Skip to content

History of the cottage at Stoneywell

A watercolour painting called 'Stoneywell Cottage' by Edward Davies, depicting the cottage nestled into the sloping, rocky garden
'Stoneywell Cottage' by Edward Davies | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

From summer house to family home, Stoneywell is the enduring realisation of one man’s Arts and Crafts vision. The cottage and its collection provide a rare surviving example of an Arts and Crafts home in its entirety, and demonstrates part of an international movement of British origin.

Designing the cottage at Stoneywell

Ernest Gimson designed the cottage to appear as if organically grown among the rocky outcrops of the Charnwood Forest, and the cottage's 11 rooms sit on seven different levels – an intriguing challenge to count.

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.

Except 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.

A view of the Dining Room at Stoneywell with a slate floor, steps leading up to the left and the dining table and chairs on the right
The Dining Room at Stoneywell | © National Trust Images/Susan Guy

A family home

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 proud 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.

'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.'

– Nicholas Cooper, architectural historian

Detail of Leicester wallpaper by J H Dearle from Morris & Co, in the Morning Room at Wightwick Manor
William Morris wallpaper, a fine example of Arts and Crafts design | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Arts and Crafts movement

Growing from a desire to revive the skill of craftsmanship, the Arts and Crafts philosophy aimed to restore simplicity and honesty to how buildings and furnishings were made. The movement was a reaction against industrialisation and mass production in the Victorian era.

Although it was at its height between about 1895 and 1915, its origins lie a little earlier, with the great thinkers John Ruskin and William Morris, who railed against what they felt were the evils of mass industrialisation and machine production.

Inspiring others

Their philosophies of good craftsmanship and pride in one’s work were embraced by people like Ernest Gimson, Sidney and Ernest Barnsley, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Edwin Lutyens.

Such architects used local materials and designed their buildings down to the last detail, sometimes including the furniture, which they might even make themselves.

The Arts and Crafts was a British art and design movement which went international and is also one whose legacy is still with us today. Stoneywell is the epitome of William Morris' golden rule:

‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’

– William Morris

A white bedroom with wooden furniture at Stoneywell, Leicestershire

Stoneywell's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Stoneywell on the National Trust Collections website.

You might also be interested in

Exterior view of Stoneywell, Leicestershire. Stoneywell was built as a summer home by Arts and Crafts architect-designer Ernest Gimson for his brother Sidney.

Booking your visit to Stoneywell 

Stoneywell is open to visitors between Friday and Monday until 3 November and must be booked in advance. If you're planning a visit to Stoneywell, read this article to find out everything you need to know.

The Sitting Room with white walls and wooden floors at Stoneywell, with a chair and couch surrounding the large fireplace, and bookshelves, a desk and typewriter visible

Visiting the cottage at Stoneywell 

Delve into Stoneywell’s collection of Arts and Crafts treasures, from unique handcrafted furniture to a replica cot and a small ceramics collection.

A brown meadow butterfly sits on a purple thistle in a meadow at Stoneywell, Leicestershire.

Summer in the garden at Stoneywell 

From a show-stopping rhododendron collection to an 11-acre woodland, find out what you can see in Stoneywell's colourful garden here.

A close-up of a group of people enjoying a talk at Petworth, focused on a smiling visitor.

Calke and Stoneywell Talks Service 

Thanks to a dedicated team of speakers, we offer a Talks Service to bring Calke Abbey and Stoneywell’s stories directly to your group or society.

A colourful tapestry of a Cambridgeshire landscape, with buildings in the centre and the words Newmarket above


Learn about people from the past, discover remarkable works of art and brush up on your knowledge of architecture and gardens.

Octavia Hill (1838 - 1912) (after John Singer Sargent) by Reginald Grenville Eves, RA (London 1876 ¿ Middleton in Teesdale 1941)


From landscape gardeners to LGBTQ+ campaigners and suffragettes to famous writers, many people have had their impact on the places we care for. Discover their stories and the lasting legacies they’ve left behind.