Norman Jewson, pencil drawing by Sir William Rothenstein, 1911
|Born||12 February 1884
Norwich, Norfolk, England
|Died||28 August 1975
Norman Jewson (12 February 1884 – 28 August 1975) was an English architect-craftsman of the Arts and Crafts movement, who practiced in the Cotswolds. He was a distinguished, younger member of the group which had settled in Sapperton, Gloucestershire, a village in rural southwest England, under the influence of Ernest Gimson. Surviving into old age, he brought their ideas and working methods into the second half of the twentieth century. His book of reminiscences has become established as a minor classic of the English Arts and Crafts movement. His repair of the Tudor Owlpen Manor in 1925–26 is often regarded as his most representative and successful work.
Jewson was born in 1884 of a family of the long-established Jewson timber merchants in Norwich, Norfolk, and spent all his early life in East Anglia. He went up to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
He served his articles in the architectural practice of Herbert [Bertie] Ibberson in London, which he ‘disliked as a place to live in permanently the longer [he] stayed there’. Ibberson had worked in the same office as Gimson, Ernest Barnsley and Alfred Hoare Powell under J.D. Sedding, in the ‘crafted Gothic’ tradition, with a love of handicraft. Like William Morris, Philip Webb and Norman Shaw, Sedding had been a pupil of George Edmund Street.
Jewson describes, in his autobiographical reminiscences, By Chance I did Rove (1951), how, having finished his apprenticeship in 1907, he set out with a donkey and trap on a sketching tour in the Cotswolds, ‘a part of the country little known at that time’. He had no idea that he would stay there for the rest of his life.
Ibberson had recommended him to visit the workshops of Ernest Gimson, who soon took him on as an ‘improver’, or unpaid assistant and put him to work at making sketches from life and studying the crafts of modelled plasterwork, woodcarving and design for metalwork.
For Gimson, architecture and the crafts were vitally interdependent. He describes how, as part of his training under Gimson, he was encouraged to draw a different wild flower every day from nature, noting its essential characteristics and adapting it to a formal pattern suitable for modelled plasterwork, wood-carving or needlework.
Jewson soon became an invaluable member of the group, and a pupil, friend and close companion of Gimson in his later years. In 1911 he married Ernest Barnsley’s daughter, Mary (1889–1966), and converted for himself a group of cottages at Bachelor’s Court in Sapperton.
He supervised much of Gimson’s architectural and repair work. He writes that he admired in Gimson an assured distinction, traditional in the use of the best craftsmanship and materials, where in design grace of form was combined with simplicity; these are the qualities of his own best architectural work. He set up in practice on his own in 1919 and soon gained a reputation for the sympathetic conservation and adaptation of old buildings. His credo was clear:
|“||My own buildings I wanted to have the basic qualities of the best old houses of their locality, built in the local traditional way in the local materials, but not copying the details which properly belonged to the period in which they were built… I hoped that my buildings would at least have good manners and be able to take their natural place in their surroundings without offence.||”|
He worked confidently in a classical idiom in his country houses, when necessity or the spirit of place demanded it, as Norman Shaw, Edwin Lutyens and, in the Cotswolds, Guy Dawber had done. The Lindens, Norwich (1921), and The Garden House, Westonbirt, are some of his most successful essays in a whimsical, vernacular classicism, with characteristically fine plasterwork detail and restrained use of mouldings. He travelled whenever he could in Italy, making sketches of architectural details, lettering, farm carts, landscapes and village scenes. Many of these are now at Owlpen Manor in Gloucestershire.
As John Ruskin had taught in the Lamp of Truth, working by hand was working with joy. And in accordance with Ruskin’s advice to Sedding, Jewson always had either pencil or chisel in his hand, acutely involved in the simple craft processes of building, experimenting and practising with delight, familiarizing himself with the qualities of tested materials, tools and techniques, rediscovering, reviving the fabrics, textures and disciplines of traditional construction, from drystone walling in the Cotswolds, and cob, which he used with success on his summer house at Lane End, Kilve, in the Quantock Hills, to twisted gut in a weather-clock set above a row of simple almshouses.
