William and Eve Simmonds collection

Scope and Content

This collection, accumulated by the Crafts Study Centre in its early years, probably mainly through gifts from Eve Simmons, consists of:

  • Biographical notes by Eve Simmonds, 1971
  • Drawings and sketches by William Simmonds
  • Photographs of embroidery by Eve Simmonds
  • Programmes and photographs of William Simmonds's puppet shows, with related newspaper cuttings

Administrative / Biographical History

William Simmonds was born in Istanbul, where his father was working as an architect, in 1876. In 1893, after spending four years in his father's architecture office and attending evening classes at Windsor School of Art, he began to study painting under Walter Crane at the Royal College of Art. He continued his training between 1899-1904 at the Royal Academy School, where he studied scenery painting, among other subjects. Between 1906-1910 he worked as an assistant to the American painter and illustrator Edwin Austen Abbey working on mural paintings among other commissions.

Eve Simmonds was born Evelina Peart in Walthamstow in 1884. She studied painting at Westminster Art School. William and Eve married in 1912 and lived in Wiltshire. In 'about 1915' they moved to a flat in Alfred and Louise Powell's house in Hampstead. Eve began to work on embroidery and William undertook war work, working as a precision draughtsman on designs, including of tanks and aircraft. It was during this time that he developed his interest in carving, often working with ivory.

In 1919 the Simmondses moved to Far Oakridge in the Cotswolds, where they set up home and workshop. William worked on carvings and sculpture, sometimes painted, of animals and people in stone and wood, and sometimes marble and alabaster. He was an active member of the Guild of Gloucestershire Craftsmen. His life-long interest in theatricals resurfaced in the 1920s when he made his first puppet for a children's party and he and Eve created puppet shows during the 1920s and 1930s. The Simmondses' puppet theatre was one of three established in England at that time, playing an annual season of three weeks at the Grafton Theatre, London, and attending special performances at other venues including the Art Workers' Guild and at private parties. Eve made the puppets' costumes, mostly from fabric scraps, and she also provided musical accompaniment.

The Simmondses were fully integrated into the Cotswolds artistic community, exhibiting regularly in Campden, Painswick and Cheltenham. In 1960 they moved to Oakridge Lynch. Forced to give up carving in wood due to arthritis, William began pottery classes at Stroud School of Art. There was a retrospective of his work in Cheltenham in 1968 and he continued working up to his death later that year.

Among their close friends were Dorothy Larcher and Phyllis Barron, and in the early 1970s Eve provided reminiscences to Robin and Heather Tanner as they worked to set up the Crafts Study Centre. She died in 1978.


  • SIM/1 Autobiographical notes by Eve Simmonds, 1971
  • SIM/2 Notes about a song which Katharine Briggs used to sing 'at camp fires'
  • SIM/3 Photograph of William Simmonds with glove puppets [1920s]
  • SIM/4 William Simmonds headed notepaper
  • SIM/5 Label reproducing words of Clutton Brock's 1921 review of display of Simmonds's carving
  • SIM/6 Drawings by W.S. [1930s], 1966
  • SIM/7 Memorabilia of puppet shows [1930s]
  • SIM/8 Newspaper cutting re W.S. exhibiting at the Royal Academy 1962
  • SIM/9 Typescript biographical notes on William Simmonds 1968
  • SIM/10 Photographs of Eve Simmonds embroidery [1970s?]
  • SIM/11 Folder in which Eve Simmonds's biographical notes were stored [1970s]

Access Information

Archive material may be viewed by appointment only.


This entry was compiled by Shirley Dixon, Archivist at the Crafts Study Centre, 2021. The biography was adapted from that written by Frances Lord.

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.

Related Material

The Crafts Study Centre's own records include papers given by Muriel Rose, created in her role of Trustee of the CSC. One of the files (Ref CSC/9/1/9) relates to exhibitions of William Simmonds's work, and includes an appreciation by Muriel Rose, giving details of his development as a craftsman, and a page from Country Life , November 1934, bearing Christopher Hussey's appreciation of one of the puppet shows

Corporate Names