William Simmonds archive

Scope and Content

The archive consists of

  • Correspondence between Muriel Rose and Andrew Jewell, curator of the Museum of Rural Life at the University of Reading, relating to a proposed exhibition of William Simmonds' work
  • Drawings and sketches by William Simmonds
  • Programme from the Grafton Theatre, listing puppet show by William Simmonds

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.

William married Eve Peart, the embroiderer, in 1912  and they moved from Wiltshire to London in 1914 . During the First World War, William worked as a precision draughtsman on, for example, tank design. It was during this time that he developed his interest in carving, often working with ivory.

In 1919  the Simmonds moved from London to Far Oakridge in the Cotswolds where they set up home and workshop. Here William worked on carvings and sculpture, sometimes painted, of animals and people in stone and wood, and sometimes using marble and alabaster. His life-long interest in theatricals resurfaced in the 1920's  when he made his first puppet for a children's party and he continued, with Eve, to create puppet shows during the 1920's  and 1930's . The Simmonds' 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 Simmonds were fully integrated into the Cotswolds artistic community, exhibiting regularly in Campden, Painswick and Chelthenham. In 1960  the Simmonds 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.


The archive material is arranged in the original order in which it was deposited at the CSC.

Conditions Governing Access

The archival 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. The biography was written by Frances Lord.

Other Finding Aids

There are no finding aids available for this archive.

Conditions Governing Use

The photocopying of archival material is not allowed. Written permission must be sought before any archival material is published.

Appraisal Information

None timetabled


None expected

Related Material

The Crafts Study Centre holds other material relating to the William Simmonds archive in the

  • Muriel Rose archive

Also see access points