He worked for a time with William Weir, a skilful architect in the repair of old buildings and churches, such as Salle, in Norfolk, on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and The Priest’s House at Muchelney. He also assisted Ernest Barnsley, supervising the completion of Rodmarton Manor when Barnsley died in 1925, most notably the chapel (1929). Rodmarton was Ernest Barnsley’s most important work; ‘probably’, Jewson wrote, ‘the last house of its size to be built in the old leisurely way, with all its timber grown from local woods, sawn on the pit and seasoned before use.’
In 1925, he purchased Owlpen Manor, whose repair is often considered his outstanding work. His other major architectural repair work was at Campden House (formerly Combe House) outside Chipping Campden, where he demolished some untidy Victorian additions and domestic offices, unifying with the skilled use of detail and materials a cluttered design of various dates to form a pleasing and comfortable house, with terraced garden and summerhouse.
He became established as a well-known ‘gentleman’s architect’ in the Cotswolds between the Wars, working on a number of distinguished Cotswold manor houses and farmhouses (listed below), and adapting historic buildings to modern uses.
He executed church repair work (Chalford, near Stroud, was re-ordered by him), and designs for memorials, inscriptions, headstones, and lettering; also for metalwork, as Gimson had done, including sconces, chimney furniture and gates, and architectural leadwork.
He turned his hand to the woodcarving of details such as finials and newels for his houses. A number of furniture designs are strikingly successful, from the fine piano-case with marquetry inlay, made by Waals, which he designed for Mrs Clegg of Wormington Grange, to the sturdy child’s chair with back splats showing humorous carvings of village characters which he made and painted himself, as well as a number of toys, for his daughters.
- Aycote House, Rendcomb (new house, for I. Naylor, 1931)
- Alvescote Lodge, Oxfordshire (1923)
- Bachelor's Court, Sapperton (alterations, for himself)
- Battledown Manor, Cheltenham (cottage and garden house and pool; gates)
- Battledown (Oakfield)
- Box (new house, 1928)
- Campden House, near Chipping Campden (alterations and repairs, demolition of chapel and S wing, 1928–34)
- Charlton Park (new house, 1931)
- Chipping Campden (house for Ben Chandler)
- Christ Church, Chalford, near Stroud (reordering and furnishings, including lectern, screen, panelling, font, c. 1934-7)
- Charlton Abbots, near Andoversford (manor house, alterations)
- Chedworth (The Orchard, for Mr Levey)
- Chipping Campden (The Old Plough; Old Kings Arms [with sign by Griggs]; Studio; St James's Church [communion rails, altar, screens, panelling, 1945–58])
- Coates, Cirencester (two houses: Fosse Hill, for F.B. Swanwick, c. 1923, and The Setts House, for A. McKillop, c. 1924)
- Cirencester (almshouses in Barton Lane, 1929; Bowley almshouses in Watermoor Road, 1927); Greywalls [today Hunters], 1927; Barclays Bank, 1923)
- Climperwell (house and granary, 1930)
- Cotswold Farm (with his most extensive garden, on a hillside; plasterwork; for Maj. Birchall, c. 1926)
- Doughton Manor, near Tetbury (repairs for Col. F.A. Mitchell, 1933)
- Dumbleton (war memorial, 1921)
- Down Ampney (cottages, alterations)
- Elkstone (Pike Cottage, alterations)
- Foxcote (house and cottage, 1929)
- Frome Top, Minchinhampton, 1923 (Grade II Listed)
- Garden House, Westonbirt (new house and cottage for Capt Guy Hanmer, 1939–40)
- Glenfall House (for Arthur Mitchell, also a patron of both Waals and Griggs)
- Greenway Farm, near Cheltenham (alterations)
- Hidcote House (repairs, 1924-5)
- Hill Court, near Berkeley (vase urns)
- Kelmscott, Lechlade (completion of Morris memorial cottages and village hall, 1933)
- Iles Farm and cottage, Far Oakridge (for Sir William Rothenstein)
- Lane End, Kilve, Somerset (cottage for himself); also Rowditch, in Kilve)
- Lechlade, St Lawrence's Church (communion rails)
- The Lindens, Eaton, Norwich (drawing room, plasterwork, for his mother, 1921)
