The Cotswold Craftsmen

Registered: ​15th July 1954
Duration: 25 minutes
Feet: 2303 feet
Board of Trade Certificate number: ​AFF006970
Production Company: ​Harold Baim Limited

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1954 Arts and Crafts B&W

Title and Credits:
Butcher's Film Distributors Ltd presents..
McDONALD HOBLEY tells you about

Camerawork: Eric Owen
Produced by: Harold Baim

Information gratefully received from: Mary Greensted, October 2016
Chairman Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen guildcrafts.org.uk

The film begins with scenes of industrial England - possibly Birmingham

Chipping Campden, St James Church, High Street and the Silk Mill. The architect-designer C. R. Ashbee moved his Guild of Handicraft from London's East End to Chipping Campden in 1902 to provide them with more congenial and healthy living conditions

George Hart, silversmith who had joined Ashbee in Chipping Campden in 1902 at the Silk Mill. Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum and Court Barn have examples of his work

Rodmarton Manor, near Cirencester designed by Ernest Barnsley for Claud and Margaret Biddulph in 1909

Fred and Philip Gardiner, father and son furniture makers, Oakridge, near Stroud. Cheltenham has examples of their work

Duntisbourne Abbots

Les Groves, potter who set up the Taena Pottery, Upton St Leonard's. The Taena Pottery was a pacifist Catholic community that still survives, now based near Painswick. Cheltenham has examples of their work

S. H. Sandling, basket maker at Dudbridge, near Stroud. Gloucester Museum have examples of his work

The Whiteway Colony was an anarchist Tolstoyan community set up in 1898 near Stroud. Stanley Randolph, sandal maker, came to Whiteway from Norfolk in the 1920s

R. Hayes, saddle maker, Cirencester. This was a sizeable family business

Margaret Holgate, textile printer, Oakridge, near Stroud. She and her husband were also bee keepers and made honey. They spent the 1950s in the Cotswolds then moved to west Wales because crop spraying became an increasing problem. She made a name for herself supplying Liberty and Mary Quant in the 1960s

F. E. Banks, iron worker, Tetbury. This became a family business

All the makers featured were members of the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen - then known as the Guild of Gloucestershire Craftsmen - and a number were founder members in 1933.


Progress, so they say, is an essential for civilization. Yet how often we hear of the good old days, but very seldom of the good new days? There are many who mourn the passing of the day, over 100 years ago, when the skyline of rural England began to change from the rolling hills and peaceful valleys to a vista of tall chimneys pouring smoke into the air. Chimneys, which sounded the death knell of the British craftsman whose pride of achievement had contributed in no small measure, towards making Britain great.

William Morris was a lover of things beautiful and deplored the modern trends which he knew meant the end of the craftsmanship which for generations had been handed down from father to son. And it was here, in the midst of the glorious Cotswold country, that William Morris helped to found a community who dedicated themselves to the old tradition of a skill which could never be copied by any mechanical device.

Here in the workshop of a worker in precious metals, is a hand device for drawing silver wire. It dates back over 300 years.

Silver wire has been used for centuries, and it takes on a magic of its own in the hands of experience. Firstly, a disc is cut from sheet silver.

This is called hand raising. The disc is being hammered to the shape of a cup. And this is planishing, a term used to denote the smoothing of a rough surface by a hammer.

The molding is shaped entirely by hand and eye into the perfect area of a circle. It looks as easy as pie. The base is then welded to the chalice. No mechanical guide is necessary. But it's all done by unfailing judgment.

The chalice being completed, it only remains now for the precious amethysts to be inserted.

The final burnishing is done with a polishing spindle of calico mops and brushes. Things of beauty are silver monstrance. A verger's mace. The top of the rose bowl. An altar cross with enamelled inset.

Here in the Cotswold Hills is the perfect setting for the craftsmanship of yesteryear. Even the buildings were planned to blend with the beauty of the countryside. The architect of Rodmarton Manor, which is seen here, was a close friend of William Morris.

This workshop is world famous for the furniture made here. For each piece carries the individuality of the maker.

After a portion of the wood has been planed to make sure that the colour and grain are suitable, a template is used, to round which the outline is drawn so that a rough shape can be sawn out.

The rough cut out is shaped with a spokeshave, and this is continued until the highest standard is reached.

A handmade mortise and tenon are fitted together to test before fixing permanently.

French polish has been applied to harden the surface of this beautiful chair, and then smoothed down with a very fine glass paper called flour paper. A mixture of beeswax and turpentine is then applied to give a perfect finish.

I wonder how many today take such pride in their work.

There's a surprise around every corner in the Cotswolds, and the village of Duntisbourne Abbots hands you a river full of ducks, in place of a road.

At Upton Saint Leonards, there's a man who kneads clay so that he won't need dough. Also, because if he didn't knead the clay, he'd get air bubbles in it, and it wouldn't be so workable.

The correct name for this operation is thrown, and it never fails to fascinate the onlooker.

That's how the handle goes on. Looks easy, doesn't it? But I can tell you it isn't.

English lead glaze, the formula for which dates back to antiquity, is used for dipping. After firing, the pot shape will have that wonderful gloss, which is the hallmark of the potter who knows his job.

A few of the many attractive lines from the clever hands on the Potter's Wheel. Articles which are in demand wherever taste, quality and craftsmanship are appreciated.

This is Golden Valley, which we pass on our way to Dudbridge, which has a claim to fame because of another artist who lives there.

Here's a basket maker. He does it the hard way. He not only makes most things in basketware, but grows his own willows. He does this because he knows that only the best are good enough, and he wants to be sure they're just right.

After cutting, the willows are graded into sizes, each having its own particular use. They are then tied in bundles. The willows are replanted, the correct term is pitted. This process allows the sap to rise, which gets them into the correct condition for the next stage.

