William Morris'Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.'

Such was the philosophy of William Morris (1834-1896), a founding member of what has become known as the Arts and Crafts Movement. The movement was a reaction to mechanisation and the soul-destroying nature of factory work after the industrial-revolution. Those involved in the Arts and Crafts Movement sought to raise the artisan to the level of artist, eradicate production lines and bring back human qualities to the production of material things. Aesthetic tendencies associated with the movement include neo-gothic references, rustic surfaces, products left slightly unfinished in order to express the beauty inherent in the craft, repeating designs and vertical and elongated forms. During his time at Oxford, Morris became inspired by the writings of John Ruskin, who argued that a healthy society depended on skilled and creative workers. The Arts and Crafts Movement had distinctly Socialist undertones and William Morris worked directly with Eleanor Marx to start the Socialist Movement in England.

A primary aim of his Arts and Crafts ideal was to ensure that people had the opportunity to derive satisfaction from their work, something that was completely denied to them by the compartmentalised machine production. The movement was against division of labour and in favour of the idea of a master craftsman being involved at every stage of production.

Although the original intention of the movement was to provide handmade goods to the common man, it turned out that paying craftsmen an honest wage led to prices that were more than the common man could afford. In practice, therefore, the movement was limited to the upper classes, with rich patrons such as the Bathurst Family from Cirencester commissioning work.

Red House - Bexleyheath, KentAfter Oxford, William Morris apprenticed himself to a leading English Gothic Revival architect and met another architect, Philip Webb, with whom he struck up a lifelong friendship. Together with Webb, Morris built Red House at Bexleyheath in Kent as a present for his new wife, Jane. With the building of Red House, Morris effectively invented the idea of a house as a total work of art with all internal objects designed by the architect: 'I have never been in any rich man's house which would not look the better for having a bonfire made outside of nine tenths of all that it held.'

Woodpecker Tapestry - William MorrisIn 1861 William Morris founded Morris and Co. with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown and Philip Webb. The company, which Morris worked for all his life, encouraged the revival of traditional crafts such as stained glass painting, hand embroidery, woodblock-printed textiles and wallpaper and dyeing silk and wool with vegetable dyes. Morris single-handedly revived the art of tapestry weaving in Britain and his designs are still sold today under licenses given to Sanderson and Sons and Liberty's of London.

Morris, who called Bibury 'The most beautiful village in England' loved the beauty and simplicity of the Cotswolds and in1871 began to rent Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire as a summer retreat for himself and his family. Kelmscott gave its name to Morris' famous publishing concern, Kelmscott Press, which he set up in order to produce examples of improved printing and book design. The press produced fifty three works, including the famous 1896 Chaucer, and successfully led the way for other Arts and Crafts Movement private presses. When he died in 1896 William Morris was buried in Kelmscott Churchyard.

The Nature of Gothic - Kelmscott PressWilliam Morris was not the only artist-craftsman drawn to the rich craft tradition, architectural simplicity and cultivated beauty of the Cotswold countryside. In 1885 Francis Millet moved to Broadway and restored the 14th century Abbot's Grange, converting it into a studio. He was joined by numerous artist friends and together they established, in keeping with the fashion of the time, a kind of artist's colony dedicated to the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement. Their work is preserved in the Gordon Russell Museum, named after a famous Arts and Crafts furniture designer, and housed in a grade two listed workshop near the Lygon Arms Hotel.

In the 1890s three up and coming architect-designers in their late twenties, Ernest Gimson and brothers Ernest and Sidney Barnsley, left London behind to set up home near Cirencester. They took up residence in Pinbury Park and were commissioned by Lord Bathurst to repair and renovate the property, which they did so painstakingly in the Arts and Crafts tradition. The Bathurst family took the property back for their own use in 1902 but gave each man land on which to build their own houses in the nearby village of Sapperton. They built their houses using local materials and traditional building methods and they display the simplicity and restraint so typical of the movement, with muted shades of oak, whitewash and limestone, decorative plasterwork and great attention to small details.

Ernest Barnsley and his colleagues were famously commissioned to build Rodmarton Manor, one of the last country houses to be built and furnished using local stone and timber. Finished in 1929 this typical Cotswolds Arts and Crafts house took twenty years to complete. Today Rodmarton Manor is open to the public and contains furniture and pottery by Alfred and Louise Powell, wall hangings by Helda Benjamin, lead and brass by Norman Jewson and a garden designed by Barnsley.

In 1902 Robert Ashbee moved his Guild of Handicraft from East London to Chipping Campden and set about converting Elm Tree House into the Campden School of Arts and Crafts. The Silk Mill at Chipping Campden is the last operating workshop of the Guild of Handicraft and specialises in domestic and ecclesiastical silverware. Court Barn at Dover's Court, built by F.L.Griggs, is now a museum commemorating the Arts and Crafts movement.

Mary Osborn was inspired by Gandhi to set up the Guildhouse in Stanton. Osborn, who built the Guildhouse out of reclaimed materials, wanted to provide a space for Arts and Crafts training that was open to anyone. Her dream lives on today, with the Guildhouse running a wide variety of courses including pottery, patchwork, quilting, woodwork and stained glass painting.

Owlpen Manor, west of Stroud, is another great remnant of the Arts and Crafts movement. The Manor was repaired in 1926 by the renowned Cotswold Arts and Crafts architect, Norman Jewson, after lying uninhabited for 100 years. There is a collection of Arts and Crafts furniture on show in the house, which is open to the public, by Sidney Barnsley, Norman Jewson and Ernest Gimson.

Snowshill's famous manor house boasts gardens designed by leading Arts and Crafts designer, M.H.Baillie-Scott. Scott was commissioned by the eccentric architect and collector Charles Paget Wade, who bought the house, which is now owned and managed by the National Trust, in 1919.

The Arts and Crafts tradition is very much still alive in the Cotswolds today. The Brewery Arts Centre in Cirencester hosts craft workshops and an exhibition. The acclaimed Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum contains furniture, silver, jewellery, ceramics, carvings and textiles produced by members of the Arts and Crafts movement working in the Cotswolds. The Cotswold Woollen Weavers, housed in a brick building in Filkins, is a working woollen mill with superb weaving machinery, and members of the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen and the Oxfordshire Craft Guild display their work at regular exhibitions throughout the Cotswolds.