Inside an Arts and Crafts creation
From summer house to family home, Stoneywell is the enduring realisation of one man's Arts and Crafts vision. The cottage and its collection provides a rare surviving example of an Arts and Crafts home in its entirety, and sits as part of an international movement of truly British origin.
Stoneywell is the epitome of William Morris' golden rule: 'have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful'. Indeed, its contents are indigenous and spare in design, relying only on the natural figuring of timbers or occasional floriated patterns. Nothing is un-needed, and each piece invites one's touch.
" There is the most extraordinary visual, structural and functional logic to Stoneywell. Of course, there is the other structural and functional logic that says: Build a house of brick on level ground – but that is the difference between building and architecture."
Ernest Gimson designed the cottage to appear as if organically grown among the rocky outcrops of the Charnwood Forest, and he succeeded. Bizarrely, the cottage's eleven rooms sit on seven different levels - keeping count becomes an intriguing challenge while you explore with an expert guide. In fact, Ernest was so successful in establishing Stoneywell as part of the landscape that one ex-local, who'd left before it had been built, said on returning to the area that it was odd that he should have forgotten the old cottage.
Save for its slate roof - which replaced the original thatch when it was destroyed by fire in 1939 - Stoneywell retains much of its original magic. First intended as a summer house away from Leicester industry, before becoming a family home from the 1950s, Stoneywell was adapted rather than changed. Thus the philosophical mantle which first inspired Ernest passed by descent through the family, until the property was acquired by the National Trust in 2012.
Today the cottage is still furnished with many original pieces made by Ernest and his circle of craftsmen. The dining table with a top fashioned from a single oak plank stands proudle beyond the front door, while stone hot-water bottles on the slate steps and children's toys in the nursery allude to family life in a much-loved home.
Stoneywell survives as the realisation of one man's dream for a simpler life, and the enduring embodiment of a rural escape which speaks to us even today: 'This is How to Live'.