Ernest William Gimson was born into an engineering family in Leicester in 1864. By the end of his life in 1919, he had made a name for himself as one of the foremost architect-designers of the Arts and Crafts Movements. Through his affiliations with the Leicester Secular Society, he attended a talk of William Morris’ at the age of 19, a meeting that would transform his life and work. It is said that the young Gimson sat up with Morris talking until two in the morning after the latter’s talk on ‘Art and Socialism.’ Their admiration was mutual, and while Morris instilled many formative ideas in Gimson, he also did what he could to steer his protégé’s career.
Morris wrote him letters of recommendation when Gimson moved to London at the age of 21. It was at John Dando Sedding’s practice that Gimson engaged first-hand with the techniques of Arts and Crafts. Both at a thematic level - with an emphasis on texture and naturalistic details such as flowers and leaves - and at a practical level which saw the architect more directly involved in the details of building than had previously been the case. Moreover, Sedding’s practice sat next to that of Morris and Co, giving Gimson treasured insight into early developments of Arts and Crafts. Over the course of his career, Gimson was responsible for numerous buildings, including Stoneywell and the library at Bedale’s School. His style was encapsulated by one of his contemporaries as ‘solid and lasting as the pyramids… yet gracious and homelike.’ In his final years he settled in the village of Sapperton and inevitably became involved in community life, culminating in unrealised plans to build a Utopian Craft Village.