Visit Farnham - History & Craft
Farnham has a magnificent history, with evidence of Stone Age, Roman and Saxon dwellings found here. Many of the Georgian buildings conceal structures of Tudor or even earlier times. England’s first Cistercian abbey was built near Farnham. The now ruins of Waverley Abbey are situated in a peaceful loop of the River Wey and still give an impression of the solitude experienced by the monks who founded a monastery here almost 900 years ago.
The Town is crowned by a 12th century castle overlooking the heart of Farnham, built in 1138 AD by Henry de Blois, grandson of William the Conqueror and has been occupied for nearly 900 years, mostly by the powerful Bishops of Winchester. Monarchs from King John to Queen Victoria have all visited, whilst Henry VIII was a regular guest during his boyhood. When Elizabeth I visited, she bought her Court along too and ran the country from Farnham for six months!
Known for its pottery since Roman times, thanks to the white clay on which the town is built, craft is woven into Farnham’s history.
Wool cloth manufacturing developed from the 16th century and later, the industrial revolution reinvigorated the pottery industry. Farnham School of Art opened in 1866, paving the way for crafting to take off more broadly. Its curriculum included crafts. Meanwhile, the likes of architect Harold Falkner, garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and potter Mary Watts, promoted crafts through their daily work.
The University for the Creative Arts (UCA) succeeded the art school and today teaches ceramics, glass, tailoring, fine art, textile, jewellery and silversmithing. It also houses galleries open to the public.
In the community Farnham Maltings, the Crafts Study Centre, the New Ashgate Gallery and the Rural Life Museum are key to promoting art and crafts but in people’s homes, schools, in the shops and village halls, crafters are also busily making, fashioning, painting, weaving, stitching and working their materials.
World Craft Town
The World Crafts Council designated Farnham as England’s first World Craft Town in 2020, inviting the town into an international fellowship of artists and putting Farnham on the world craft map. Craft town status has helped local crafters expand opportunities for learning about crafting and to support established crafters develop their expertise.
October Craft Month is a month-long celebration every October where local crafters, artists, retailers and educators put together a programme chock-a-block with workshops, demonstrations, fairs and exhibitions. October is the perfect time to visit to find out more about crafting. Keep an eye on www.farnhamcrafttown.com for details.