craftsman's Anthology'.

    It would be interesting to see the old Christchurch workshop. I expect Prezzo's chairs aren't quite as good quality as A.R.G.'s!


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