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The Center of Creativity – Where It All Began

We’ve put together a trip designed to enchant the eye, pique the mind, and delight the palate. With our incomparable access, you will enjoy privileged entrance to some of the best of England’s private collections and homes of the arts and crafts period. The private collections visited contain the most exquisite decorative objects by such important 19th century designers as William Burges, Philip Webb, C.R.Ashbee, W.A.S.Benson, William De Morgan, and William Morris.

The guides and lecturers have been carefully selected from among Britain’s best scholars, curators, authors and artists. They not only provide an exceptional experience, but often join us along with our hosts for the lively dinners and conversation which are such a feature of our unique trips.

Day One – We begin at Standen the National Trust’s most popular 19th century site. Designed by Philip Webb, it has been furnished with examples of the best of the arts and crafts movement. Explore the house and the glorious gardens at your leisure, giving yourself a real opportunity to become absorbed in this period. In the late afternoon Margaret Richardson, Chairman of The Lutyens Trust, joins us at Munstead Wood designed by Lutyens for the landscape designer Gertrude Jekyll. The work on this house was the first collaboration between these two artists who went on to design some of the most exciting homes in the country – of which we’ll visit several during our stay. Following our tour of the house and gardens, Sir Robert and Lady Clark have invited us to stay on for dinner.

Day Two – One of the questions most often asked is when did the arts and crafts movement end? A visit this morning to the Charleston Farmhouse bought by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant at the start of the Great War and their home for the rest of their lives, shows how much a part of the movement they were, and brings it well into the 1930’s. Exuberantly decorated by members of the Omega Workshop it became a center for artists, politicians and a scene of many wonderful parties. Church commissions were an excellent source of work for many architects and designers in the 19th century and Brighton has several examples. In St. Michael and All Angels designed by G.F.Bodley are some of the earliest windows by Morris & Co and at St Bartholomews there is extraordinary metalwork by Henry Wilson. A truly privileged treat awaits this evening when we visit one of the most exquisite private collections of English 19th century decorative arts and paintings and stay on for dinner with our hosts.

Day three – Today we explore Lutyens country, probably the most important designer of domestic architecture, his works are found throughout the Home Counties of Surrey and Sussex. Among Lutyen’s best works is Tigbourne Court, and in the town of Guildford Little Home; there is also a wonderful Voysey home, Littlehome overlooking the valley. We’ll also see work by Thackery Turner including his own home Westbrook, the Philips Memorial for the telegraph operator on the Titanic, and several smaller homes by him and also by Philip Webb, in Guildford. Vann, enlarged by the leading 19th century ecclesiastical architect W.D. Caroë for his family in the late 1890’s, is still in the family. His grandson will show us through the house and take us on a walk through the extensive and varied gardens which include a pond, formal garden, and woodland glen before we join them for dinner.

Day Four – We leave the Home Counties behind and head into the Cotswolds, another glorious part of the country which beckoned to artists and craftsmen. But first, a stop at the Watts Chapel. This fantastic building was designed and built by Mary Watts as a memorial for her husband the painter G.F.Watts, whose gallery is nearby. At the Cheltenham Museum, Mary Greensted takes us through their exceptional collection and opens some of the rarely seen – and held – treasures. In the evening she gives a lecture on the Arts & Crafts in the Cotswolds at the hotel before dinner.

Day Five – We begin today at Rodmarton Manor, the last of the great arts and crafts homes, built by Ernest Gimson for Claud Biddulph, where his grandson, Simon, is our guide. Mary’s tour of arts and crafts homes begins in the village of Sapperton, which was home to Ernest Gimson and Ernest and Sidney Barnsley whose homes we visit along with their first joint home, Pinbury Park. The wonderful church in Selsley with its marvelous Morris & Co windows is well worth our stop. In the evening a singular treat dinner at Hilles House, the wildly romantic home Detmar Blow built for his family overlooking the Stroud Valley where our host is his grandson.

Day Six – One of the most fantastic architects of the period was William Burges and his greatest, and surely most eccentric, client was the Third Marques of Bute. We head into Wales today to visit two of their most extraordinary buildings Castel Coch and Cardiff Castle. The workmanship throughout is of the absolutely highest standard carvings, enamels, metalwork, mosaics the eye doesnt know where to rest first. But as guests of Matthew Williams, the Castle’s curator and an expert on the work of Burges, we have the enormous luxury of leisure to look at all of these wonders and then to enjoy his company over dinner. It is difficult to single out any one aspect of the collection, but their William De Morgan pottery is surely among the best anywhere in the country.

DAY SEVEN – Wightwick Manor, the home of Theodore Mander a paint manufacturer from Birmingham, is one of the masterpieces of the period. Furnished throughout by members of the Morris & Co firm, it has a wealth of work by the Pre-Raphaelites. The gardens were designed by Thomas Mawson and worth more than a cursory walk. Then in the afternoon we visit Birmingham, home of Edward Burne-Jones. It has marvelous 19th century municipal buildings and a museum built on the profits of the city gas works. In the evening Paul Atterbury lectures on the Industrial aspects of the movement before joining us for dinner.

Day Eight – Paul Atterbury, an expert in ceramics and art pottery and curator of the stunningly successful Pugin exhibition at the V&A,is the perfect guide for todays visits to Ironbridge, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. In the afternoon we visit St Giles in Cheadle considered by many to be Pugin’s masterpiece; you will certainly be astonished with the richness and abundance of its decorations. Then, on a somewhat more somber but equally as elegant note, in nearby Leek we’ll visit All Saints by Richard Norman Shaw with decoration by W.R.Lethaby. Relax over an elegant dinner at the hotel.

Day Nine – Today we drive to London, but first a visit to Owlpen Manor. This very special manor house dating back to the 16th century was the home of Norman Jewson. The current owner, Nicholas Mander, is our guide to the house, chapel and grounds. Their collection includes furniture by Ernest Gimson, Sidney Barnsley, and Peter van der Waals, metalwork by Alfred Buchnell, etchings by Jewson and F.L.Griggs, and fabrics by William Morris. In London this evening, enjoy a night on your own.

Day Ten – Take a well deserved morning off or perhaps you’ll decide to visit the glorious collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum before we meet in the early afternoon at the home of London’s most superb private collection of arts and crafts decorative arts where our hosts share their passions for a wide ranging variety of arts and crafts  glassware, tiles, art pottery, fabrics, furniture, and metalwork. We then journey to where it all began  the Red House, surely the icon of the Arts & Crafts movement. Designed by Philip Webb for William and Jane Morris and the inspiration for the founding of Morris & Co. Our Farewell Dinner is at the Art Workers Guild in Bloomsbury where Alan Powers, the guilds Honorary Librarian, tells us about its illustrious history and he, and others of our lecturers, join us at dinner.

Due to the uniquely personalized nature of this program, it may be necessary to alter the itinerary with respect to private homes, collections, and gardens visited, and guides, lecturers and hotels scheduled. Should that become necessary any substitutions will be carefully made to maintain the integrity of the tour.

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