Arthur William Simpson Biography

Early Life and Apprenticeship of Arthur William Simpson

Arthur William Simpson, known as "A.W.S." to his family, friends, workmen, and many clients, was an influential Master Craftsman from the Arts and Crafts Movement. Born in Highgate, Kendal, on December 7th, 1857, in the heart of England's Lake District, Simpson showed early talent in carving, often using a pocket knife to carve sticks from a willow tree in his garden. At 14, he was apprenticed to Robert Rigg, a new cabinet-making company. Although initially not focused on wood carving at Rigg's, Simpson soon sought opportunities to refine his carving skills and joined Gillows of Lancaster as an apprentice carver in 1875.

Arthur William Simpson's Career Development and Teaching Commitments

After learning a great deal about cabinet making at Gillows and working briefly for Samuel Barfield in Leicester, Simpson returned to Kendal and opened his own business as an 'Architectural and General Woodcarver' in 1881. However, after facing financial difficulties, he moved to London seeking work. Simpson's love for walking and his dedication to his craft led him to various parts of the country before he reestablished his business in Kendal in 1885. During this period, he also devoted much time to teaching, conducting evening classes in local villages and at the Keswick School of Industrial Art.

Arthur William Simpson's Family Life and Business Expansion

In 1887, Simpson became engaged to Jane Davidson, whom he married in 1888. Jane became an accomplished embroiderer and leather worker, contributing significantly to the company's output. Simpson's business grew to include a number of craftsmen working on both church and domestic interiors, carving, and furniture making. He was involved in various exhibitions and developed a close working relationship with Alexander Morton, supplying furniture for Morton's marriage in 1900.

Arthur William Simpson's Artistic Philosophy and Major Works

Simpson was known for his meticulous craftsmanship and preference for quarter-sawn oak. His most important interior work was for 'Blackwell', designed by M.H. Baillie Scott, where he executed all internal woodwork and carving. His philosophy, influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement, focused on detailed personal attention to each work, a trait he maintained throughout his career.

The Legacy of Arthur Simpson and His Son Hubert

Arthur Simpson died in 1922, leaving a legacy of exceptional craftsmanship and design. His son Hubert continued the company, adapting to modern styles while maintaining the quality of his father's work. Hubert's designs were exhibited at The Red Rose Guild in Manchester. The Handicrafts closed in 1950, marking the end of a significant era in Arts and Crafts history.

Researched and written by Tony Geering.