The Arts and Crafts Movement in the North West of England: A Handbook by Barrie and Wendy Armstrong, published by Oblong Creative 2005
In their introduction, Barrie and Wendy Armstrong remind us that ‘Much of what has been written about the Arts and Crafts Movement has focused on events, organizations and personalities in London, the Home Counties and the Cotswolds which were, from the 1880s, the main centres of attention and activity for the architects, artists, designers and craftsmen involved with its development. Although recent publications have highlighted the work of some of Lakeland’s Arts and Crafts organizations ... most of the North West was unexplored and unreported.’ This publication sets out to fill an unquestioned gap.
The book (like Gaul) is divided into three parts, the first of which consists of an extensive and well-researched introduction. I found this readable, well- written and well-illustrated and it provides non-experts, such as myself, and experts too with solid information and a comprehensive overview of the large scope of the undertaking.
The main body of the book consists of a Gazetteer, dividing the region into administrative counties and, sensibly, in my view, including within the region, North Staffordshire. Having spent the earliest years of my life in Prestbury, a couple of miles from Bollington, the authors’ village, I would fully agree that, for those in that part of ‘the south in the north’, the area of Staffordshire, just the other side of Macclesfield would feel to be part of the same geographical region. And this gives us the Five Towns of the Potteries with their particular ‘Arts and Crafts’ links and connections.
Entries are informed, informative and easy to read. The authors remind us that the selection of material has been shaped to a large extent by the extent of public access, and the resulting emphasis, in the Pevsner way, tends to be on churches. This is understandable and, even though not my first interest, the authors’ meticulous research and enthusiastic text will lead me to look at such buildings as the Methodist Church in Stanley Road, Heaton Moor, with its five- light foyer window by W J Pearce, in a different way. I am especially pleased to see the inclusion of Prestbury Vicarage by Ernest Newton (1893), a typical ‘surrey-style’ house, strayed far from its homeland to the ‘Surrey of the North’.
The third section consists of a ‘Who’s Who’, giving a biographical index of those artists and craftsmen who have links with the Arts and Crafts Movement and whose work is identified in the Gazetteer. This, again, is useful and generously makes available to us information which has obviously taken much time and work to collate.
A Gazetteer works within its terms — the reader starts with a location and then looks to see what, if any, buildings or artefacts of interest may be situated there. The book is not setting out to be a text-book for those unfamiliar with the area and who need to be told where and what to visit. As such, it works very well and is greatly enhanced by the large number of excellent photographs, many taken by the authors themselves.
It is already in the glove-compartment of my car.