Geoffrey Lupton

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Geoffrey Lupton building Bedales Library c. 1920

Geoffrey Henry Lupton (2 September 1882 – 31 December 1949) was a member of the Lupton family of Leeds[1] and is best known for his contribution to the Arts and Crafts Movement working with Ernest Gimson and Sidney Barnsley. He was heavily influenced by the writings of Rudolf Steiner.[2]

Early life[edit]

He, together with his siblings, was an early pupil at Bedales School at its original location at Lindfield and in 1900 moving with the school to its permanent site near Petersfield, Hampshire, becoming Head Boy and leaving in 1901. He was apprenticed to the family engineering firm, Hathorn Davey of Leeds, erecting pumping engines in the Lea Valley around 1903-4 and working in Germany.[3]

Arts and Crafts[edit]

He left, in 1905, to train as an Arts and Crafts architect, cabinet maker and builder with Ernest Gimson described by the art critic Nikolaus Pevsner as "the greatest of the English architect-designers". Lupton spent a year in Gimson’s workshops at Daneway near Sapperton.[4] Under Gimson's direction he prepared and built the great timber bridge at Hampton Court.[2]

He went on to work as an architect and builder in Hampshire, constructing his home and workplace in 1906-7 in Cockshott Lane, Froxfield, Hampshire. This cottage and attached workshops is a good example of Lupton's Arts & Crafts philosophy and fine craftsmanship.

Edward Thomas was a friend for whom Lupton designed and built "Red House" in Cockshott Lane with a separate building of which half was a study for Thomas and Lupton’s bee-keeping was kept in the rest which gave it the name "The Bee House". There are a number of houses in Cockshott Lane and around Steep which Lupton either designed and built, or built to designs by Gimson or Alfred Powell or for which he undertook the joinery.

In 1913, he built Sir Francis Ogilvie's house, "Dewdney," on Shere Heath considered by Sir Lawrence Weaver to be about the best modern small house of its time. These buildings were of hand made brick and English oak.[2]

In 1923, Edward Barnsley, furniture maker and architect and son of Sidney Barnsley, took the tenancy of the workshop and moved into the cottage in 1926. Barnsley lived and worked there as a designer craftsman until his death in 1987.[5]

In 1911, Lupton commissioned and largely financed, Gimson to design the assembly hall at Bedales, his old school, as the first part of a quadrangle of buildings to include a library, laboratories and a gym. Unfortunately, the War intervened, and only the Library was subsequently built.

He reverted to being an engineer during the Great War. Early in 1915 he joined up as a Private serving in the Army Service Corps, ASC, "Ally Sloper's Cavalry", 3rd Heavy Repair Depot in A.S.C. Motor Transport and became later Captain. He undertook interesting work which resulted in him being Mentioned in Dispatches in May 1918 for work on electro deposition of metals and, in 1919, received the French medal for Mérite Agricole.[3]

A learned paper on his work was prepared and presented by his Army Service Corps superior to the Institution of Automobile Engineers in 1920.[6] In the Great War, the vast majority of tonnage, supplying a vast army on many fronts, was supplied from Britain. Using horsed and motor vehicles, railways and waterways, the ASC performed prodigious feats of logistics and were one of the great strengths of organisation by which the war was won.

He returned from the War to continue being an Arts and Crafts all-rounder as Gimson, knowing he was about to die, had passed on the task of building the Memorial Library at Bedales School. Gimson’s last major project was the Memorial Library (1918–1919) built next to the 1911 Lupton Assembly Hall (the library was built at his request by Geoffrey Lupton under Sidney Barnsley’s supervision and completed in 1921). It was estimated to cost £18,000, after the War. In fact the building alone cost £10,946, together with £2,829 for the oak bookshelves and other furniture.[3]

The Bedales Memorial Library, Lupton Hall and Corridor is now one of the few Grade I listed modern buildings in England.[7]

Lupton was to continue furniture making until 1925 when he passed the business to Edward Barnsley.

His work is described in Michael Drury’s book, Wandering Architects: In Pursuit of an Arts and Crafts Ideal.

Later years[edit]

In 1926 he bought some hundred acres of veldt near Elgin, on the Palmiet River, 50 miles from Cape Town. Here he built a farmhouse thatched with local reed and set to work to make this most unpromising soil productive. Clearing, breaking up, plowing in lupin, irrigating by means of wooden mains from a great pump, put in by himself, in the river below, he succeeded in growing almonds, peaches, and to some extent apples, which do not thrive in South Africa, and kept cows and poultry. Here in Elgin he designed a tiny church, thatched and whitewashed, much prized by the English settlers. The round chancel arch, beyond the powers of local workmen, he built with his own hands.[3]

He sold his farm at Elgin and came back to England in 1937, and after hunting round for some time bought North Wyke Farm near North Tawton in Devon which he worked during the Second World War.[3]

In 1946-7 he was influenced by L.T.C. Rolt's book Narrow Boat, becoming an early member of the Inland Waterways Association and buying a narrow boat which he converted into a cruising boat working in the open canalside near Norwood (he was living in Chiswick at the time). With only his 9 year old son as crew, a 429-mile tour of English canals occupied June and July 1947 including stops to repair the boat's diesel engine and to continue with the conversion work.

In 1948 he was again drawn to emigrate to Africa (this time to Southern Rhodesia), where he was engrossed in building up yet another farm when he met his death, in dealing with a bull, on 30 December 1949.[3]


  1. ^ Lupton, C.A. , The Lupton Family in Leeds, Wm. Harrison and Son 1965
  2. ^ a b c Powell, Alfred, Obituary, The Times, 7 January 1950
  3. ^ a b c d e f Powell, Oswald , Bedales Chronicle, March 1950
  4. ^ "Ernest Gimson and the Arts & Crafts Movement in Leicester". 
  5. ^ "The Edward Barnsley Workshop". 
  6. ^ Thomas, B. H., The Institution of Automobile Engineers Proceedings, Journal, 1920, pp. 603-646
  7. ^ "British Listed Buildings".