World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Charles Robert Ashbee

An electric chandelier designed by Charles Robert Ashbee
A necklace designed by Ashbee

Charles Robert Ashbee (17 May 1863 – 23 May 1942) was an English designer and entrepreneur who was a prime mover of the Arts and Crafts movement that took its craft ethic from the works of John Ruskin and its co-operative structure from the socialism of William Morris.


  • Early life 1
  • Guild and School of Handicraft 2
  • Other work 3
  • Sexuality, marriage, children 4
  • Later life 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life

His Jewish mother developed George Frederick Bodley.

Guild and School of Handicraft

Ashbee set up his Guild and School of Handicraft in 1888 in London, while a resident at Toynbee Hall, one of the original settlements set up to alleviate inner city poverty, in this case, in the slums of Whitechapel. The fledgling venture was first housed in temporary space but by 1890 had workshops at Essex House, Mile End Road, in the East End, with a retail outlet in the heart of the West End in fashionable Brook Street, Mayfair, more accessible to the Guild's patrons. The School closed in 1895, which Ashbee blamed on "the failure of the Technical Education Board of the L.C.C. to keep its word with the School Committee and the impossibility of carrying on costly educational work in the teeth of state aided competition."[3] The following year the L.C.C. opened the Central School of Arts and Crafts. In 1902 the Guild moved to Chipping Campden, in the picturesque Cotswolds of Gloucestershire, where a sympathetic community provided local patrons, but where the market for craftsman-designed furniture and metalwork was saturated by 1905. The Guild was liquidated in 1907. One of Ashbee's pupils in Mile End was Frank Baines, later Sir Frank, who was enormously influential in keeping Arts and Crafts alive in 20th-century architecture.

The Guild of Handicraft specialised in metalworking, producing jewellery and enamels as well as hand-wrought copper and wrought ironwork, and furniture. (A widely illustrated suite of furniture was made by the Guild to designs of M. H. Baillie Scott for Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse at Darmstadt.) The School attached to the Guild taught crafts.The Guild operated as a co-operative, and its stated aim was to:

"seek not only to set a higher standard of craftsmanship, but at the same time, and in so doing, to protect the status of the craftsman. To this end it endeavours to steer a mean between the independence of the artist— which is individualistic and often parasitical— and the trade-shop, where the workman is bound to purely commercial and antiquated traditions, and has, as a rule, neither stake in the business nor any interest beyond his weekly wage".[4]

Other work

Ashbee himself was willing to do complete house design, including interior furniture and decoration, as well as items such as fireplaces. In the 1890s he renovated Taormina, Sicily,[5] as a little island of England in Italy, hence the name of the patron saint.[6] MacCarthy judges it "the most impressive of Ashbee's remaining buildings";[7] it is run as the Hotel Ashbee.

Ashbee was involved in book production and literary work. He set up the Essex House Press after Morris's Kelmscott Press closed in 1897, taking on many of the displaced printers and craftsmen. Between 1898 and 1910 the Essex House Press produced more than 70 titles. Ashbee designed two type faces for the Essex House Press, Endevour (1901) and Prayer Book (1903), both of which are based on Morris' Golden Type.[8]

Ashbee wrote two utopian novels influenced by Morris, From Whitechapel to Camelot (1892) and The Building of Thelema (1910), the latter named after the abbey in François Rabelais' book Gargantua and Pantagruel.[9] Ashbee also founded the Survey of London.

Sexuality, marriage, children

Ashbee was homosexual in a time when to cover his homosexuality, he married Janet Forbes, daughter of a wealthy London stockbroker and after 13 years of rocky marriage (including a serious affair on the part of Janet), they had four children: Mary, Helen, Prue and Felicity. He was influenced in his life by the theories of homosexuality developed by Edward Carpenter.[10]

Later life

In 1918 he was appointed civic adviser to the British Mandate of Palestine, overseeing building works and the protection of historic sites and monuments as the chairman of the Pro-Jerusalem Society.[11][12] He summoned his family to Jerusalem, where they lived until 1923.

He died in 1942 at Sevenoaks and was buried at St Peter and St Paul's Church in Seal, Kent, where he was church architect.[13] The screen for the church tower was designed by Ashbee.

His papers and journals are at King's College.[14]

See also


  1. ^ The Observer review of an autobiography of his father, 25 February 2001
  2. ^ "Ashbee, Charles Robert (ASBY8.83 billion)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ Stuart MacDonald, A Century of Art and Design Education, Lutterworth Press, 2005
  4. ^
  5. ^ RIBA archive drawings
  6. ^ MacCarthy, Fiona. The Simple Life: C.R. Ashbee in the Cotswolds. University of California Press, 1981. Most of chapter 7, "The death of Conradin"
  7. ^ MacCarthy, Fiona. The Simple Life: C.R. Ashbee in the Cotswolds. University of California Press, 1981. p 161
  8. ^ Macmillan, Neil. An A-Z of Type Designers. Yale University Press, 2006 (pg. 37)
  9. ^ MacCarthy, Fiona. The Simple Life: C.R. Ashbee in the Cotswolds. University of California Press, 1981 (pg. 140)
  10. ^ MacCarthy, Fiona. The Simple Life: C.R. Ashbee in the Cotswolds. University of California Press, 1981 (pg. 23)
  11. ^ Jerusalem, 1918–1920: being the records of the Pro-Jerusalem Council during the period of the British military Administration. London: J. Murray, 1921.
  12. ^ Jerusalem, 1920–1922: being the records of the Pro-Jerusalem Council during the period of the British military Administration. London: J. Murray, 1924.
  13. ^ St Peter and St Paul's Church, Seal, Kent
  14. ^ Janus: at

Further reading

  • Crawford, A. 1986. C.R. Ashbee, Architect, Designer & Romantic Socialist (Yale University Press)
  • MacCarthy, F. 1981. Simple Life: C.R. Ashbee in the Cotswolds (University of California Press)

External links

  • Charles Robert Ashbee
  • Victorian Web: C. R. Ashbee, an overview
  • Charles Robert Ashbee on-line; guide to illustrations
  • Toynbee Hall
  • Archival material relating to Charles Robert Ashbee listed at the UK National Archives
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.