- Llysgennydd, St David's, Pembrokeshire (for Kenneth Pringle)
- Little Wolford Manor, Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire
- Nutbeam Farm, Duntisbourne Leer
- Owlpen Manor, near Uley
- Painswick Lodge (completion of Ernest Barnsley's plans, cottage and gardens, 1925–33)
- Painswick (cottage for Mrs Seddon, 1920)
- Poulton Grange (1929)
- Ready Token, Poulton, Gloucestershire (house to butterfly plan, 1928-9)
- Redmarley D'Abitot (Down House)
- Rodmarton Manor (chapel and leadwork) (completion of project)
- Salle Church, Norfolk (seating)
- Shipton Oliffe Manor, Andoversford(alterations to manor house; cottages and stables)
- Siddington (reading room and cottage)
- Souldern, Oxfordshire (gateway to church)
- South Cerney (cottages)
- Southrop Manor, Lechlade (alterations and plasterwork, 1926 and 1932-9)
- Swalecliffe, Oxfordshire (alterations to cottages and park, 1937)
- Sydenhams Farm, Bisley
- Througham Court, Bisley (house repairs and garden landscaping for the novelist Michael Sadleir, 1929)
- Througham Slad (large NE wing converted for William Cadbury, 1931)
- Warren's Gorse, Daglingworth (1922)
- Westington (alterations for the illustrator, graphic designer and stained glass artist Paul Woodroffe, 1925)
- Weston-sub-Edge (lych gate, 1922)
- Woeful Dane, Minchinhampton
- Wormington Grange (west garden, ?Ionic loggia, gates, repairs, works to Old Rectory and Grange Farm, for Mrs Henry Gordon Clegg, 1930s)
Jewson wrote two books: By Chance I did Rove is recognised as a minor classic of the background to the Gimson group and Cotswold life before the First World War, appearing in three editions, and The Little Book of Architecture (1940; reprinted) is a useful beginner’s guide to English architectural styles. He wrote a number of poems, illustrated for his friends, and would declaim a Victorian peep show in a whining, sing-song drone.
He did little professional work after 1940, and felt increasingly at odds with modernism and the historical-artistic developments of the post-war period. He died suddenly at his house in Sapperton in 1975, aged 91, when the art historian David Gould wrote the following account:
|“||His architectural work has a dignity and simplicity in keeping with the traditional Cotswold manner. His buildings look as if they had grown naturally from the ground. He was equally skilled and sym-pathetic in the restoration of old houses, the most notable of which is the romantic and unique gabled manor house of Owlpen, in the Cotswolds, which he bought in a dilapidated condition in  and restored at his own cost and, alas, ultimate loss. His friend F.L. Griggs, RA, inscribed and dedicated his etching of Owlpen (1930) to him.
Norman Jewson, with Fred Griggs and the poet and essayist Russell Alexander, were a trio of friends whose hearts beat as one in their regard and love for all that was finest in the English tradition. Their appreciation of sturdy architecture and the traditions of the English countryside was not the backward-looking dream of the medievalist harping upon a once golden age. They were realists whose desire was to maintain the character of the English countryside and its architecture and keep it alive and free from hideous modern accretions. Traditional things, long tested and tried, were not to be indiscriminately cast aside.
Jewson was content to pursue his own unfashionable path, never deviating from his high ideals and what he knew to be right. He produced many delicate watercolours and a number of poems of much felicity. Always courteous and with a charm which comes from a man at peace with himself, he was a delightful companion, whether on a long ramble through Sapperton woods, or at his own candlelit table where he always had a fund of comic and entertaining reminiscences…
- Nicholas Mander, Owlpen Manor, Gloucestershire: a short history and guide to a romantic Tudor manor house in the Cotswolds (latest edition, Dursley, 2006). OCLC 57576417 ISBN 0-9546056-1-6
- Norman Jewson, By Chance I did Rove (Cirencester, 1951, 1973; Barnsley 1986)
- N. Mander, S. Verity and D. Wynne-Jones, Norman Jewson, Architect: 1884-1975 (Cirencester, 1987)