Court Barn Museum, Chipping Campden, has acquired an iconic brass candelabra created by Robert Welch (1929 – 2000), one of the foremost British designers and silversmiths of the late twentieth century.

Acquired with the support of the Art Fund and the Victoria and Albert Purchase Grant the piece, known as the Barrie candelabra, was designed by Welch in 1981 and made in his workshop in Chipping Campden by John Limbrey.

Court Barn museum Barrie CandelabraCourt Barn museum Barrie CandelabraThe candelabra were made for local clients, the Misses Barrie of Broadway, hence the name the ‘Barrie Candelabra.’ They have a strong, almost Baroque presence and a fluidity which captures the nature of the material.

The candelabra were selected by Welch for inclusion in his publication Hand and Machine in 1986 and in the touring retrospective exhibition Robert Welch Designer-Silversmith organised by Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum in 1995. Hand and Machine includes comments about this design which give an insight into his way of working. ‘Sometimes the opportunity occurs to design and make metalwork just to suit individual pieces of furniture or an interior. These candelabra … are of quite massive size for one of the largest and most beautiful refectory tables that I have seen… Sketch designs were proposed but it turned out to be impossible to judge whether the table would overpower the candlesticks or not, and to settle the matter, a wooden model was made – an elaborate and costly way of solving the problem but one that paid dividends in the end as the candelabra looked quite handsome in their eventual setting.’

Robert Welch grew up around Malvern not too far from Chipping Campden where he established his business. He studied at Birmingham School of Art’s renowned department of Jewellery and Silversmithing and from 1952 at the Royal College of Art in London. His period in London also included formative visits to Sweden and to Norway where he worked with the designer Theodore Olsen. Looking for a workshop that was convenient for his major client, the Midlands-based stainless steel tableware manufacturer J & J Wiggin, he leased the top floor of the Silk Mill in Chipping Campden, the former workshops of C.R. Ashbee’s Guild of Handicraft and still housing the Guild silversmith, George Hart.

From the start Welch worked on commissioned items, mainly in silver, produced designs for domestic stainless steel, and worked for a range of companies worldwide as a product designer. This balance between hand and machine is at the core of his work.

Sarah McCormick Healy, curator, says “We are delighted with this acquisition and the support we have received from The Art Fund and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, without whose help we would have struggled to buy such a piece. It provides an important and rare opportunity to acquire an example of a major Welch commission; the majority of his commissions were for churches and other institutions and therefore unlikely to come available.”

The candelabra will be on display at the Museum until May.
For information about Court Barn Museum please contact Carole Reynolds, Administrator: [email protected] and 01386 841951. www.courtbarn.org.uk

Court Barn Museum, Church Street, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, GL55 6JE

Admission charges
Adults £4; Concessions (students, senior citizens) £3.25; Children under 16 are free

Opening times

April – September: Tuesday – Sunday 10.00 – 5pm

October – March: Tuesday – Sunday 10.00 – 4pm
Closed Mondays (except Bank Holidays) and Closed 24 Dec, reopening second Tuesday in January.

Court Barn Museum is an independent museum and the brainchild of a group of local enthusiasts called the Guild of Handicraft Trust. The museum was created through the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and monies raised by the Guild of Handicraft Trust.

This groundbreaking museum, situated in the Cotswold town of Chipping Campden, tells the story of how a small town, in a beautiful setting, became a gathering place for creative people at the start of the 20th Century and continues to attract designers and makers today. Highlights include work by C.R.Ashbee, F.L Griggs and Katharine Adams.

Source: Court Barn Museum