Hilary Bourne

1909 – 2004

Hilary Bourne was born in India. She enjoyed a rural childhood at Dumbrell’s preparatory school in Ditchling, and enjoyed the friendship of Edward Johnston’s daughters and family. She wrote: ‘Mr Johnston was like a father to us. He loved children and we loved him’.

Her interest in weaving began on a visit to Palestine where she was taught by Russian Orthodox nuns to work with linen and silk. She then sold work by Ethel Mairet, Bernard Leach and Hamada at the Little Gallery in London, and set up a studio and home with the weaver Barbara Allen. During the war she worked with Mairet in Ditchling until restarting the London workshop.

While selling through shops, Bourne’s commissions also included curtains for the Royal Festival Hall, fabric for the first jet planes, weaving for early ‘Lurex’, and fabrics for Charlton Heston’s costume in Ben Hur. Her work bridges the hand-made tradition and the technological developments of materials of the time.

Bourne returned to Ditchling in later life to care for her mother. She and her sister Joanna founded Ditchling Museum in 1985.