Thursday, 22 September 2011

Dartington Hall and the Elmhirsts

Just back from 6 days in Devon discussing what role crafts have in helping create a sustainable future. The setting was the magnificent Dartington Hall. I came away inspired and am now wondering if I can manage to pass on some of that inspiration just through blog posts, I'll try my best though as a medium it can't compare to a real person talking passionately. First though a little history of the venue.

Dartington Hall was built in the late 14th century between 1388 and 1400 for John Holland Earl of Huntingdon. 
 The Hall was mostly derelict by the time it was bought along with the 1200 acre estate by Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst in 1925. The Elmhirst's invested Dorothy's considerable inheritance in the estate with the vision of reinvigorating the declining rural community.
The gardens are a joy to walk in and the ethos of the Elmhirst's shines through here is a rather famous but wonderful quote from William Blake.
 I was taken by this sweet chestnut tree, at a glance it looked like a Nash sculpture but I think it was the result of lighting strike killing a spiraling strip of bark which was painted with Arbrex, a practice which used to be common but nowadays arboroculturists prefer to leave wounds open to the air.
The list of outstanding people involved in the Dartington experiment includes Ravi Shankar, T E Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia’), Bernard Leach, Walter Gropius, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, HG Wells, Yehudi Menuhin, Ben Nicholson, Aldous Huxley, James Lovelock, Amory Lovins, Jonathan Porritt, and Vandana Shiva amongst many others. For anyone interested in sustainable rural development or the arts generally it is hallowed ground. More recently the estate is also the home to Schumacher college. This was the view from my bedroom window looking down into the main courtyard.
 And my little attic bedroom.

And the centre piece the main hall itself with a fine hammer beam roof, what better venue to discuss craft and sustainability? The following posts will pick up some of the threads and talks that particularly caught my imagination and also show some of the other fine rooms at Dartington.

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