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New home for a piece of history

AT the end of last year the Guild of Handicraft Trust in Chipping Campden received an early Christmas present from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The trust, which is planning to adapt and renovate the 17th century Court Barn, a listed building in Church Street, Campden, creating a handicraft museum as a lasting memorial to the town's central role in the development of the Arts and Crafts movement, was presented with a cheque for £890,000.

The lottery money for the museum, which is loosely being called the Museum of Craft and Design from the Arts and Crafts Movement onwards, means that the trust is well on its way to raising the £1.34million it needs to complete its ambitious plans.

With £1.14million already raised through fund-raising projects and grants, the educational charity is planning to launch a local fund-raising campaign for the remaining £200,000 later this year.

Work is due to start next month on renovation of the barn, which has been given to the trust on a 999-year lease by the Landmark Trust.

"It will take about a year. We'd like to open in the summer of 2007," said The Guild of Handicraft Trust chairman, David Evans.

"It's going to be a major tourist attraction," he added.

The starting point for the museum, which will also have an archive, storage and learning centre, will be 1902, the year Charles Robert Ashbee, architect, designer, follower of William Morris and a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement, moved his Guild of Handicraft workshop to Campden.

Since then the area has been home to a number of leading designers and craftspeople, including Broadway-based bookbinder Katharine Adams, stained-glass artist and illustrator Paul Woodroffe, architect, illustrator and etcher F L Griggs, and Gordon Russell, who started making furniture in Broadway and ended up one of the most influential figures in modern British design.

Other well-known names whose work will be celebrated at the museum include Michael Cardew, founder of Winchcombe Pottery, Ray Finch, who took over the pottery from Cardew, the Hart family of silversmiths - George, Henry and David, and silversmith and industrial designer Robert Welch, whose children took over the running of his business following his death in 2000.

"There is still a very strong tradition of craftsmanship and artists in this area," said Mr Evans.

The trust, which has a stated aim to help people appreciate the creative traditions of the north Cotswolds, has already brought together an important collection of objects and archives, including the work of Ashbee, Alec Miller, Woodroffe, Griggs and the entire working archive of Welch.

Currently, these are stored in less-than-ideal conditions and are not easily accessible, a problem that will be handsomely overcome in the new museum.

Apart from a permanent exhibition, it is also planned to have a meeting room for talks and discussions and educational and research facilities, including hands-on experience for young people.

"We would like to encourage young people," said Mr Evans, adding that the trust already has links with local schools.

There are also plans for a shop selling relevant books and craft goods.

With the builders about to move in on Court Barn, the trustees are just over a year away from realising a long-held dream.

"We count ourselves very fortunate that the Heritage Lottery fund has been so generous. Without it we wouldn't have a chance of raising the balancing money. They realise it's going to be not just of national but international importance," said Mr Evans, whose supporters include the New York-based American Friends of Arts and Crafts in Chipping Campden.

"The second thing they felt was that it was being very professionally managed," he added.

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