Friday, 12 December 2014

Peasant Shopping - Part 5 - mending nerves and digestions

Looking through the Haslemere Educational Museum's press cuttings book I found some interesting clippings about the Haslemere Peasant Arts movement.  It's not easy to see the origin of some of the clippings.  I found an article describing the opening of the Peasant Arts' Society's first shop in Haslemere. I think this is from the West Sussex Gazette 1907:

"Later in the day the Peasant Arts' Society opened their new shop in Haslemere - one of the towns in the Empire which is profiting hugely by the presence within its precincts of cultivated and educated people.  Where such exist - how great the gain!  Where they are lacking - how much poorer in every way is life to every other class of the community.  It is quite probable that in Haslemere, to-day, more happy human lives are being moulded, in all ranks too, in proportion to its extent, than in almost any other town in our area.  This, too, because work is being actually done, things said and lived, ideas urged and ideals promulgated, which do concretely improve the minds, bodies, and hearts of men and women, which do veritably help them to see more of good and joy in life, and to take a deeper and more consistent joy in the living.  You can see the process going on; it is possible to discern the fruit.  On Saturday we were, naturally, most concerned with the work exhibited by the Society just mentioned.

Peasant Arts Society Shop,
No. 1, The Pavement, High Street, Haslemere

"Their London depot has done much to popularise the peasant tapestries and other appliqué work, rugs, and carpets, the output of Haslemere looms: but it was thought well to open this local shop in a community fitted to value the aims of the founders, and likely to aid in their practical success…The members of the Peasant Arts Society take the opportunity of the opening of their first Country Shop to explain the nature of their work and hope.  Their desire is to restore the true country life, its faith, and its crafts, which they believe to be absolutely essential to the saner life of this and every country.  And their work is directed to this end.

"To increase the knowledge and love of Traditional Design, to encourage beautiful useful Hand-work, done under happy conditions in the country, and to sell the products to those who can appreciate them, is their immediate purpose.  The Society is purely philanthropic in this respect, that no private profits will be taken from its own Industries and Shops, all such profits going to further the work and increase its scope.  On the other hand, care is taken to price work at its proper commercial value, so as to maintain a right standard, and in no way to undersell individual craftsmen.

"Hand-work alone is compatible with the truest Country Life: and the larger aim of the Society is to make a Country Movement, whence vital action can proceed to effect the real re-population of England, and the restoration to our people of their hands, their faith, and their country-side.  In so far as the public will appreciate its ideals and help its efforts, its work will go forward; having done its best, with the public will lie its failure of success.

"Many are helping; but on Saturday the burden of reception fell chiefly on Mr. and Mrs. Godfrey Blount and Mrs. Joseph King.  The rooms were delightful, as the happy visiting throng attested.  We welcomed especially the dainty and daring peasant work in metal, ware, and wood imported from German, Austrian, and Norwegian valleys, where artistic handicrafts (unconsciously artistic in many cases) still flourish.  Mr. Godfrey Blount is an untiring apostle in this new type of international entente; and its is sweeter than cannon and less disruptive.

"As yet, the promoters have to depend on the purchases of those likely to value beauty in the home furniture and accoutrements.  And their name is not yet legion.  Still, they are growing more numerous.  Everyone who is taught the joy of artistic and direct handicraft, all who are led to watch and appreciate it, each induced to make it one with his or her daily surroundings, will aid in the creation of a market where all the producers will be competent and all the buyers sane.  We believe in modern machinery, for by it many handy things are done; and we hold that the modern world is fitted in all respects to the folk who make it up.  But we welcome the note here struck for happy human handiwork.  What nerves and digestions it will mend; what leisure it will enrich into how many country homes in England may it not one day bring health, reward, and joy."


  1. Well done-again
    I was interested to see that they believe in modern machinery alongside human handiwork. I had thought that the most mechanical of their 'instruments' of work were their spinning wheels. The other refreshing aspect is how the words are expressed in this and other quotes from 100 years ago-we seem to have lost the knack of such beauty in our everyday speech.

  2. Thanks. Yes I think that the writer was quite enthused by the movement! I believe that the reference to "We believe in modern machinery" is the words of the writer and not those of the Peasant Arts movement itself.


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