Charles Robert Ashbee

Ashbee was born in Isleworth on May 17, 1863, and died in Sevenoaks (Kent) on May 23, 1942. He read history at King’s College, Cambridge, and studied architecture in the office of G. F. Bodley. He was taken by the ideas of John Ruskin and William Morris, and in 1887 he set up the School of Handicraft, which lasted until 1895, and, in 1888, the Guild of Handicraft, which was liquidated in 1907 (although it continued in much reduced form until 1919). By 1890, there were workshops in the East End and a retail outlet in Mayfair. In 1902, the works moved to Chipping Camden in the Cotswolds. The Guild specialized, based on Ashbee’s designs, in metalworking, producing jewelry and cutlery and tableware, as well as hand-wrought copper and wrought iron work, along with furniture. The London County Council created polytechnic institutes inspired by the School, and the Guild took on craftworkers at minimal charge; they out-competed the Guild, which operated as a cooperative (a romantic apolitical socialism) and at a very high standard of craftsmanship, producing costly goods, and soon drove it out of business. Ashbee also set up the Essex House Press, where books were printed by hand, after Morris’ Kelmscott Press closed in 1897, taking on many of the unemployed printers and craftsmen. Ashbee designed two typefaces, influenced by Morris, and wrote two utopian novels also influenced by Morris (Sigman Collection Notes Biography, July 2013).

Works associated with this person or group