How It All Began

The Somerset Guild of Craftsmen is justifiably proud of its history and heritage of fine craftsmanship. The Guild’s roots lie in the small village of Pylle near Shepton Mallet where the church contains many fine artefacts created by the first Master of the Guild, Lt. Colonel James Garton and his associates. The Guild’s inaugural meeting was held in November 1933 and for many years its headquarters was in Taunton in the historic Spitals Almshouses, subsequently renamed St Margaret’s Guildhall. This thatched building, dating to Tudor times was unfortunately totally destroyed by fire in 1991.

Following the loss of its headquarters, the Guild held many exhibitions around the County, notably a large Annual Summer Exhibition in the Bishop’s Palace in Wells. However, in the late 1990’s the Guild moved into premises in Martock and was pleased to open its first full time gallery; ten years later the Guild was given the opportunity move to The Courthouse in Somerton in May 2006. In September 2015 the Guild moved once again, in search of a larger footfall in a much busier tourist destination and now has a permanent shop in The Courtyard on Broad Street in the beautiful City of Wells.

A list of members from 1949 included many crafts that we would recognise today, such as stained glass, textiles, wood and leather workers. However, some of the original crafts then included, such as thatchers, stone masons, carpenters and builders are today considered trades. The modern Guild still upholds the traditions and standards of fine design and craftsmanship laid down in 1933, whilst the range of techniques and crafts that are to be found in the gallery is very diverse, ranging from linocut prints and exquisite jewellery to tailoring, ceramics, contemporary textiles and many more.

To end on a light hearted note, here are some interesting quotes from Guild Minutes from earlier in its history:

September 1951: The Master agreed that Members should not lower their standard of work to appease the bad taste of customers.

March 1957: It was suggested that the lady members of the Guild hold an exhibition of their own work as the men seemed uninterested.

March 1968: Members who were exhibiting at The Bath Festival were advised that demonstrations must not damage the floor; therefore Mr Day decided not to shoe any horses and to withdraw his steam hammer.

November 1975: Guild funds were helped by a sweepstake on the outcome of the Miss World competition at The Royal Albert Hall.