Limnerslease The home of GF & Mary Watts

I mentioned in a post earlier this year, a trip I made to Watts Gallery situated in Surrey in the village of Compton, close to Guildford. The gallery houses the work of the famous sculptor & artist George F Watt and his wife Mary, also renowned for her own artistic work. Since then I had the pleasure of visiting Limnerslease, which was their autumn and winter home.

*The name Limnerslease is unusual, but the word ‘Limner’ is old English for artist, and ‘Lease’ is to glean hope for the future.  The new house included a large studio for George, as well as a studio for Mary.  Much of the interior was designed and created by Mary. 

When George died in 1904, Mary made Limnerslease her main residence and following her death in 1938 the house was separated into 3 separate dwellings.The Watts Gallery Trust has now secured the east wing of the house.  Importantly this is where George’s studio is located, so the Trust is working on a restoration to turn the house back into the residence that George and Mary would recognise.  The Trust continues to look into securing the remainder of the house.*

(*information taken from the Watts Gallery website where you can arrange to have a guided tour of this amazing property.)

It was a chilly morning in February when I made my visit, yet the moment I walked into the house I felt warmed by the sheer cosiness. The decor with its rich vibrant colour was so inviting.


Stepping from the dark hallway we were lead by the tour guide through to a bright and sunny room where light was cascading through the long windows. Again full of colour.


The room was sparsely furnished with Arts & Crafts furniture, and your eyes were drawn to a very colourful rug in the centre of the floor, which appeared to echo the plastered designs which once embellished the alcove in this room.

DSC08195The original plasterwork can be seen in the photograph below and the remains of its existence can still be seen today.

Beautifully carved sliding panelled doors separate the the hallway from the living room.


The plastered ceilings all have a story to tell ….but you will need to go on the tour to find out more!

This is only a taste of what there is to see at Limnerslease. I would highly recommend booking on a tour. Once you have finished the tour, head to the Mary Watts Studios to see more of her work amazing work and if you haven’t viewed the Watts Chapel yet aim for there too!

Watts Gallery are holding an open day on Sunday 16 September to view  the gallery and  studios from  11am – 5pm. Take advantage of this free day and whilst there why not book a return visit for a tour of Limnerslease! Follow this link for further information.


Watts Gallery, Surrey – dedicated to the work of George Fredric Watts & Mary Watts

One of my favourite places to visit in Surrey is Watts Gallery located near the village of Compton.


George Fredric Watts (1817-1904)  was widely considered to be the greatest painter of the Victorian era. He was a portraitist, sculptor, landscape painter and symbolist.


He studied only theoretically at the Royal Academy schools, having been apprentice to the studio of sculptor, William Behnes, when he was just 10 years old. His was a natural talent, recognised by his father at this young age. In later years he said that he could not remember a time when he did not draw. His first picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy when he was just 20 years old and he continued to exhibit there throughout his life.



images-8During his travels round Europe he visited Paris, then traveled south through France ending his travels in Italy. This period of travel and discovery was hugely influential on Watts. His love of Italy earned him the nickname ‘Signor’, which stayed with him into old age. He earned the title England’s Michelangelo.

In the 1880s Watts built a gallery extension onto his studio home at Little Holland House, Kensington, and opened it to the public from 2 to 6pm every weekend. He believed that art should be accessible to all. This was reflected in this project and in his support of schemes that took art into the poor areas of London through exhibitions and the creation of new galleries.

During this time Watts painted some of his most memorable and iconic images, including Hope (pictured below), which inspired artists and thinkers internationally, and Mammon, his great protest against the destructive motivating force of greed that was prevalent in society.

b84520cfe5fcc741efcc9a73085ddbd8‘Hope’ – one of my favourite paintings at Watts gallery

In 1886, at the age of 69, Watts married his second wife (32 years his junior) Scottish potter and designer Mary Seton Fraser-Tytler. 


You can find out more information about Mary Watts here.

In 1889, to escape from the the London smogs which were causing health problems for Watts. George & Mary decided to seek a winter retreat from their Holland Park house and studio and stayed with friends in Compton. They quickly decided that this picturesque village nestled in the Surrey hills would make the ideal location for their own autumn/winter residence.

53f79bf015a706c7c57b0ecf0260ff7bThey leased land at Compton and commissioned Arts & Crafts architect Sir Ernest George to build their home Limnerslease pictured above. You can book a tour the house today via the Watts Gallery website 

Limnerslease was very much an artists’ home. Its name comes from ‘Limner’ — the Old English word for artist — and ‘lease’ — to glean hope for the future. Mary was not the only one who found new inspiration in Compton; George set up a new studio designed with his large canvases in mind and desire for good light, a place where he was able to work on the many pieces that he had been meditating on throughout his career.