And it's not until three months later that they reach this next stage. The rods, as they're called, are stripped of their bark on an instrument made of steel, consisting of two upright arms which scrape off the bark before being finally finished off by hand.

The garden chair is almost completed, all except for the border, and the upright stakes are here seen being woven in.

This basket is used in cloth mills to hold bobbins of yarn, and I'm not spinning one either, when I tell you that baskets can't be made by any sort of machinery, they must be made by hand. It's a dying craft, though, because the years of training necessary to become proficient make today's young men lose patience, so that in time there'll be no one to take the place of the expert. And more's the pity.

It's pretty evident from this job just how many years it does take to reach the necessary state of perfection.

Yes, these are the end products from a very fine line in willow weaving.

And so to famous Whiteway Colony, where everyone builds his own house. The colony is peopled by individualists who live to work rather than work to live. And it was here that I learnt that there was more in making a pair of sandals than meets the foot. Or rather, the eye.

Here's a setting for a shoe shop, if you please. A lovely garden under a warm sun, and the songs of the birds to help you in your choice of style.

There's a correct way of placing the foot so that a proper pattern can be marked out, because footwear to be comfortable must suit the stance and foot movements of the wearer. It's a ticklish business, as a separate outline is made of each foot, since no two feet are ever alike. The shoe maker asks about work, how long the lady stands each day, and any other details which might help him in the making of the footwear, the positioning of the straps and size and shape of the sole.

Nothing is left to chance. The feet are measured at points where pressure on the sandal will not obstruct movement.

And, as the client leaves, practiced eyes watch in order that peculiarities in movement can be noted.

The positions of the straps are worked out on the paper outlines, and consideration is given to the general shape of sandal best suited to the customer's individual need.

The soles are soaked in water for an hour to make the leather pliable and durable.

The all important straps are finally placed in position and the footwear is now ready for finishing.

Finishing consists of rasping, filing and scraping. And believe it or not, a high polish is achieved not by the use of wax but by water, which, when briskly applied, gives a lasting gloss.

Another satisfied customer wearing the most natural of footwear. Because sandals allow your feet to spread and spread, they do, when you think of the weight they sometimes have to carry.

Cirencester is a picturesque old market town standing in the centre of hunting country so that we don't have to look far for a saddle maker.

A distant relation of the shoe tree, the saddle tree is made of beechwood and strengthened with steel plates. Jute webbing, which has previously been stretched, is fixed along the tree and a cross piece is positioned to take the girth straps.

The webbing has to be tightly stretched, otherwise the rider would soon be complaining of a sagging saddle, and that sounds fatal. Flaps and skirts are cut out to the required shape. Yes, I said flaps and skirts because that's what they're called.

The finest of hides are used and very portion is hand-sewn and the going is sometimes very hard. The actual shape of a saddle is obtained by cutting a double piece of leather, which looks like a large finger. In fact, that is what this portion of the saddle is called. After sewing together, it's filled with wool and tacked along either side to get the shape. The hollow is then filled in with felting to level off.

The next step is to cover with serge and fine white wool is inserted. The seat is then made damp, and to use the correct technical term, blocked onto the saddle top. After drying, the skirts are pinned on and marked round with a warm iron.

The pigskin seat is now sewn on, then seamed into the skirts. It's made damp again and then drawn onto the saddle top.

The saddle flaps, the parts on which your knees rest, are now fitted, followed by the girth straps. Then the sweat flaps, buckle guards, and finally the dees.

And so the saddle is completed. Even the uninitiated can see what a beautiful piece of workmanship this is. You don't have to know so much about leather work to appreciate the artistry in this example of a Cotswold craftsman's art.

There's a lovely old cottage at Oak Ridge that is carried on the ancient craft of the hand printing of textiles. It is here that original designs are created for the decoration of handkerchiefs, scarves, tablecloths and even dress materials. Here the artist is designing a new pattern for a scarf.

The design, having been transferred onto linoleum, is then cut out in relief to form a block from which the prints can be taken. Aniline dyes are mixed with gum. The gum holds the dye fast and prevents running when applied to the material.

Block, coated with colour, is placed in position and an imprint of the design is made.

After the colour is dry, the silks on which the patterns have been imprinted are wrapped in newspaper and placed in a special steamer. This fixes the colours and prevents discolouration when the materials are washed.

Here are a few of the linoleum blocks, together with the scarves which were printed from them. There is no limit to the wonderful designs which can be created, and they are original designs which, even if they were copied by machinery, would never look the same as these beautiful hand printed creations.

In these days of mechanisation, the price tag is always much higher on any handmade article, proving the value of anything made with patience and experience and a flair for the artistic.

But perhaps the oldest of all the Cotswold crafts is that of the smith. For in the days when mechanical propulsion was unknown, iron edged wheels had to be kept turning, and anything made of metal could only be turned out by hammer and anvil.

Whether locks, boats, horseshoes or gates, the smith takes justifiable pride in his work.

Welding is the fusing of metal together so carefully that it becomes one piece. No quick spot welding for this man. He reckons it would just drop to pieces in 20 years time.

This is true artistry. With a hammer, anvil and pliers, a spray of roses is fashioned so delicate and perfect that they almost look real.

A chandelier, clever in its design and execution. Scrolls for a set of garden gates. An electric fire, with a guard for safety and elegance. A very decorative entrance gate.

There's nothing to large, and nothing too small, for the present day artificer in metals. These miniature gates are of solid silver. They were beaten out on a tiny anvil with a small hammer, which you see in our picture.

The rolling hills and peaceful Cotswold villages are as unchangeable as the craftsmen who dwell amongst them, cherishing the heritage which was handed down from Britain's past to embellish its future. 

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