Home Life

Gimson’s sceptical attitude towards religious matters did not stand in the way of his friendship with Emily Anne Thompson, the cousin of the vicar at Duntisbourne Rouse, a small village near their craft community at Pinbury, Gloucestershire.

Ernest Gimson

Ernest Gimson

Emily Gimson

Emily Gimson

She was about three years younger than him and shared an interesting in music and folk traditions.

In November 1899 Gimson wrote to his mother from Pinbury:

 ‘Are you going to be surprised or has some little gossip reached you before this. I am told that it has been expected of me for some time and I hardly wonder at it.  No doubt Maggie and Sarah have more or less prepared you, as I imagine my behaviour to have prepared them.  Well, I’ve been falling in love and getting engaged - to Emmie Thompson.  I had a nice letter from her mother this morning and soon I hope to have another nice one from my mother.’

The couple were married in 1900.

Harry Davoll, the cabinet maker who worked with Gimson from November 1901, described Gimson as a tall, thin man, about six foot, while his wife was a very little woman. Davoll and his fellow craftsmen were often amused to see the couple coming across the fields to the Daneway workshop. Gimson walked with long strides while Emily trotted along beside him.

Alfred Powell who had been an architectural student in London with Gimson went to the Cotswolds early in 1901 to convalesce after a severe attack of pleurisy. Initially he stayed with the Gimsons and wrote to his mother:

'Mrs Gimson is a very nice little person with very brilliant blue eyes and does all she can think of to spoil me with comforts external and internal. I sit in a nice porch and have my meals and write etc. and in front of me is a great bank of yew trees beyond the lawn, with glimpses through to the wooded hill behind.’

The church at Duntisbourne Rouse where Ernest and Emily Gimson were married

The church at Duntisbourne Rouse where Ernest and Emily Gimson were married

Emily Gimson was very musical with a good singing voice. She used to play the piano for the Sunday night dances at the village hall at Sapperton. Margaret James, a pioneer of the English Folk Dance movement alongside Emily Gimson in the first decade of the 20th century, described her as:

‘An upright, springing little lady, with very blue eyes, who had cycled – sometimes walked – miles to her class and would walk miles back again.’

Although many friends and colleagues commented on the pleasure they took in the company of children, Ernest and Emily Gimson were childless.

During the First World War Emily Gimson worked every day in a hospital kitchen. After her husband’s death in 1919 she continued to play a major role in village life and also learnt to spin and weave on a handloom. She exhibited a length of hand-woven tweed at the Arts & Crafts Exhibition in 1926. Music making was a constant passion and she promoted the use of bamboo pipes and one-stringed viols. She taught children both to make the latter and ‘to bring out a soft melodious note with a handmade bow’. She died in January 1941.

The cottage at Pinbury

The cottage at Pinbury

The cottage at Sapperton

The cottage at Sapperton

Interior furnishings at Stoneywell Cottage

Interior furnishings at Stoneywell Cottage

What were his homes like?

According to Norman Jewson, Gimson, ‘preferred a rush-seated chair to an upholstered one, plain lime-washed walls to wallpapered, plain home-made food to imported luxuries. He was not a teetotaler, but was almost a total abstainer’. According to Harry Davoll he dismissed two men once for being drunk but would take an occasional half pint himself mainly to be sociable.

At Pinbury Gimson converted a farm building into a cottage where he lived until 1903. His close friend, Alfred Powell described the single large living room with its flagstone floor and white walls, ceilings, beams and joists. ‘A large black dresser, hung with gay and well-used crockery, a large settle at the  fireside, and an oak armchair and other rush-bottom chairs made on the pole lathe were its furniture.’ Photographs also show two old candle sconces on the wall above the simple fireplace, a rag rug at the hearth, books stored in the ceiling beams and a dresser stocked with traditional country pottery – jugs, pitchers and washing bowls.

In July 1903 Gimson and his wife moved to their new home at Sapperton. Gimson designed the house, known as The Leasowes himself and it was built by local craftsmen apart from the thatched roof. Gimson loved the soft curves and texture of thatch so much that he was prepared to use it even though it was not common in Gloucestershire. He employed a thatcher from Oxfordshire. Fred Griggs wrote:

’I heard a visitor once ask him the age of his house, expecting to hear a history. ‘Let me see,’ he replied, ‘it must be nearly seventeen years old.’ There was an excuse for the question, – modern houses do not look like that. Yet there was nothing old in the room except a clock and a few books and such like, nor anything that pretended to be old. Newly cut stone and oak, bright steel and glass, and white walls reflecting the sunshine – nothing was there but for use and comfort, and all without any sort of make-believe.’

Margaret James who taught at the school at Sapperton in the early years of the twentieth century recalled:

‘The welcome Mr and Mrs Gimson gave on those winter evenings had the magical quality of their home. Ernest Gimson combined sympathy and humour with knowledge about everything. He was a kindly wizard, who could tell us all about plants and animals, stars and cathedrals, politics and history, art and books. Little snorts of appreciation and of fun were characteristic of him, as he told. We sat, listening and talking, by candles and log-fire light.’

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Final Years