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In the background of the story of craft and design in the north Cotswolds, as told at Court Barn, is the transformation of English life by industrialisation in the nineteenth century. The Arts and Crafts movement at the end of the century reacted in favour of older, simpler ways of making, and C. R. Ashbee set up his craft workshop, the Guild of Handicraft, in East London in 1888.
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In these years, designers and craftspeople began to gather in the north Cotswolds. Katharine Adams opened her bookbinding workshop in Broadway in 1901. C. R. Ashbee brought the Guild of Handicraft to Chipping Campden in 1902. Paul Woodroffe and F. L. Griggs settled in Campden in 1904. The failure of the Guild of Handicraft in 1908 sent many craftsmen back to London, but by then the craft momentum had begun.
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These were years of continuity. Paul Woodroffe and F. L. Griggs, and George Hart and Alec Miller (formerly of the Guild of Handicraft), worked as they had before the First World War. Michael Cardew opened a craft pottery at Winchcombe in 1926. The early furniture from Gordon Russell's workshop, started in 1919, was Arts and Crafts in character. But from the late 1920s it became smoother, more modern, suggesting machine production.
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England experienced sixty years of peace and unprecedented prosperity. The Cotswolds experienced large-scale tourism. Robert Welch, who designed domestic goods for industrial production and opened a shop in Chipping Campden, seems typical of the time. But handwork has persisted into the twenty-first century. The Hart workshop in Chipping Campden and the Winchcombe Pottery, all handworkers, are still going strong. Welch himself was as much a silversmith as an industrial designer. Original Robert Welch designs, together with unique and modern products by a new era of designers can be seen on the Robert Welch website and at the Robert Welch Designs studio shops in Chipping Campden and Warwick.
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