George & Mary pictured outside Limnerslease

Knowing that the local church needed to acquire more land for burials, they offered to pay for the building of a mortuary chapel. In 1895 Mary began giving the villagers of Compton the opportunity to make decorative terracotta tile that would adorn the exterior of Watts Chapel. This was completed in 1898. Mary then created decorative gesso interior assisted by a number of local women. Today her rich designs incorporating the motifs of many different religions and cultures remain unaltered.


Even today, Watts Chapel never ceases to amaze me each time I visit. Behind its attractive terracotta exterior lies a hidden gem, thanks to the dedicated hard work of Mary & the local people of Compton. It’s certainly worth a visit!

Watts Chapel is recognised as one of the most original and fascinating buildings in Britain, a fusion of art nouveau, Celtic, Romanesque and individual style.

Mary went on to establish the Compton Potters’ Arts Guild, a local pottery cooperative that gained contracts from Liberty & Co. and commissions from the most important architects of the era including Edwin Lutyens and Clough Williams-Ellis. The Guild would provide employment in the village of Compton until 1956.

During his last years, Watts also turned to sculpture, completing his most famous work, Physical Energy, in 1902. The original cast remains in the gallery today. Bronze casts are also replicated in Cape Town and in London’s Kensington Gardens.

Watts also instigated a memorial garden of everyday heroes in the form of a 50 foot-long open gallery situated near St Paul’s Cathedral in London called Postman’s Park.

It consists of a series of poignant tablets dedicated to individuals who lost their lives heroically attempting to save another.


Watts Gallery was opened on 1 April 1904, exactly three months before Watts’s death on 1 July 1904. Visit the Watts Gallery website for opening times.


info via

Standen – An Arts & Crafts House



One of my favourite places to visit each year is Standen House. The reason I love this property so much is because of the connection with William Morris. I have a passion for the designs he created – perhaps because of the rich palette of colours with their inspiration from nature which appeals to me, but for whatever reason, I never tire of seeing them.

This Arts & Crafts house and gardens is located in East Grinstead, West Sussex, England. Now managed by the National Trust, the property was built between 1891 and 1894 by the architect Philip Webb (a friend of William Morris) for a prosperous solicitor James Beale, his wife Margaret, and their family.

It is decorated with Morris carpets, fabrics and wallpapers, and the garden complements the beauty of the house. 



I can only describe Standen as a very welcoming home. Each time I visit I feel a cosiness about it, as I wonder through its rooms…. if that can be said of a stately home!



You can discover information about the Arts & Crafts movement through the beautiful collection of furniture, embroideries and pottery found within its walls.


William Morris …..

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.

I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.”


The Beale family


Image & info via The National Trust website

The Beales were originally a non-conformist family from Birmingham, with seven children and many more grandchildren. Standen became a real family home, wrapped up in idyllic childhood memories.


Estate & Gardens

The estate was formed from three farms which the Beales purchased in 1890. They started planting the 12-acre garden almost immediately using the site of an 18th century garden and orchard. In early 1891 trees were planted, a yew hedge established an the kitchen garden begun.

Webb chose a mixture of natural styles combining old-fashioned formality and compartmentalised gardens in the final design.



The resulting Arts and Crafts garden used local materials for its formal elements, and loose plantings amongst yew hedges, trellis and pergolas, emphasising, natural colour schemes and subtle combinations of colour and foliage, definitely complimenting the beautiful Arts & Crafts house.



Information about the collection at Standen, please go to and search for Standen.

Remaining images taken by me

Trip to a Silk Mill



My love for textiles lead me to visit the Whitchurch Silk Mill located in Hampshire. It’s the oldest silk mill in the UK still in its original building and full of industrial history.


The mill was bought by John Hide of Whitchurch. He installed a new waterwheel and three water powered ‘tappet’ looms to replace the 50 year old wooden treadle looms operated by muscle power. His son James, pictured below, took over the mill in 1905 and remained there until his death aged 92.


One if the products woven at the mill was silk gaberdine and silk linings for Burberry raincoats. Thomas Burberry, had married into the Hide family.

When visiting you will see the original mill wheel and Victorian machinery still being used which were powered by the water mill until the late 1920s.

Definitely worth a visit! Open until the 1st October 2017 when they will be closing for refurbishment but I’m happy to say they will be due to re-open July 2018.

Information via the Whitchurch Silk Mill website