In the early 1950s, the historian and radio journalist Victor Bonham-Carter (1913-2007) was commissioned to write a history of The Dartington Hall Trust.

During the next twenty years, he and Trust records officer Robin Johnson, organised the archive into broad categories and subjects to facilitate this project. It should be noted that due to the eclectic interests of senior Trust officials and Trustees in practically all activities of the estate, there is a considerable overlapping of subjects throughout the administrative records and personal papers.

Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund a digital catalogue was created and put online. Commencing in 2003, the bulk of the work was carried out by Archive staff and volunteers at The Dartington Hall Trust.

The archives reflect the great diversity of the concerns and interests of The Dartington Hall Trust, from its beginnings in 1925 under the personal control of its founders, Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst, and subsequently as a charitable enterprise. A small number of documents and images date from earlier years when the estate was owned by the Champernowne family.

Series in the Trust collection include: Adult Education; Agricultural Economics; Arts Administration; Arts Applied; Arts Dance; Arts Devon Centre for Further Education; Arts Drama; Arts Enquiry; Arts Film; Arts Music; Arts Press; Arts Projects; Arts Visual; Dartington Arts Society; Dartington College of Arts; Dartington Hall School; Dartington Hall Trust; Dartington Press; Publicity; Education; Estate; Hall Gardens; Hiley; History; Laboratory; Records; Sociology; The Dartington Society; Trust Administration; Welfare and Woodlands; Photographic Collection.

Subjects and activities include:

  • History of the county (Devon) in the C20th.
  • Sociology, agriculture, including scientific approaches and artificial insemination, and forestry.
  • International interests including relating to Bahamas, Canada, India, Palestine, Russia, Tanzania and the United States of America.
  • Artists who came to work and teach at Dartington in the 1930s, included refugees from Nazi Europe, among them the Ballets Jooss, sculptor Willi Soukop, and dancer Rudolf Laban. In addition Bernard Leach set up the Dartington Pottery and later instigated the 1952 International Conference of Craftsmen in Pottery and Textiles held at Dartington, the painter Mark Tobey came from the States, Michael Chekhov founded his school of acting, Cecil Collins painted. An Arts Department evolved that eventually became the Dartington College of Arts.
  • Correspondence with C20th luminaries includes Benjamin Britten, H S (Jim) Ede, Imogen Holst, Aldous Huxley, Basil H Liddell Hart, John Maynard Keynes, Henry Moore, A. S. Neill, Ben Nicholson, Victoria Ocampo, Franklin D and Eleanor Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw and Rabindranath Tagore.
  • Architects and craftsmen, who used traditional and modern building methods, include Walter Gropius, William Lescaze, Oswald Milne, Louis de Soissons and William Weir. Papers, plans, and images cover this extraordinary activity.
  • Landscape garden designers who worked on the Dartington Hall Gardens include H Avray Tipping, Percy Cane and Beatrix Farrand.

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