Ernest Barnsley trained as an architect with John Sedding in London. He joined his younger brother, Sidney Barnsley and Ernest Gimson in their move to the Cotswolds in 1893. He became the public face of the craft community, dealing with the Bathurst estate manager and taking responsibility for restoration work at Pinbury Park and Daneway House.
He went into partnership designing furniture with Gimson in 1900. They opened a small workshop in Cirencester and employed Harry Davoll, Ernest Smith and Peter Waals. There are five drawings in Cheltenham signed B&G from this partnership. Very little material relating to Ernest Barnsley’s working life has survived. The partnership was dissolved acrimoniously in 1903 at the time that the workshop was being moved to Daneway House, near Sapperton.
He was an enthusiastic and respected member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. His home, Upper Dorval House, Sapperton, was designed in 1902 incorporating two 17th-century cottages. His major achievement was Rodmarton Manor, near Cirencester, for Claud and Margaret Biddulph started in 1909 and completed by his son-in-law Norman Jewson in 1929. The house was built using traditional building methods and local materials to provide employment and keep alive craft traditions. C R Ashbee described Rodmarton as ‘the English Arts and Crafts Movement at its best’.