“We thought that the place in England that had the greatest vitality of thought an action in craftsmanship was probably the small village of Ditchling…just north of the Downs near the coast at Brighton.” – Bernard Leach in conversation with Shoji Hamada
The museum holds an internationally important collection of work by the artists and craftspeople who were drawn to the village, including the sculptor, wood engraver, type-designer and letter-cutter Eric Gill, the calligrapher Edward Johnston (responsible for the famous Johnston typeface used for London Underground), the painter David Jones, the printer Hilary Pepler and the weaver Ethel Mairet.
Being able to see special objects and works of art and craft in the village where they were made is a rare opportunity. It offers a unique way to consider how the objects were made and who they were made for.
The impact of the many artists and craftspeople who came to live and work in Ditchling from the beginning of the 20th century onwards established this village as one of the most important places for the visual arts and crafts in Britain.
History of the museum
In 1985, when they were 78 and 76 years old respectively, Joanna and Hilary Bourne bought the former school in the village of Ditchling and opened the first museum – Ditchling Museum. The sisters had spent their childhood in the village and mixed with the children of many of the artists whose work would eventually be included in the museum’s collection.
In 2007 serious discussion about the future of the museum, in part prompted by the poor state of the building, began and due to the importance of the collection a bold capital project was developed. Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate, formally opened Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft on 20th September 2013 after a major refurbishment. The £2.3m redevelopment was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as many generous donations by charitable trusts, foundations and individuals.
“Re-built, re-hung, re-organised and utterly transformed” – Wallpaper*
The reopening heralded an exciting phase for the museum; with a major refurbishment by Adam Richards Architects, a dedicated learning space with an engaging programme of events for adults and children, a new shop and cafe, purpose built collection store, a research room and new displays. The redefined focus of the museum is reflected in the updated name; ‘Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft’, with a new identity designed by Professor Phil Baines, Professor of Typography, University of the Arts, London.
“an unmissable stop on the Sussex art trail” – Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph
Since reopening the museum has received widespread critical acclaim from the world’s art and architecture press. We were the only UK museum to be shortlisted for the Apollo magazine award for Museum opening of the year 2013, been a finalist for the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2014, been named the first venue in Sussex to be a Clore Learning Space and been awarded a host of architectural awards.