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PRIVATELY published by an antiquarian bookshop specialising in books on the Lake District and Cumbria who are also publishers, this is the first detailed study of the Keswick School, which made an important contribution to the Arts and Crafts movement by reviving the Lake District’s old craft traditions and in particular the metalwork for which the school is famous.

Classes in metal repoussé were established by Canon Hardwicke and Edith Rawnsley in 1884 for working men and lads on three evenings a week at the Crosthwaite Parish Rooms – the better to follow the Ruskin dictum of improving the country labourer’s lot. Hardwicke was vicar of Crosthwaite, a parish which included Keswick, described by Beatrix Potter as a place of “terrible drink and raucous shouting”.
Pupils were encouraged to place artistic merit above monetary value and not to rush or skimp their work.

The book’s chapters with black and white illustrations include An Arts and Crafts Flowering 1898 to 1904 when Keswick School craftsmen such as Harold Stabler and Herbert Meryon became leading figures in the Arts and Crafts movement. The chapter Handcraftmanship versus Industrial Production 1962 to 1984, makes for gritty reading.

Ian Bruce is a fellow of the RSA and owns a comprehensive collection of Keswick School pieces. He must be sadder than anyone that after a struggle to find a place in the market for hand-finished stainless steel, the School was forced to close in its centenary year 1984.