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The story of the Guild can be told in many ways. This page introduces the individual stories of some of the men and women who played a major part in its history, offering a perspective of how their involvement arose and the nature of their contribution. All are remarkable figures in their own right and several would justify individual biographies.








Eric Gill  (1882 - 1940)  -  Member of Guild 1920-1924  - Typographer, engraver, sculptor

The most famous member of the Guild and the inspiration behind its foundation.  He was born into a large family and raised in the non-Conformist religious tradition. Abandoning early training as an Architect, he took to lettering and stone carving in his early twenties. A move to Hammersmith 1905 led to friendship with Edward Johnson and Hilary Pelper, something which was to continue when Gill, seeking a rural environment, moved to Ditchling in 1907. There his ideas continued to develop along with his artistic reputation; he was received into the Catholic Church in 1913 and  soon afterwards was awarded the commission for the Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral, the brilliant realisation of which was to establish his pre-eminence among contemporary sculptors.

His growing concern with self-sufficiency was the driving force behind the foundation of the Guild in 1921, while his restless nature led to its first crisis when he left to found a new community in the remote Welsh hamlet of Capel y ffin in 1924, returning to London in 1928. His range of work continued to grow throughout his lifetime,  encompassing typography, book design, engraving, social campaigning and sculpture. His Catholicism however, was some way from being orthodox, his version modifying traditional teaching so as to permit full reign to his considerable sexual appetites. The details of his activities were recorded in his personal diaries, revealing the abuse of his daughters and destroying his moral credibility; nevertheless, his creative legacy remains.

TV programme  Radio programme - 1961  Radio programme - 1992

Eric Gill site  The Eric Gill Society








Edward Johnston  (1872 - 1944) - Not a Guild Member - Typographer

Johnson was responsible for a revival in interest in the art of lettering that took place in the early twentieth century and a major influence on Gill in the early stages of his artistic career. He followed Gill to Ditchling in 1917 and was instrumental in developing the idea of the Guild. He was a religious man, but could not meet the Guild's requirement for conversion to Catholicism, partly due to his wife's Presbyterianism. Nevertheless, he remained part of the wider Ditchling craft community for the rest of his life. His most famous work is his designs for the lettering for the London Underground, a revolutionary script which is the forebear of modern computer fonts such as Arial.

The Edward Johnston Foundation




Hilary Pepler (1878-1951) - Member of the Guild 1920 - 1934 - Writer, printer.


Pepler had an eclectic career, starting a social worker when he came under Gill's influence at Hammersmith. Gill interested Pepler in the art of lettering which led to involvement in publishing. and eventually printing when he moved to Ditchling in 1916 to set up the St Dominic's Press, using a traditional handpress in preference to a more automated device. In the same year he abandoned his Quaker faith for Catholicism.  He published The Game, with Gill and Johnson, airing the views which would lie behind the foundation of the Guild. His friendship with Gill was broken by Gill's move to Wales, and was never to recover, despite the marriage of Pepler's son and Gill's daughter in 1927. His interests spread beyond the Guild in the 1930's into the arena of drama and mime. His insistence on employing a non-Catholic assistant led to his acrimonious departure in 1934, his printing business continuing under the name The Ditchling Press. His mimes were performed widely in Europe and the US to great critical acclaim.




Father Vincent McNabb (1868-1943) - Not a Guild Member - Dominican Monk and Priest

McNabb played a crucial role in introducing religious ideas to Gill's and Pepler's analysis of society's ills. He arrived in Ditching in 1914, armed with ideas about the condition of labour which were to make a great impression on Gill and Pepler, albeit at the expense of their close relationship with Johnson. McNabb was, in effect, spiritual advisor to the project, also securing loans from the Dominican Order to underwrite it. With Gill's departure, he withdrew and the loans were repaid. His outstanding intellect and powerful preaching ensured that he remained a major force in Catholic circles for the rest of his life.

The Vincent McNabb Society




Desmond Chute  (1895 - 1957) - Member of the Guild 1920-1921- Engraver, later Priest

Chute had a brief but important role in the foundation of the Guild. He was born in Bristol and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1912 and later became friends with Stanley Spenser. Having met Gill  1918, he soon moved to Ditchling to learn stone carving and engraving. He was to leave the Guild however in 1921 in order too enter the priesthood. In a letter to Chute in 1940, Gill confided "how much I love you and how much I owe you" and it is fair to suggest that his departure was an important factor in Gill's alienation from the Guild.

