Edward Barnsley was born in 1900. His father Sidney, uncle Ernest and their friend Ernest Gimson were furniture makers and designers who had been inspired by William Morris and embraced his ideas. In 1893 they moved from London to the Cotswolds to put their beliefs into practice, establishing a Cotswolds tradition of furniture making. As a young boy Edward Barnsley would spend hours with his father in his workshop, studying his techniques and his attention to detail. As such, he developed a deep appreciation for craftsmen and their work: meticulous in their selection of the finest timbers, and carefully working them by hand with immense precision.
In 1910 Edward was sent to Bedales school near Petersfield in Hampshire. The school encouraged the learning of practical skills and valued craftwork, and he would return to Hampshire in 1920 to begin formal training in Geoffrey Lupton’s workshop in Froxfield. There he assisted Lupton on the construction of a new library at his old school Bedales, designed by Ernest Gimson. Just three years later, on Lupton’s retirement Edward took over the workshop and the management of its employees. Initially the workshop produced furniture in the tradition of his father, but by the late 1930s Edward began to design along more modernist lines, and after the war he incorporated his interest and admiration for 18th century furniture into his designs.
Clean lines, along with subtle and very simple decorative details dominated Barnsley’s work; exposed dovetails, drawers and cupboards with unusual pulls and latches, as well as intriguing exotic wood grains all come together in his furniture to create beautifully balanced and unique examples of skilled craftsmanship.
Barnsley also invested much of his time and energy into the training of young apprentices, passing down the essential knowledge and techniques of making. Barnsley’s own legacy continues today; in 1980 a trust was established in his name to preserve the educational training opportunities at the workshop, and today these makers produce an array of innovative furniture designs to the high standards of workmanship established by Barnsley almost 100 years ago.
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