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Ragged Schools in glass painting and making toys when she was 14. The Ladies Guild was there to help those who didn’t have husbands or fathers to support them; to give them some form of income to support their families.


Octavia Hill was born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, a fenland market town with many beautiful buildings one of which I volunteer at, Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House Museum. It is a small independent museum that celebrates her life and work and really needs to be seen! The


museum also provides information on many of her contemporaries, including Ruskin and William Morris. I have always liked this era – the Arts and Crafts movement, typified by Morris’ oft-quoted “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. The colours and designs of Morris and his colleagues are those people would recognise as “Liberty prints”.


The house is a listed building and its contents and information about Octavia and those she knew, made me think I


really wanted to start


the local crafts club there. I wanted a community project to bring local people together to learn a new craft. It’s not intended to be a ladies guild – the notion of helping women who don’t have a man is perhaps a tad out of date – but the ethos of helping people help themselves is something that works really well in this climate.


With less money available for travel or buying new things, we are


114 | ukhandmade | Spring 2012


all


focussing more on the home, especially when we discover how to make things ourselves. The idea of buying things made in far away countries also leads us to consider whehter doing it ourselves will be more ecologically sound and of course more satisfying.


Wisbech is also known, frustratingly, as a place where migrants have come in and “taken our jobs” and that the local population don’t get on with them. While the economics and demographics of the area are written about elsewhere, I do know that there are plenty of people who do not fit the angry descriptions I’ve seen. It’s not all poor peasant farmers, either, to put it bluntly.


There is a thriving community supporting the heritage of the area and many peoples are also involved in the local arts festival – set to be bigger this year to celebrate the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee and also the centenary of Octavia Hill’s death.


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