Later he moved for his health to Rapallo in Italy, where he was a friend of Ezra Pound, and one of the Tigullian Circle around him.



Joseph Cribb (1892 -1967)  - Member of the Guild 1920 - 1967 - Stone Carver

Cribb was apprenticed to Gill in 1906 and followed him to Ditchling.  Having served  in WWI, he returned to Ditchling and became a member of the Guild very soon after its foundation. He took charge of the stonemason's shop after Gill's departure, specialising in inscriptions and decorative carvings for new buildings; he did a lot of work for the Brighton Architects John Denman and eventually had his own apprentices, John Skelton, Noel Tabbernor and Kenneth Eager. He continued to work a until his death, a true hero of the Guild.



Commander Herbert Shove (1886 - 1943) - Not a Guild member - Distributist, Ditchling resident

An important influence on the guild. He served in WWI as a submarine Commander during which time he became a Roman Catholic. After the war he lived at Hallett's Farm in Ditchling and was in close touch with Guild members. He was a an authority on numerous matters such as silversmithing and bee-keeping but above all, he published important tracts on Distributism, in particular The Fairy Ring of Commerce, (a history of commerce) in 1930 and contributing to Flee to the Fields (manifesto of the Catholic Land Movement) in 1934.

His brother, Gerald Shove, was an economist and a close associate of Maynard Keynes.

He was recalled to service in WWII and was awarded the DSO and the OBE; he is became ill while in service and died in 1943 at the RN Hospital, Durdham Down, Bristol.




David Jones (1895 - 1975) - Postulent of the Guild 1924 -1925 - painter and poet

After Gill, the most celebrated member of the Guild, due to his painting and his modernist war poem, In Parenthesis published in 1937.

In his youth he showed an enthusiasm for drawing which was interrupted by service in WWI. Having being drawn to Catholicism during the war, he was introduced to Ditchling by Fr John O'Connor (a friend of GK Chesterton) where he set about learning wood-engraving. He produced some remarkable murals for the Guild chapel, in particular, the painting of Christ being mocked by soldiers attired as English Tommies reveals something of the scars left by his war-time experience.  He became a Dominican Tertiary in 1923 but left to join Gill at Capel y ffin in December 1925. He was later to be briefly engaged to Gill's daughter, Petra.

Around 1927 he began to write the poetry that would establish his reputation. In 2002 he was  one of the twelve featured War Poets in an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum.




George Maxwell (1890 - 1957) - Member of the Guild 1921 - 1957

Maxwell was a wheelwright from Birmingham, knowledgeable in theology who was introduced to the Guild by Fr McNabb. He established the carpenter's shop which was to specialise in hand looms and church furniture.

Maxwell was devoted to the Distributist ideal, building his own house, maintaining his own smallholding as well as writing polemical essays on the movement. One son, Stephen, was killed while serving with the Gordon Highlanders at Anzio, Italy on 12 January 1944; another, Vincent, became a priest and the third son, John joined the Guild and continued the workshop after his father's death. One daughter, Teresa had a family which included another priest and his other daughter, Winifred, still lives in Ditchling.



Ethel Mairet (1872 - 1952) - Not a Guild member - Weaver

Ethel Mairet settled in Ditchling with her husband in 1918 and became a key member of the wider craft community. She wrote two books about weaving and dyeing and trained Petra Gill and Valentine KilBride.

Her husband, Philip, was a writer about craft matters.



Valentine KilBride (1897 - 1982) Member of the Guild 1926 - 1981 - Weaver

Disillusion with life as an industrial worker, Kilbride was attracted to the world of crafts and began to teach himself the art of traditional weaving in 1920. In 1922 he joined the Guild of St Margaret in Scotland where he was to develop his skills. When he was released by that guild he came to Ditchling to work for Ethel Mairet.  

Like Jones, he had heard of the Guild from Fr John O'Connor; he was to become a member in 1926, the year in which he married. Five of his six children were to become involved in weaving. Eventually the management of the workshop was taken over by his daughter Jenny.

His lasting contribution was to pioneer the revival of gothic style liturgical vestments, designed in a conical shape. Their use has become common to the present day.



