Monday, 17 January 2011

Keswick School of Industrial Art

Keswick School of Industrial Art was established c1883/84 by Cannon Hardwicke Rawnsley of National Trust fame and his wife Edith. Initially established as an evening class in the Crosthwaite church parish rooms offering drawing, wood carving and design classes. These classes were a success and soon there was a need for a more permanent premises. With assistance from County Council the school buildings were built and opened in 1894. These still stand and are currently a restaurant.

The school produced works in copper, brass, silver, silver plate, pewter, stainless steel and wood. All sort of items were made including dishes, trivets, jardinières, fire screens and their signature split tube box trays, to name a few. 

They employed influential designers such as Harold Stabler (Poole Pottery) and W H Mawson the son of the famous landscape garden designer Thomas and received national recognition exhibiting and winning numerous awards, including at the  The Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society exhibitions from 1888.


KSIA ware are generally easy to recognise. For the most part they are clearly marked. Several Mark were used all were variant on the school initials KSIA either in a diamond or in line on smaller items such as napkin rings.
Some unmarked items do exist and it is generally accepted that these items did not reach Edith Rawnsley's high level of quality, so left without the "hallmark"


For an enterprise rooted in the Arts and Crafts tradition associated with John Ruskin they managed to survive until 1984. They managed to adapt their design influences in the 1930's to popular art deco style with it's simple plain undecorated shapes. Often using the newly discovered Firth Staybright stainless steel. After the closure of the school in 1984 metal working continued the Arts and Crafts traditional in the form of Lakeland Rural Industries (LRI)




Today, "Keswick" is an accept quality collectors item with many collectors seeking different and perfect examples. From experience, collector generally seek early copper and brass items from the 1885-1915 period with a high premium being paid for hallmarked silver items. The plainer stainless steel and pewter from the 1930's are much underrated and represent very good value. These should not be mistaken with later 1960's 70's examples for which there is little demand and can be picked up cheaply. They quite often fail to sell on ebay and even linger on bootsale stalls when only a few pounds.




There much more to say about the School and I hope to revisit this subject with more on the designers and marks. For more information try www.allerdale.gov.uk


The book on the subject is comprehensive; Click the link below for details




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