Exciting new ventures in Ditchling

Mister Magnolia

Mister Magnolia - Credit: Archant

There’s lots going on in the tranquil village of Ditchling. Here, we take a look at some of the latest changes

Following a major £2.3m redevelopment, Ditchling’s museum is once again open to the public. Located on Lodge Hill Lane, the museum showcases the work of the Arts and Crafts movement that centred in Ditchling at the beginning of the last century. Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate, formally opened the museum 20 September.

Ditchling became a centre for the applied arts in the early 20th century. The museum holds a nationally important collection of works associated with those who were drawn to the village and who were influenced by the earlier Arts and Crafts movement. Represented within the collection are some of the most important applied artists of the 20th century. The project was partly funded by a £1.4m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, and the work involved linking the old village school with a farmer’s lodge. The museum now has new galleries, a dedicated learning space, research space, a shop and a café.

Founded by sisters Hilary and Joanna Bourne in 1984, the museum was originally housed in the former Ditchling Village School and schoolmaster’s cottage, dating back to 1838.

Artists represented include Eric Gill, David Jones, Edward Johnston and Ethel Mairet. Eric Gill moved to Ditchling in 1907 and was to become a major sculptor, letterer and typographer, whilst Edward Johnston, perhaps best known for being the designer of the typeface for the Underground Electric Railways Company of London Ltd, lived and worked in Ditchling from 1912 until his death. Museum director Hilary Williams says that they all used materials “in an honest and truthful way, and wanted everybody to be surrounded by beauty in their homes and within their lives”.

Adam Richards Architects has undertaken a bold scheme from master plan to exhibition design: this re-orientates the whole museum with a combination of sensitively restored existing buildings and dramatic contemporary architecture, that is the antithesis of the ‘white box’ museum.

The carefully crafted new spaces and displays enable the objects of the collection to enter into a poetic dialogue with the place that they were made, and to reveal the stories behind these important artists. The museum has for the first time a dedicated learning space for practical workshops and talks informed by the collection.

Stuart McLeod, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East, says of the project: “Ditchling Museum gives us a fantastic insight into the lives of some of the most influential artists of the 20th century. I’m particularly pleased about the enhanced connection between the museum’s fascinating collections and the social history of Ditchling village.” www.ditchlingmuseumartcraft.co.uk***

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Mr Magnolia

The brainchild of Sophie Boulderstone, Mister Magnolia, the new shop and café, is designed to be as family friendly as possible, with child-sized desks and chairs, free painting and colouring books, and toys for small people. Of her decision to found the venture, Sophie says, “Ditchling already has some great places to eat, but it was missing a contemporary, family-orientated place to enjoy a coffee and some light bites.” The menu is all freshly prepared to order on the premises, and includes a selection of cakes, pastries, paninis, filled flatbreads, quiches and soups.

Sophie and her husband Sebastian have four children, ranging in age from eight months to 14 years, and Mister Magnolia’s has been set up with children in mind. “I wanted it to be warm, welcoming and inviting, a place where everybody – children, parents, groups or people on their own – could feel happy,” she says. “The activities available are in place so that parents can have time out over a coffee while their children play.”

The name Mister Magnolia was inspired by Sophie’s favourite children’s book, written and illustrated by Quentin Blake, who has given his blessing to the enterprise.

Upstairs, above the coffee shop, Sophie is in the process of setting up a pop-up cinema for children’s films and Bring a Baby mornings. There are already Pilates classes and the room is also available for private hire. Mister Magnolia is open from 9am to 5pm between Monday and Wednesday, 9am to 8pm Thursday to Friday, 9am to 6pm on Saturdays, and 9am to 4pm Sunday.

For more information, phone 01273 846638 or email info@mistermagnolia.co.uk