Most people are aware of the exceptional furniture, decorative arts, and architecture, which were created as part of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Especially in England where it began, it was also fervently committed to improving the prevailing conditions of housing, employment, education, health, and establishing women’s equality. With few exceptions, those artists and architects most associated with the Movement were themselves active in organizations dedicated to creating this better society.
The lasting legacy of these teachings and beliefs is reflected not only in exquisite objects and buildings but by the activities of the newly wealthy and influential industrialists – people such as William Lever, George Cadbury, Joseph Rowntree, and Henrietta Barnett. They have left us, through their generosity to museums and their civic mindedness, the best public collections of the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and the most impressive and exquisite 19th century municipal and ecclesiastical buildings.
At the core of this trip was an examination of the villages which forward thinking 19th century industrialists built for their workers. Port Sunlight, outside of Liverpool, built by William Lever for workers at his soap factory. Saltaire, a small charming hillside village built by Sir Titus Salt for his textile workers. New Earswick near York built by Joseph Rowntree for employees at his cocoa and chocolate factory, and Bournville, established by the Cadburys for their workers outside of Birmingham.
The significance of the Garden City Movement supported by Lever, Cadbury, and Rowntree is best understood through visits to the earliest cities – Letchworth, Welwyn, and Hampstead Garden Suburb. A fitting conclusion to the trip was dinner at Toynbee Hall in East London, where so many of the ideas were first put into actuality.
Along the way were such visual delights as visits to homes by Baillie Scott, C.F.A. Voysey, Alfred Waterhouse, Ernest Newton, and Edwin Lutyens and interior decorations of Morris & Company. Alfred Powell, A.W.N. Pugin, the Broomsgrove Guild of Handicraft, and Ford Maddox Brown.