The Last Genius of the Arts and Craft Movement
At a Vale of Evesham Historical Society meeting on the evening of Thursday 23rd February, Ian Lloyd-Oswell began his talk on the life and work of architect Charles Voysey with a short account of the life of his subject.
Voysey was born in Yorkshire in 1857, the oldest son of a clergyman. The family had quite distinguished connections, being related both to John Wesley and to the Duke of Wellington. But Voysey senior was dismissed from the church and deprived of his living in 1871, on account of his unorthodox religious views, after which the family moved to London, where Voysey junior attended Dulwich College for a brief period.
In 1874 he was articled for 5 years to the architect J P Seddon, a follower of the Gothic revival movement and in particular an admirer of the work of Augustus Pugin. He also spent brief periods in the offices of the architects Henry Saxon Snell and George Devey before setting up his own practice in the early 1880s. Both Devey and Voysey (the latter perhaps inspired by him) were much influenced by vernacular architecture, and this is reflected in their designs.
During the first decade of the twentieth century, Voysey would take the opportunity to design every detail of his houses, including the furniture, carpets, curtains and wallpapers. In 1924 he became Master of the Art Workers’ Guild. He died at Winchester in 1941.
Most people present at Ian’s talk now know how to identify a house designed by Voysey. His properties exhibit some quite distinctive features, being white-painted roughcast on the outside with semi-circular bay windows made from metal (usually bronze), and with tapered buttresses and very distinctive (and large) chimneys. An early commission, Walnut Tree Farm near Malvern, which dates from 1890, exhibits many of these features. Some of his larger houses are to be found on the shores of Lake Windermere, as well as in London and the Home Counties.
Ian completed his talk with some illustrations of Voysey’s furniture and fabric and wallpaper designs. Himself no mean craftsman, Ian had brought along a beautiful wooden plaque which he had carved from different woods; this was based on a design by Voysey for a bookplate and showed different birds and animals against the background of a tree. As with his talk last season on timber-framed buildings, Ian enlivened his presentation with a number of anecdotes from his own experience and in short a very informative and entertaining evening was had by all.