Ernest Gimson Collection

Scope and Content

The Crafts Study Centre has listed together in this collection small offerings of letters, photographs and publications relating to Ernest Gimson (1904-1984) and his work, collected or produced by various admirers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ernest Gimson was born on 21st December 1864 in Leicester, the son of Josiah Gimson, engineer and iron founder, founder of Gimson and Company, owner of the Vulcan Works. He was articled to the architect Isaac Barradale and studied at Leicester School of Art, 1881-1884. At the age of 19 he became acquainted with William Morris after hearing him lecture on 'Art and socialism'. When he went to work for the architect J.D. Sedding in London, he associated with Morris, W.R. Lethaby and other members of the Art Workers' Guild and the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. At Sedding's he met Ernest Barnsley and struck up his life-long friendship with Barnsley's brother Sidney.
In 1890, he was a founder member of the short-lived furniture company, Kenton and Co., with Sidney Barnsley, Alfred Hoare Powell, W.R. Lethaby, Mervyn Macartney, and Reginald Blomfield. They were designers rather than craftsmen and explored inventive ways of articulating traditional crafts. Gimson became interested in a more hands on approach to traditional crafts, and in 1890 spent time with Philip Clisset in Bosbury, Herefordshire, learning to make rush-seated ladderback chairs. He also began experimenting with decorative plasterwork.
In 1892 Gimson purchased land in the prosperous Leicester suburb of Stoneygate for a new house which he named Inglewood. His first piece of purpose-built architecture, it was intended as an expression and an advertisement of his new approach to architecture. A four-bedroomed house with two reception rooms, it has been described as one of the finest expressions of Arts and Craft residential design of its era. The interior was decorated with his own plasterwork and Morris and Company wallpapers.
The following year he and Sidney Barnsley decided to move out of London to practise architecture and crafts in a traditional rural community, and persuaded Ernest Barnsley to move with them to Gloucestershire. Based at Pinbury near Sapperton, they became known as the Cotswolds group of craftsmen.
In 1901, partly galvanised by the interest which Sidney Barnsley's furniture was creating, Gimson went into partnership with Ernest Barnsley to design furniture and employ trained cabinetmakers to make up the designs. Sidney Barnsley remained independent, but he and Gimson discussed designs and worked on some projects together.
Their landlord, Lord Bathurst, had decided to live at Pinbury Park, but he gave the three men land at Sapperton on which each designed and built a house.
Gimson took sole control of the business from about 1903; after the move to Sapperton he opened showrooms at Daneway House and a workshop in the outbuildings led by the cabinetmaker Peter Waals. He also set up a smithy in Sapperton and with Edward Gardiner a chair making business at Daneway.
Gimson continued with architectural commissions, and his last major project was the library (1918-1919) at Bedales School, near Petersfield, Hampshire.
Gimson died on 12th August 1919.


/1 Photographs of interior and exterior views of Stoneywell, Ulverscroft, Leicestershire, designed by Ernest Gimson [1900]

Access Information

Archive material may be viewed by appointment only.


This entry was compiled by Shirley Dixon, Crafts Study Centre Archivist, July 2021.

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

Appraisal Information

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It is likely that further Gimson-related material will be offered to the CSC. Material of interest will be added to this collection.