GODFREY BLOUNT (1859 – 1937)
"A poet, prophet, artist, craftsman; designer in plaster, hand-weaving,
woodwork, appliqué, and originator of linoleum blocks; founder of a Country
Church, a Peasant Art Society, and a Super-Natural Society."
Tribute by Arthur Fifield, G. Blount's Publisher
Godfrey Blount was born in Bagshot, Surrey, and educated at Winchester College. Having considered entering the church or becoming a doctor he decided instead to follow his passion in art and studied at the Slade School in London under Alphonse Legros. Here he met his wife Ethel Hine and they were married in 1887. Godfrey was influenced by the strong moral and social principles of William Morris and John Ruskin and believed passionately that the return to a working peasant community would restore collective wellbeing to the countryside.
"England will be saved when she repents of her ways and reverses her methods,
but her repentance must be a whole-hearted one. We must return to all that is implied by a country life, not in order to support the towns and their factories, but because country life is the only happy, healthy and human one."
"The Cause of the Evil" by Godfrey Blount
Godfrey and his wife moved to Haslemere in 1896, encouraged by Joseph and Maude King who had moved there two years earlier. Here, he could set about putting his beliefs into practice.
Blount a founder of the Peasant Arts Movement
Shortly after arriving in Haslemere, Godfrey set up the Haslemere Peasant Industries, an umbrella organisation for a number of small workshops reviving craft traditions and employing local skilled labour. It was an artistic community with the aim of reviving:
"…a true country life where handicrafts and the arts of husbandry shall exercise body and mind and express the relation of man to earth and to the fruits of the earth."
Godfrey and Ethel's first workshop was set up at the Tapestry House at Foundry Meadow (known today as Kings Road), Haslemere, in 1896 where they produced furniture and woven tapestries. Godfrey produced designs for this workshop and the adjacent Haslemere Weaving Industry, overseen by Joseph and Maude King.
Godfrey also played a prominent part in the formation of The Peasant Arts Society in 1897. The Society's purpose was to promote the "peasant cause" through lectures, meetings, publications and the Peasant Industries. They made and sold Haslemere produced goods alongside pottery from Germany and Switzerland at the Society's shops in Haslemere and London. This enterprise was primarily philanthropic in nature with no private profits being taken; all such monies were put back into the industries. The Peasant Arts Fellowship followed in 1911 with the aim of sending 'missionaries' to country schools to teach spinning and weaving. The two groups were finally combined in 1916 to form the Peasant Arts Guild.
Blount the founder of The New Crusade and the Supernatural Society
Godfrey Blount was a deeply religious man. In 1900, he founded 'The New Crusade', which linked his beliefs in a simple country life with a revival in Christian worship.
"And so our Good-news of a return to the simplicity of the country life and country ways involves the still deeper and more personal promise of a revival of Faith and a revival of Worship".
"The Meaning of the New Crusade and of its Oratory, The Country Church" by Godfrey Blount
In 1927 Godfrey also founded the Supernatural Society with the motto "all nature is supernatural". It was based on the idea that things considered to be supernatural were actually the operation of natural laws of which most people were ignorant. The Society met fortnightly in a building erected by Godfrey in his garden at St. Cross, Weydown Road, Haslemere, where they had free and open discussions about vital questions of the day.
Blount the founder of a Country Church
Godfrey's deep and sensitive religious feelings led him to establish his "Country Church", situated in The Hall of St. George, Kings Road, Haslemere. There he preached "The New Crusade" and published several pamphlets detailing the movement. Godfrey's Sunday services in the hall were described as:
"…going for a delightful country walk with a delightful companion, with the added attraction that you never knew where you were going".
Alice Greene worshipped at the Country Church and describes it as:
"…a wooden room, hung round with hand-woven hangings, some Arundel pictures on the walls, flowers on the Table & above it a Crucifix, a simple little organ, & very simple little reading desk. All the forms & things look handmade & there are only candles for lights &…The same with the singing. The instrument was very simple but the music was good & the words sung were beautiful poems".
Extract from "The Mother and the Maiden Aunt" Edited by John E. Barham
Blount the Poet and Writer
Godfrey Blount wrote several poems including "Our Daily Bread" and "The Song of the Sower". In addition to his poetry, he also wrote a number of texts and pamphlets relating to the Peasant Arts movement. His most notable work, "Arbor Vitae", is a book on "the nature and development of imaginative design", intended to be used by teachers and craftsmen. In this, Godfrey demonstrated the need for every art form to relate to its prototype in nature.
Blount the artist and craftsman
Godfrey's other artistic activities included plasterwork for frescos, coloured woodcarving, children's toys and hand printed religious pictures and cards.