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The History of The Guildhouse
In the 1920s the founder of Stanton Guildhouse, Mary Osborn, worked at Kingsley Hall in the East End of London. It was there that she met the man who would change her life - Mahatma Gandhi.
He shared her love of spinning but what impressed her most were his descriptions of his `ashrams', which were the simple religious retreats he had founded in India.
His philosophy gave her the germ of an idea - she would set up a similar type of centre, a retreat from the world, but dedicated to the instruction of traditional crafts.
After founding a charitable trust, Mary Osborn set about building the centre with the help of a team of young international volunteers and local people. The building, which was completed in 1973 and listed in 1999, was built out of reclaimed materials from the surrounding area and also includes paving stones from the streets of London and oak from the Blenheim Palace estate.
Mary Osborn met Mahatma Gandhi in London in the Thirties and was inspired by his belief that there is a spiritual aspect to the simplest of human activities, especially those involving traditional skills and the use of basic materials. In the book stone upon stone, Mary tells the story of her life, her beliefs, and the struggle to achieve her dream: the building of the Guildhouse at Stanton and the creation there of a centre where crafts could be practised in an atmosphere of community and peace. Since it opened its doors in 1973 the Stanton Guildhouse , with its continuing programme of activities, stands as a monument to Mary Osborn’s faith.
She also opened her doors to give temporary homes to homeless families, a base for those in times of personal turmoil and happy summer holidays for children from disadvantaged areas.
Over the years the centre has enjoyed the support of such well-known people as J B Priestley, John Betjeman, Enid Blyton and Flora Robson - as well as from its inspiration Mahatma Gandhi. He maintained links with Mary Osborn and on his 63rd birthday was presented with a spinning wheel by Indian students in London.
After Mary Osborn's death in 1996, the Guildhouse, which was also her home, has continued to be a place where people can get the best tuition in traditional craft techniques.
The trustees planned to continue the legacy of Mary Osborn. "When Mary died we had to decide how to keep the Guildhouse going. These days there is not so much demand for spinning and weaving so we go with what people want to do. We have got to be prepared to be flexible and move with the times."
The most significant development at the Guildhouse in recent years has been its growing role as a national training centre for social entrepreneurs, bringing together business, public and voluntary sectors and others involved in community services.
Stanton Guildhouse provides residential breaks or away-day visits, training facilities, tutored manual arts and crafts programmes and specialised workshops throughout the year.