The Christchurch Class
Over the winter I have spent a lot of time researching the Home Arts and Industries Association. I have learned that there were many many classes involved from all across the country. I was also surprised to find a few metalworking classes that I had never come across before. I plan to write about these classes as I find art metalwork that they made. My first find of the year was the brass sconce featured in this article that can be firmly attributed to the long forgotten Christchurch Class from Hants. Christchurch, town and borough (district), administrative county of Dorset, historic county of Hampshire, England. It lies at the confluence of the Rivers Stour and Avon (East, or Hampshire, Avon) and adjoins the English Channel resort of Bournemouth.
The class appears to have started at some point before 1896. In June of 1896 the Christchurch Times mentioned the 12th annual exhibition of the Home Arts and Industries Association (HAIA) at the Albert Hall. It stated that among the specimens of work this year was brass repousse work from the Christchurch Class that was held at the Red House, Christchurch, during the winter months. The class sent 150 items made by the 31 members of the class. Three members of the class are mentioned, Tom Fulford, Alfred Perry and Fred Croucher.1 Both Tom and Fred appear to have been house painters/painters2,3 and Alfred was a carpenter4. Like many of the HAIA classes they predominantly worked during the winter evenings so as not to impact their working days, which were typically longer in the summer.
The Red House is a well-known building in Christchurch. A former Georgian workhouse by this time it was the private residence of Reverend T.H. Bush, the vicar of Christchurch Priory. Later, the building became the private museum of Herbert Druitt, an avid local collector. It was his passion for textile and fashion, bygones and archaeological material that created the Red House Museum collections. In 1951, the Red House Museum became a charitable trust and it is now a Museum and Gardens open to the public.
In that same year, the Class was mentioned in an article about the HAIA exhibition that appeared in The Studio periodical. It wasn’t the most flattering write up for the fledgling class as they stated ”A stall, chiefly of repoussé brass work, from Christchurch, Hants, was interesting as the effort of a younger class; but here again the designs were very ordinary. It is a pity to see so much labour expended on stock patterns which, never very good, are hackneyed by constant repetition.”.5 Undeterred, the Class exhibited at the HAIA exhibition the following year, 1897, and was briefly mentioned in The Studio’s review of the exhibition where we learn they exhibited repousse work with some clever adaptations of the seal of the Priory.6
In 1898 the Christchurch Class appeared in an article about the HAIA exhibition in the London Evening Standard. By now the Class was producing repousse items in copper and brass and the Class consisted of 40 men and boys.7
In 1899, Both The Studio and The House periodicals mention the work of the class in their respective write-ups of the HAIA exhibition. The Studio stated “In the Christchurch class J. Early showed some simple but unconventional sconces with hanging extinguishers in hammered brass.”.8 The House stated: “The Christ Church Class, Hants, also had an interesting display, and on the stall was to be seen a larger photograph of the various members of the branch, each holding the work which he had done. They were all young men, and it seems to us a very suitable way to so associate the workers with their productions, of which they should be justly proud, Figs 22 and 23 show a couple of examples of the work of this class. Both these exhibits were in metal, and as is fitting for low relief productions the repousse was crisp in outline and the designs also had other points to recommend them.”9
The Christchurch Times also had a short write up on the HAIA exhibition and again referenced the specimens of repousse work done by the class held at the Red House during the winter months. Fortunately they also mention that awards for execution of design were obtained by Tom Fulford, Herbert Howe and Fred Brewer; and for construction by W. J. Earley.10 We have encountered Tom Fulford before. Herbert Howe was a Builder11, Fred Brewer a farm worker12 and W. J. Early, likely the sailor, William J. Earley.13
The House, 1899, No. 29
The House, 1899, No. 29
In 1900, The House periodical again mentioned the work of the class at the annual Home Arts and Industries exhibition. It stated: “From Christchurch, Hants, came the pieces of metalwork shown in Figs. 28 and 29. The work of this school is carried out by a large number of men and boys, and a considerable sum is realized every winter for the work sold. Miss Druitt superintends the work and she is assisted by two voluntary teachers.”14
The House, 1900, No.41
This is the first reference we have for the likely founder of the Class, Miss Druitt. Sadly I have not been able to fully identify the Miss Druitt in question. In 1900 an art exhibition was held in nearby Bournemouth and brass repousse work was exhibited, most likely from the Christchurch Class. One of the stallholders was listed as a Miss M. Druitt. It is highly likely that Miss Druitt is from the well-known Druitt family who were successful Solicitors in the area. My chief suspect is a lady called Matilda Druitt who was the unmarried daughter of the local retired Solictor, James Druitt. It was quite common for well to do ladies of the day to help set up and teach the Home Arts and Industries Association classes. Her younger brother Herbert went on to purchase the Red House so there was a clearly link to the building where the classes occured.15
In 1902, The House periodical yet again mentioned the work of the class at the annual Home Arts and Industries exhibition. It stated: “The interesting class of Christchurch (Hants.) had candlesticks as well as vases. A pretty sconce in one piece, projecting below to hold the candle and bending over above in a scroll from which to suspect a metal bell was also the work of this centre.”16
The House, 1902, No.65
The last mention of the Class that I can find is a review of the 1903 HAIA exhibition written by the Christchurch Times. It states “One of the stalls contains examples of metal repousse work done at Christchurch, in the parish of Emmanuel, Comberwell. The judges report that they are pleased to note an improvement in the class – the low relief on the trays being more suitable for this kind of work. They have granted three blue stars for execution of design to James Budden and William Saffery for trays and to Walter Stonestreet for a flowerpot. A gold star, for general excellence, was given for a font ewer worked by the class holder.”17 James Budden was a house painter18, William Saffery was a general jobbing painter19 and Walter Stonestreet was a gas and water fitter20.
That’s all I have been able to find out about this Class so far but it certainly feels like there is a fascinating story to tell. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who has any further information about this long forgotten class.
1 – Christchurch Times, 27th June 1896.
2 – 1911 England Census for Tom Fulford, Christchurch, Hants.
3 – 1901 England Census for Fred Croucher, Christchurch, Hants.
4 – 1901 England Census for Alfred Perry, Christchurch, Hants.
5 – The Studio, Volume 8, Issue: 40, July 1896, Pages: 99-100.
6 – The Studio, Volume 11, Issue: 52, July 1897, Page: 115.
7 – London Evening Standard, 19th May 1898.
8 – The Studio, Volume 17, Issue: 76, July 1899, Page: 101.
9 – The House, No. 29, 1899, Pages: 163-165.
10 – Christchurch Times, 20th may 1899.
11 – 1901 England Census for Herbert Howe, Christchurch, Hants.
12 – 1911 England Census for Fred Brewer, Christchurch, Hants.
13 – 1901 England Census for William J. Earley, Christchurch, Hants.
14 – The House, No. 41, July 1900, Pages 166 and 170.
15 – 1901 England Census for Matilda J. Druitt, Christchurch, Hants.
16 – The House, No. 65, July 1902, Pages 185-186.
17 – Christchurch Times, 23rd May 1903.
18 – The 1901 England Census for James Budden, Christchurch, Hants.
19 – The 1901 England Census for William Saffery, Christchurch, Hants.
20 – The 1901 England Census for Walter Stonestreet, Christchurch, Hants.