It might be surprising that a village the size of Ditchling warrants a museum dedicated to the art and craft created by local artists. But Ditchling is no ordinary village. Throughout the 20th century it attracted artists and craft workers of national repute. This museum provides the opportunity to see the works in the place where they were made.
When Eric Gill arrived in 1907, he was not the first artist in the village, but the guild of artists and craft workers he co-founded with Hilary Pepler, Desmond Chute and Joseph Cribb was the magnet for many who followed subsequently.
The Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic was a Roman Catholic artistic community experimenting with communal life and self-sufficiency. Two miles north of the village on Ditchling Common, the Guild built homes, a chapel, and workshops for silversmiths, stone carvers, carpenters, printers and weavers. Read more about these core crafts here.
The Guild drew many artists and craftspeople to visit and live, including David Jones, Philip Hagreen, George Maxwell, Dunstan Pruden, Edgar Holloway and Valentine KilBride. Gill resigned from the Guild in 1924, and Pepler was expelled in 1934. The Guild continued until 1989, its affairs were wound up and the workshops demolished.
In the village other important artists were also working including the typographer Edward Johnston; the weaver Ethel Mairet; painters Frank Brangwyn and Charles Knight; and the inventor Rowland Emett.
“We thought that the place in England that had the greatest vitality of thought and 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
Some of the artists are buried in the adjacent graveyard of St Margaret’s Church, including Joseph Cribb, Edward Johnston and Hilary Pepler. There are also examples of cut lettering of Joseph Cribb and Eric Gill in the graveyard and on the nearby war memorial. You can explore the village with one of our Village Walks.
The village continues to support a vibrant artist community. Distinguished illustrators Raymond Briggs and John Vernon Lord work in the village. With easy access to London, stunning countryside and a popular art school in Brighton, Ditchling’s historic and contemporary appeal is easy to see.
Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft has a frequently changing programme of exhibitions and displays alongside a growing permanent collection. As an independent charitable trust the museum relies on donations and grants to mount these displays, protect the collection, and deliver an engaging learning programme. Every penny spent in the museum helps us deliver these objectives.
You can make a donation here.
You can find out how to gift an item to our Collection here.