Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

The Arts and Crafts Home

  • Comment
By Wendy Hitchmough. Pavilion Books, 2000. £30

This is an object lesson in not judging a book by its cover, writes Julian Holder . The ravishing images, the format, size, and the title all suggest that it is yet another coffee-table offering. It could sell on the strength of Martin Charles' photographs alone.

But the book offers much more. Wendy Hitchmough sets out to recover the 'meaning' of Arts and Crafts houses as they were used, examining the changing social mores of the age that produced them through evidence such as contemporary descriptions, letters, and advice manuals. It is a very specific book rather than the general one its unqualified title proclaims. The text is as enjoyable as the photographs, and the idea - 'to reinstate the client as an animating presence'all too rare. Of the seven chapters each deals with a different aspect, or room, in the house - from hallway to kitchen.

Perhaps the author sets herself too many goals along the way, while anecdotal evidence, rather than a more rigorous relationship of documentary sources and houses, is preferred.

Given the individuality of Arts and Crafts architecture, attempting to generalise from a very small sample (Standen, Glessner, Gamble, The Homestead) about all houses of the Arts and Crafts movement is highly questionable. So too is the applicability of household advice manuals to houses which, being grand holiday homes, were anything but the norm.

The re-creation of the meaning of room-use is a historical minefield. Despite methodological shortcomings, Hitchmough should be congratulated for this stimulating general introduction to the topic. We need studies like this for a fuller social history of architecture, but we need them to press home their argument more.

Julian Holder is co-ordinator of the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies at Edinburgh College of Art

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.