Arts & Crafts Architecture

Details of covering to a well for Red House, Philip Speakman Webb, 1859. Museum no. E.64-1916

Details of covering to a well for Red House, Philip Speakman Webb, 1859. Museum no. E.64-1916

Arts and Crafts architecture was, like the movement itself, defined more by a set of ideals and principles than a particular architectural style.

Many of its leading figures were architects, rather than designers, and they came to view buildings and their interiors as a whole. They worked in a variety of media, often with other artists, and hoped to bring a greater unity to the arts. As a result, Arts and Crafts buildings often included sculpture and carved or tiled decoration, sometimes with highly symbolic imagery.

Another defining feature of Arts and Crafts architecture was an interest in the vernacular. Architects used local materials and traditional styles to create something that would not jar with its surroundings, but at the same time distinctive and modern. Many hoped to revive traditional building and craft skills, or to design buildings that looked as if they had grown over many years.

While the majority of Arts and Crafts buildings were domestic, the architects of the movement also addressed the various needs of churches, museums and commercial buildings.

Arts and Crafts Buildings in London

The drawing room of Kelmscott House, photograph, Emery Walker, 1896, Museum no. 2-1973

The drawing room of Kelmscott House, photograph, Emery Walker, 1896, Museum no. 2-1973

Dove Inn And Kelmscott House
19 Upper Mall, Hammersmith, W6 9TA

The Dove Inn is a 17th-century inn with endless connections to the arts. Regulars have included Regency caricaturists, the poet James Thompson (who composed 'Rule Britannia' here), Graham Greene, and the poet and politician A.P. Herbert. William Morris lived next door, in a cottage he rented at 16 Upper Mall, but then moved a few doors away, to Kelmscott House, which is now the home of the William Morris Society. www.morrissociety.org

Red House
13 Red House Lane, Bexleyheath, Kent, DA6 8J
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Red House was designed by Philip Webb in 1859, as a home for William Morris and his young wife Janey. Webb was a friend of Morris and this was his first building. With its steep, red-tiled roof, based on medieval models, and its emphasis on natural materials, the house became a major influence in Britain and abroad. It was furnished and decorated by Morris's friends and family. There were hangings and embroideries by Morris and Janey, tiles and murals by Edward Burne-Jones, furniture, metalwork and tableware by Webb. Their work led to the creation of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., the firm that brought Morris's designs to a wider public. Morris spent five years at Red House, some of the happiest in his life, surrounded by a community of friends and artists. The house was then in the midst of orchards and countryside: now it is an oasis in a suburban environment. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/red-house

Hampstead Garden Suburb
HGS Trust, 862 Finchley Road, NW11 6AB

Hampstead Garden Suburb was founded in 1907 as a model of community life. It was the idea of Henrietta Barnett, cosmetics heiress turned social worker, who wanted to provide a beautiful and healthy living place for all classes and show 'how thousands of people can live in helpful neighbourliness'. She also wanted to save Hampstead Heath and the surrounding area from the encroaching tube lines and terraced houses. The development was designed and planned by Raymond Unwin, Barry Parker and Edwin Lutyens. Henrietta was involved in many other philanthropic initiatives, including the Whitechapel Art Gallery and the Toynbee Hall. www.hgs.org.uk

Holy Trinity
Sloane Street, SW1X 9DF

Holy Trinity is the finest example of the Arts and Crafts Movement's ecclesiastical work. It was described by the poet John Betjeman as the 'Cathedral of the Arts & Crafts Movement'. The architect was John Dando Sedding, who believed that a church should be 'wrought and painted over with everything that has life and beauty - in frank and fearless naturalism'. To this end, he commissioned his colleagues in the Art Workers Guild to produce decorative work and statuary in stone and metal. The great east window, designed by Edward Burne-Jones, was the largest ever made by Morris & Co. www.holytrinitysloanestreet.co.uk

Euston Road Fire Station
172 Euston Road, NW1 2DH

Designed by the London County Council Architect's Department in 1901-02, the Fire Station on London's Euston Road introduced Arts and Crafts architecture to a hard urban environment. In the context of this busy London route, the building almost looks like the corner of a very large country house.

Mary Ward House
Tavistock Place, WC1

Mary Ward House was built in 1898 by the architectural firm of Smith & Brewer. The building was designed by A. Dunbar Smith and Cecil Brewer and is distinctly Arts and Crafts in style. A plain brick façade is combined with a stone entrance and the irregular placement of windows reflects the path of the staircase behind them. Originally known as the Passmore Edwards Settlement, the building housed the first fully equipped classrooms for children with disabilities and pioneered the importance of play within children's education. The founder was the romantic novelist Mary Ward and the philanthropist John Passmore Edwards provided the funding. Interestingly, given her interest in social welfare, Mary Ward was the first president of the Anti-Suffrage League, which campaigned against the vote for women. The settlement is no longer at Tavistock Place, but can be contacted at www.marywardcentre.ac.uk

The Black Friar Pub
174 Queen Victoria Street, EC4V 4EG

The Black Friar pub was built near the site of a medieval Dominican priory, where the monks were known as the Black Friars because of their black habits. It was converted from the ground floor of an earlier office block in 1905. The priory was the inspiration behind the pub design and decoration. Henry Poole gave the building's wedge-shaped exterior a façade decorated with the figures of friars. Continuing the theme inside, H. Fuller Clarke added marbled walls, pillared fireplaces and bas-reliefs of monks working and relaxing, along with mottoes such as 'Wisdom is Rare' and 'Silence is Golden'.

Whitechapel Art Gallery
80-82 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX

Founded in 1901 to 'bring great art to the people of the East End of London', the Whitechapel Art Gallery occupies a distinctive Arts and Crafts building designed for the purpose by Charles Harrison Townsend. Its façade is a powerful composition with a massive, asymmetrically placed arch and very restrained decoration. The first exhibition at the gallery included the Pre-Raphaelites, Constable, Hogarth and Rubens, and attracted 206,000 people. www.whitechapel.org

Horniman Museum
100 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ

The Horniman Museum was designed in 1898 by Charles Harrison Townsend, a leading architect of the Arts and Crafts movement who also designed the Whitechapel Art Gallery. The client was a Victorian tea trader, Frederick John Horniman, who wanted a new museum to house his collection of specimens and artefacts from around the world. Horniman's mission was to bring the world to London, and he even opened part of his family home to the public so people could view the riches he had collected. www.horniman.ac.uk


This content was originally written in association with the exhibition 'International Arts and Crafts', on display at the V&A South Kensington from 17 March - 24 July 2005

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International Arts and Crafts

International Arts and Crafts

The Arts and Crafts movement revolutionised attitudes to work and the home and laid the foundations for a radical shift in approach to design and life…

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