At Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum Arts and Crafts Museum

Ernest Gimson

Ernest GimsonAs a young man in Leicester, Gimson met William Morris after hearing him talk on art and socialism. Morris encouraged him to carry on his architectural training in London and gave him an introduction to the ecclesiastical architect John Sedding. In London, Gimson became part of an enthusiastic circle of young architects who included William Lethaby, Alfred Powell, and the brothers, Ernest and Sidney Barnsley.

Gimson learnt two crafts in 1890. Having seen the rush-seated ladderback chairs by Philip Clissett in the meeting room of the Art Workers’ Guild, Gimson went to Herefordshire to learn how to turn chairs on a pole lathe. He also learnt how to make decorative plaster panels.

Towards the end of 1890 he was involved in the formation of Kenton & Company, set up by a group of architects to produce individually designed and well made furniture. After the company was dissolved he and Sidney Barnsley decided to move out of London to practise architecture and the crafts within a traditional rural community. They persuaded Ernest Barnsley to join them first at Ewen and then at Pinbury, near Sapperton, Gloucestershire over the summer of  1893.

In 1900, Gimson and Ernest Barnsley went into partnership setting up a second workshop and employing cabinet makers including Peter Waals to make up their furniture designs. Gimson took sole control of the business from about 1903; after the move to Sapperton he opened showrooms at Daneway House and a workshop in the outbuildings. He also set up a smithy in Sapperton and with Edward Gardiner a chair making business at Daneway.

Gimson’s plans to develop the craft community were cut short by the First World War and his subsequent final illness.

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