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Visit to the Gordon Russell Design Museum and Stanway House (13th June 2013)

On 13 June 2013 a party of 38 Ross DFAS members visited two very interesting locations in Worcestershire: The Gordon Russell Design Museum in Broadway and nearby Stanway House.

Following coffee and biscuits in a restaurant close by fascinating conducted tours of the Museum (in two sub-groups) gave members a new insight into the technicalities of furniture production in the 20th Century. Although relatively small and cramped the Museum has a good range of exhibits and our enthusiastic guides were very knowledgeable. The many fine exhibits comprised items handmade by master craftsmen in the early days, and later machine-made work incorporating similar high standards, all using a wide variety of hardwoods. Gordon Russell's workshops in Broadway carried on the tradition of the local involvement in the Arts and Crafts movement, notable in Gloucestershire and adjoining counties. Later knighted, he was a pre-eminent designer and his paternalistic style encouraged a devoted workforce. In the Thirties he diversified into quintessential radio cabinets and, during and after the Second World War years, output included surprisingly high-quality Utility furniture for bombed-out families. The mostly non-experts in our party came away with a much better knowledge of such matters as mortice and tenon joints, stringing, inlay, hay-rake stretchers, and how to cope with expansion and shrinkage of wood (always across not with the grain).

There was time for lunch in Broadway and a look round this iconic Cotswold village before the coach moved on to Stanway House, owned by the Earls of Wemyss for nearly 400 years. We were free to tour the elegant - if somewhat down-at-heel - house, constructed of honeyed Cotswold stone, and the grounds, part of an extensive estate including four villages. Of particular note were the stunning gravity-fed fountain - at some 300 feet the tallest in world - restored in 2004; and the fully-functioning watermill, restored in 2012, which produces a range of flours in a truly authentic way.

Then it was back to Broadway for tea and flapjacks before returning to Ross.

All in all, an enjoyable day out seeing some of the best of England's heritage.

Philip Blunden

© The Arts Society Ross-on-Wye or the originator