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"A great pleasure to see so much skill and creativity." [VA, Gloucestershire]

18th-27th August 2018

Workshop Visit to The Edward Barsnley Workshop

Celebration of Craftsmanship & Design


18th - 27th August 2018


Workshop Visit to The Edward Barsnley Workshop

We were recently pleased to be able to spend a couple of fascinating hours at The Edward Barnsley Workshop near Petersfield, in Hampshire.  Whilst we knew quite a bit about the history, the educational trust and the quality of craftsmanship before our visit, our tour by workshop manager James Ryan, himself a former Barnsley apprentice, helped us to put all of these bits together and gave them context.

The newly renovated woodsheds.

James met us outside at the woodsheds, which were relocated and expertly renovated last year as part of the workshops ongoing expansion and development.  He explained that the Barnsley way is to buy the timber they use as a felled log and to then direct and oversee its conversion into useable boards.  This requires considerable expertise and skill but ensures that the workshop receives the best possible materials when the boards have finally dried.  James’s passion for this part of the process was obvious to us as he described the various benefits of such attention to detail and his delight at being able to describe to clients the exact part of the tree that a particular piece of timber within their commission has come from.

Apprentice Ian Towers working at The Edward Barsley Workshop.

As we moved inside, we viewed the machine shop and discussed the exciting building works that are due to start soon to provide much need extra space for the workshop and to facilitate an increase in the number of apprentices that the workshop is able to train each year.  Passing on knowledge and training the next generation of furniture makers has always been central to the Barnsley workshop with Edward Barnsley taking on his first apprentice in 1924 and eventually founding of the Edward Barnsley Educational Trust in 1980.  To date, the trust has supported more than sixty people and the quality of training that is provided is second to none.  Emphasis is placed on hand skills for the first three months of training before machinery skills are introduced to give apprentices a thorough understanding of their craft.

Simon Bulley with his winning entry 'Lines in the Sand' at Celebration of Craftsmanship 2016.

Alan Peters was a former apprentice of Edward Barnsley and it was therefore wonderful to find that one of the 2016 winners of CCD’s annual student award, The Alan Peters Award for Excellence, has just started his apprenticeship in September.  Simon Bulley will now complete a one year apprenticeship that will help him build on an already promising start to a career as a fine furniture maker.


Recent work by the Barnsley workshop: Games Table and Rocking Chair.

The work that Simon will be involved with making will range from time honoured apprentice products such as simple but perfect breadboards through to bespoke private commissions and important commissions such as pieces for cathedrals, colleges and even palaces.  James is keenly aware of the legacy that Edward Barnsley has left behind after a lifetime of dedication to furniture and he is passionate about maintaining and promoting the quality and integrity that built such a reputation.  Barnsley designs have never been outlandish, instead they are honest in the Arts and Crafts style.  Time is taken to focus on every tiny aspect of each design to ensure that it is the best that it can be and then it is made with absolute precision to ensure a final piece that is perfect and will last many lifetimes.


Workshop manager James Ryan with a set of Barnsley library steps.

It is just left to say thank you to James Ryan for making us so welcome and if you are interested in visiting The Edward Barnsley Workshops, donating to The Edward Barnsley Educational Trust or even commissioning a piece he would certainly be very pleased to hear from you.  We look forward to seeing what exquisite pieces arrive at CCD in the coming years!

Images courtesy of The Edward Barnsley Educational Trust.



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