The Papers of Charles Robert Ashbee

Scope and Content

This collection contains several documents concerning C.R. Ashbee and his work with the Guild and School of Handicrafts, as well as several additional items on the Ashbee family. The heart of the collection is in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, with the journals and memoirs of Charles Ashbee and his wife, Janet. The collection also contains a small number of pieces of creative writing - essays, reports, plays and poems - as well as a number of published volumes written by Ashbee. Papers associated with the Guild of Handicrafts, posthumous materials, and a small number of items by Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, including some manuscript poems not found elsewhere, round out the collection proper. In his researches into his own family, however, C.R. Ashbee also left behind a modest group of papers concerning life in Charing, Egerton and Pluckley, England, during the 17th-19th centuries.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Robert Ashbee was born in 1863, read History at King's College 1883-86, and trained as an architect under G.F. Bodley. In 1888 he founded the Guild and School of Handicrafts, first in East London and then in Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire, and he established the Essex House Press in 1898. He was Civic Adviser in Jerusalem 1919-22, and did much to promote interest in civic architecture and town planning as well as in decorative craftwork and design. His other great interest was in romantic socialism. He died 23rd May 1942.


In this fond, many series comprise a single item or file. This is a direct reflection of the organization found in the hard copy of the Ashbee catalogue.

Access Information

These papers are available for consultation at King's College, Cambridge, four days a week most of the year, by appointment only. For further details or to make an appointment please email

Acquisition Information

His memoirs, made from selections from his and his wife's journals, and left by him to King's, were received 1945-47. The journals themselves, together with some genealogical papers, were given 1958-59 by his widow Janet. Further papers, and photocopies of other originals, have been given in the 1980s by his daughter Felicity Ashbee.


For full biographical details, the researcher is directed to: Alan Crawford, 'C.R. Ashbee: Architect, Designer and Romantic Socialist (Yale University Press, 1985) and Fiona MacCarthy, 'The Simple Life: C.R. Ashbee in the Cotswolds' (Lund Humphries, 1981).

Personal Names