Photographs of furniture designed by Ernest Gimson

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Set of photographs of furniture and metalwork designed by Ernest Gimson, including chairs, bedroom furniture, sideboards, tables, bureaux and cabinets. Also a set of off-prints and pamphlets relating to his life and work.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ernest William Gimson was born in Leicester in 1864, the fourth child of Josiah and Sarah Gimson. Josiah was an iron-founder who had established the Vulcan Works in Leicester. Ernest attended Franklin's School in Stoneygate, Leicester, before being articled to a local architect, Isaac Barradale. He also attended a course on architecture at the Leicester School of Art, winning national medals for suburban housing and furniture design.

In 1884 Gimson heard William Morris deliver a lecture and had the opportunity to meet him afterwards. Morris encouraged Gimson to move to London and helped him secure a position at the offices of J.D. Sedding, a church architect. Gimson was fascinated by traditional crafts and learned practical skills such as rush-seated chair making and moulded and modelled plasterwork.

In 1893 Gimson and his friends Sidney and Ernest Barnsley moved to Ewen in Gloucestershire, convinced that to make good work they had to live in natural and unspoiled surroundings. He and Ernest Barnsley formed a furniture making business. Gimson married Emily Ann Thompson in 1900 and the families moved to Sapperton, Gloucestershire, in 1902. Gimson built himself a large cottage and established a workshop and show rooms for the furniture business. However, in 1905 Gimson's partnership with Ernest Barnsley broke down and he continued the workshops alone.

Gimson's furniture designs are regarded as his greatest achievement. Pieces were made to commission by skilled craftsmen using little machinery and rich materials such as ebony, rosewood and walnut. He also had a blacksmith's shop which produced wrought-iron fixtures. Other arts and crafts architects commissioned furniture from Gimson knowing it would suit their buildings, as for example the choir stalls in J.F. Bentley's Westminster Cathedral.

While running the furniture workshops Gimson continued to design buildings, although few of his designs were realised. He had bought extra land at Sapperton with the aim of creating a craft village, but in August 1919 died of cancer aged 54, before the village could develop.

Arrangement

  • D/038/A: Chairs
  • D/038/B: Bedroom furniture
  • D/038/C: Sideboards and tables
  • D/038/D: Metalwork and church furniture
  • D/038/E: Bureaux and cabinets
  • D/038/F: Samples of metalwork
  • D/038/G: Pamphlets and off-prints.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for general access. External researchers are advised to contact the Archivist for an appointment.

Acquisition Information

The Schools of Art and Technology Sub-Committee minutes for October 14 1920 offer thanks to Sydney Gimson, Hector Gimson, Kingsley Gimson and Harold Gimson for about 150 photographs of furniture etc, made or designed by the late Mr. E. Gimson. The gift has the condition attached that the photographs are not to be used for the purpose of copying the articles depicted.

Note

Source of information; Fiona MacCarthy, ‘Gimson, Ernest William (1864–1919)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2007 .

Archivist's Note

Catalogued by Katharine Short, Archivist, April 2013.

Related Material

Collections of Gimson's furniture can be found at Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, Belgrave Hall, Leicester, and the Arts and Crafts Collection, Owlpen Manor, Uley. The Royal Institute of British Architects hold a sketchbook.