1895 – 1957
Desmond Chute was born in Bristol. His widowed Roman Catholic mother sent him to Downside School in Somerset, after which he rejected university and chose to attend the Slade Art School in London. On returning to Bristol during World War I he became close friends with fellow ex-Slade student and renowned painter Stanley Spencer.
He met Eric Gill in early 1918 when Gill was finishing his Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral. Their friendship developed rapidly and Gill became heavily influenced by Chute’s vision for a creative Catholic community, eventually joining the Third Order of St Dominic of which Chute was a member. He visited Gill’s family in Ditchling and decided to move to the Common and learn to carve stone – Gill designed a house for Chute, Wood Barton, next door to his own family house. His influence was to prove practical in other ways – his mother was financially instrumental in helping to set up the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic.
In 1921 Chute applied to be ordained to be a priest and moved to Switzerland. Ill-health kept him abroad, ending up in Italy where he socialised with writers and intellectuals such as Ezra Pound, Max Beerbohm and W B Yeats.
Although Chute and Gill worked together for a very short time, Gill wrote to Chute two months before his death:
… how much I love you and how much I owe you and how much I learned from you and was and am inspired by you.