Bernard Brocklehurst (1904 - 1996) - Member of the Guild - 1930 - 1941 - Weaver

Brocklehurst joined the Guild as KilBride's partner. When production was suspended in 1940 due a silk shortage, he left the area and did not return. He did however continue to work on liturgical vestments.




Philip Hagreen (1890 - 1988) - Member of the Guild 1930 -1955 - Engraver, letterer

Hagreen was a leading force in the foundation of the Society of Wood-Engravers in 1920; he visited Ditchling 1922, eventually following Gill to Capel y ffin in 1924. He returned to Ditchling as a member of the Guild in 1930 and becoming a member. His lettering continued the tradition established by Johnston and Gill of simplicity and clarity in lettering with his many engraved bookplate designs; he was also a committed distributist. He retired in 1957, but continued to paint watercolours.




Dunstan Pruden (1907-1974) - Member of the Guild 1934-1946; 1968-1974 - Silversmith

Pruden came to Ditchling in 1932 and became a full member of the Guild two years later. His book 'Silversmithing' was printed by St Dominic's Press and became the foundation for his part-time teaching career at Brighton Art College. He fulfilled hundreds of commission for ecclesiastical metalwork and in addition to working in silver and gold he made carvings in ivory.

Excerpts from unpublished autobiography




Winefride Pruden (1913 -2008) - Member of the Guild 1975 - 1988 - Silversmith, writer

She was taught the art of silversmithing by Dunstan and joined the Guild in 1975. She lectured widely and was the art critic for the Catholic publication The Tablet. A former President of the Society of Catholic Artists she was made one of the first Papal Dames in 1994.





Edgar Holloway (1914 - 2008) member of the Guild 1950 - 1988 - painter, graphic designer,  engraver, print-maker,

Edgar Holloway first came to Ditchling from in 1948 with an established reputation for drawing and print making. He learned the art of wood-engraving from Philip Hagreen and became a Guild member in 1950. For the next twenty years he turned away from engraving and concentrated on graphic design, continuing the tradition of fine hand-drawn lettering established by Gill and Johnston. In 1969 he turned to water-colours inspired by the landscapes of Wales and Sussex and in 1972 resumed engraving. He was chairman of the Guild when it closed in 1988. The last twenty years of his his life saw much interest in his work with several retrospectives.





John Skelton (1923 - 1999) - Not a Guild member   - Sculptor and lettercutter

Nephew of Eric Gill, he became apprenticed to Joseph Cribb after Gill's death in 1940. In 1942, he joined the Army, was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1944, and served in India, Burma, Malaya and Siam. On his return he worked as a stonemason, married Myrtle Bromley Martin, a silversmith and set up his first workshop at Burgess Hill, Sussex, in 1950. In 1958 the Skeltons moved their home, workshop and studios to Streat, near Ditchling. After his death, his daughter kept up the workshop, preserving the link between Ditchling and stonecutting.




Kenneth Eager (1929 -2013) - Member of the Guild 1974 -1988 - Stone cutter

Originally an apprentice to Joseph Cribb in 1945 and remained at the Guild until its closure after which he retired to Malta.




Jenny KilBride (1948 - ) - Member of the Guild 1974 - 1988 - Weaver & Dyer

The daughter of Valentine KilBride, Jenny learnt her skills from her father and in 1974 became the first woman to join the Guild. Having grown up at the Guild she still lives in Ditchling and is Chair of the Ditchling Museum Trustees.




Ewan Clayton (1956 - ) - Member of the Guild 1983 - 1988 - Calligrapher

Clayton is the grandson of Valentine KilBride and was the last member to join the Guild in 1982. He currently teaches calligraphy in England and abroad and is Research Professor in the Department of Art at the University of Sunderland. He has curated several exhibitions at Ditchling Museum about calligraphy and typography as well as exhibitions on David Jones and Edward Johnston.



Other members


Philip Baker - 1932-1939 - carpenter - brother-in-law of George Maxwell

Mark Pepler - 1932-1933 - printer - son of Hilary Pepler

Cyril Costick - 1932-1933 - printer

John Maxwell - 1958-1979 - carpenter - son of George Maxwell

Noel Knapp-Tabbernor - 1968-1978 - stonecutter

Thomas KilBride - 1960-1988 - weaver - son of Valentine KilBride