Today the art gallery at Compton Verney House in Warwickshire opens its doors on the exhibition The Arts and Crafts House: Then and Now presenting us with an excellent opportunity to showcase associated Arts and Crafts architecture titles from GSA Library’s Special Collections. These include a replacement copy of architectural partners’ M.H. Baillie Scott and A. Edgar Beresford’s influential book Houses and Gardens (1933) generously donated by the University of Strathclyde Library in the aftermath of last year’s fire. Originally published in 1906 with Scott as author, the book’s rationale for the artistic house is set out in simple language and easy-to-follow sections intended to simultaneously interest the public, professional associates and “builders interested in the planning of houses”. The text, a critique of modern house building and an endorsement of the design qualities found in cottages and countryside dwellings, is supplemented by beautiful watercolour illustrations and black and white photographs and architectural plans of the architects’ designed houses selected for their variety and yet, distinctive commonalities in the Arts and Crafts style.
Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott (1865-1945) was a figure of international standing during his lifetime. A contemporary of Mackintosh, many designs and articles written by him appeared in the progressive arts magazine of the day The Studio and would almost certainly have been read by a young Mackintosh who, at the time, would have been drafting the designs for Hill House (1903). Articles such as ‘The Decoration of the Suburban House’ that appeared in an 1895 volume of The Studio were followed by several others that focused on decorative elements of the home and domestic architecture. Scott was particularly interested in house-planning around a central room in the house that extended into smaller rooms of the house and into the garden. In a study of the house for Arts & Crafts Houses II, James Macaulay suggests the osmosis of styles between Baillie Scott’s country-house designs (for example White House built in Helensburgh in 1899) and Mackintosh’s design for the neighbouring residence Hill House that followed in 1903. (Both architects, incidentally, entered the House for an Art Lover competition in 1900).The imitation of styles was not limited to the pair; in fact, a whole generation of architects and artists propagated an Arts and Crafts design before the movement was gradually usurped by Art Nouveau.
In 1919, Scott opened an office in partnership with A. Edgar Beresford, who had worked for him since 1905. The pair shared the beliefs of a broader network of art workers, craftspeople, designers and architects committed to the restoration of beauty to everyday life in the industrial age. The Arts and Crafts was an ideology which sought the romance of the past in the design of modern spaces. The designs of architects (including designers such as Charles Voysey, W.R. Lethaby and Ernest Gimson) reflected the belief that both the arts and architecture should be unified in order that the house’s exterior reflects its interiors. The socialist ideologies applied in the design of the houses and interiors that emerged are manifest for example, in the detailed working drawings of the architect’s associated with the movement and in the craftsmanship of architectural details. The craft of old buildings was of particular interest, and the design of houses in the style of cottages reflects the vernacular style of earlier Arts and Crafts designers such as William Morris and Walter Crane.
If searching for more on the buildings described in Houses and Gardens try searching The Studio or The Builder. Several books on Baillie Scott and the Arts and Crafts house can also be found in our Main Lending collection. Of related interest may also be the brilliantly illustrated The British Home of To-day and its companion volume Flats, Urban Houses and Cottage Homes published in the 1900s and featuring the designs of Norman Shaw, Frank Brangwyn and Frank T. Verity. These volumes are very kindly donated by Dr Carole Biggam at the University of Glasgow.