The art of crafting a homely retreat

The dining room at Stoneywell

Designed as a summer house by architect, craftsman and designer Ernest Gimson for his brother Sydney, the cottage at Stoneywell is a model of Arts and Crafts ideals. More recently lived in full-time by the grandson of its first owner, the cottage is furnished with many original pieces made by Ernest and his circle of craftsmen.

We have many special objects in our collection that help us tell the story of the Gimson family and the Arts and Crafts Movement. In the dining room alone, we have iconic Ernest Gimson ladder-back, rush-seated chairs surrounding an oak refectory table designed by Sidney Barnsley. These are just a few of the Arts and Crafts gems that Donald Gimson, the last owner of Stoneywell, has loaned to the National Trust.

In each room of the cottage there are glimpses into a family home set in an Arts and Crafts cottage. Alongside items designed and made by Gimson and the Barnsley brothers, there are many more items of great beauty and craftsmanship. There is an Orkney chair, pottery painted by Grace Barnsley and a coffer by Joseph Armitage, which features an early version of the oak leaf design that Armitage would use in his winning entry to design a logo for the National Trust.

Once hung from the ceiling, this Hornby train is now in the Well Room
A Hornby train set
Once hung from the ceiling, this Hornby train is now in the Well Room

We also invite you to open cupboard doors to peer into the past, see if you can find the table tennis set that was played with on the dining room table or 1950s clothing hanging in the bedroom wardrobes. The cottage is reminiscent of the 1950s, when Donald and Anne made Stoneywell their fulltime family home. Therefore we have a number of objects that have been bought in to tell family life at this time, from a gramophone playing '50s records in the Sitting Room to a Hornby trainset that you can set running around its track in the Well Room.

Our collection includes objects on loan from Gimson family members and New Walk Museum (part of the Leicester County Council Museum service), with others donated to us, including traditional dolls and popular children's books and games. Amongst them, the Nathaniel Kirk long case clock in the Dining Room has been loaned from Leicestershire Arts and Museums Service to represent one that would have stood in the same spot and a small Oriental rush cabinet, on loan to the Trust from Donald's niece, now stands proudly on top of a Sidney Barnsley secretaire-chest.

The walnut secretaire-chest was made circa 1908
A secretaire-chest built by Sidney Barnsley
The walnut secretaire-chest was made circa 1908

Stoneywell is now an amalgamation of objects passed on down generations of the Gimson family and those brought, loaned and gifted to bring the past of Stoneywell to life.