HERSTORY: Inspirational women behind the Guild – Caroline Anstruther

Caroline Anstruther – Alec Miller’s first woodworking teacher

by Barbara Alderton

With his bag of tools in one hand and a bag of clothes in the other, Alec Miller later said of his arrival in Chipping Campden that he had “walked up Campden’s one, long street entranced and happy – a mile long street with hardly a mean house, and with many of great beauty and richness. It was, after Glasgow and Scotch village architecture, as foreign as Cathay and as romantic as the architecture of fairy-tale illustrations. In a word, it all seemed unbelievable!  Was I in the twentieth century, or the sixteenth? ” 

Chipping Campden was Alec’s home for the next 37 years.

Alec Miller

A master carver and sculpture, Alec was born in 1879 to strict, Baptist parents who struggled to make ends meet in the dark, narrow confines of a Glaswegian tenement. 

His father, a cabinet-maker, determined to give his seven children a better future, enrolled the twelve year old Alec in a seven year woodcarving apprenticeship run by philanthropist, Miss Caroline Anstruther (later Mrs Mackay). She, like other followers of the Arts & Crafts movement, believed art and especially craft, could counteract society’s ills.  

Alec Miller

With Caroline’s support Alec learned figurative and ornamental woodcarving.  She encouraged him to read, take drawing classes at Glasgow School of Art and fortuitously introduced him to C R Ashbee at the point when his Guild was moving to Chipping Campden.  

Want to learn more?

These books are available in the Court Barn Museum shop:

Alec Miller: Carver Guildsman Sculptor –  Graham Peel 

Alec Miller: Guildsman and Sculptor in Chipping Campden – Jane Wilgress

You may also be interested in Jane Ashbee A Comrade Wife and Invisible women