Eric and MacDonald Gill collection

Scope and Content

The Crafts Study Centre has listed together in this collection small offerings of letters, photographs and publications relating to Eric and MacDonald Gill and their work, collected or produced by various admirers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Eric Gill was born in Brighton in 1882 where his father was Assistant Minister at the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel, a non-conformist sect. The family, with 11 children, moved to Chichester when his father began to study for the Anglican ministry and Gill enrolled at the local art school. He was articled to the architect W.H. Caroe in London, was taught calligraphy at evening class by Edward Johnston and also learnt masonry skills.

He started executing lettering for Caroe's buildings and when a commission allowed him to leave, did so, taking up lettering full-time. He moved to a workshop in Hammersmith in 1905 where Hilary Pepler and Johnston were neighbours and he came into contact with the Arts and Crafts movement. He moved to Ditchling, East Sussex in 1907 with his family and set up a workshop with apprentice Joseph Cribb. In 1910 Gill began to carve figures in stone and in 1912 was included in Roger Fry's second Post-Impressionist Exhibition in London. He moved away from Ditchling village to Hopkins Crank farmhouse in Ditchling Common in 1913, and later that year he and his wife converted to Roman Catholicism.

Gill's major commission, a set of Stations of the Cross for Westminster Cathedral, was started in 1914 and judged of such importance that he was exempted from War Service until their completion in 1918. The Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic was formed in 1920 by Gill, Hilary Pepler and Desmond Chute after they, and Gill's wife, were received as novices of the Third Order of St Dominic, so becoming lay members of the Order of Preachers. Gill moved to the remote hamlet of Capel y fin in 1924 where he worked for four years, then in 1929 moved to a large house Pigotts, near High Wycombe which became his home until his death in 1940. During his life he was known as a typographer, book designer and illustrator, social campaigner and writer, as well as sculptor.

His younger brother Leslie MacDonald Gill (6 October 1884 - 14 January 1947), commonly known as MacDonald Gill or Max Gill, was a noted graphic designer, cartographer and architect. He was the designer of the standard upper case lettering used on headstones and war memorials by the Imperial War Graves Commission, but it is for his illustrated maps that he is most well known.


  • EMG/1 Heather Child's Eric and MacDonald Gill collection:
  • EMG/1/1 Study for a chancel by MacDonald Gill, 1907
  • EMG/1/2 Printed cards, 1913-1938
  • EMG/1/3 Label(?) with Eric Gill engraving 'Decoy Press', [1915]
  • EMG/1/4 Notes for talks by MacDonald Gill on maps, etc, 1930, 1931
  • EMG/1/5 Printed illustrations from 'Troilus and Criseyde', [c.1927]-1959
  • EMG/1/6 Printed poem by Eric Gill, 1958
  • EMG/1/7 2 photographs of Eric Gill sculptures, [1930s?]
  • EMG/1/8 Picture postcard with image of Eric Gill carving, 1959
  • EMG/2 Ethel Mairet's Eric Gill collection: publications featuring work by Gill

Access Information

Archive material may be viewed by appointment only.


This entry was compiled by Becky Lyle, Submissions Officer for the project and by Jean Vacher, Collections Manager at the Crafts Study Centre, c.2004. It was updated by Greta Bertram, June 2020. The biography of Eric Gill was written by Frances Lord, and that of Max Gill by Shirley Dixon.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogue on Crafts Study Centre database. A pdf copy is available on request.

Conditions Governing Use

Written permission must be sought before any archival material is published.

Appraisal Information

None timetabled.


None expected.


Selected bibliography

Holliday, Peter (ed), Eric Gill in Ditchling, 4 essays , Oak Knoll Press, Newcastle, Delaware, 2002

Eric Gill & the Guild of St Joseph & St Dominic , Hove Museum & Art Gallery, 1991

McCarthy, Fiona, Eric Gill , Lund Humphries