Press Release: The Clothworkers' Company continues to support arts and conservation at West Dean College

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation are very grateful to The Clothworkers’ Company for its generous support of the Designer Bookbinders’ ‘Transferring Design initiative’, which encourages students on allied courses in UK universities and colleges to consider a career in bookbinding. The programme funding has enabled Kate Holland, a Fellow of Designer Bookbinders, to teach a bookbinding course within the Graduate Diploma in Conservation Studies, specialising in Books and Library Materials.

Recently, Kate visited for five days over which she covered the basic techniques of bookbinding from folding sections, sewing and trimming on the plough through to rounding and backing and casing in. Practical experience in these techniques allows Conservation Studies students to develop high level hand-skills and an understanding of construction techniques, relevant to use in a conservation context.

She commented; “The recent closure of the Queen’s Bindery Apprenticeship Scheme at Windsor Castle due to Covid-19 saw the demise of the last full time bookbinding course in the UK. It is possible to attend evening classes or pay for private tuition, to go to weekend masterclasses or watch tutorials online, but there is now not a single institution that offers a comprehensive education in the craft. Hand bookbinding forms an important part of our national heritage and techniques such as edge gliding and gold finishing are in serious danger of being lost forever. The Clothworkers’ Company, in collaboration with Designer Bookbinders, have been incredibly supportive and generous with their funding: enabling bursaries for students to attend masterclasses, sponsoring the annual competition and funding me, as a Fellow of DB, to come and teach bookbinding to the Book Conservation Graduate Diploma students at West Dean College.” 

She went on to say: “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to share my passion for bookbinding and hopefully encourage some converts. The reputation of West Dean College as a centre of excellence for crafts education is unsurpassed and it feels like the perfect setting.”

Mariluz Beltran de Guevara, Subject Leader (Books), Conservation Studies at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, said: “Book conservation has many facets and specialisms and there is a diverse range of practical experience and academic knowledge to be acquired in a short amount of time. Having practicing craftsmen and conservators, specialists in a particular subject area, to come to West Dean and deliver a workshop or give a lecture contributes enormously to the development of the students as conservators. Visiting lectures share their in-depth knowledge on a specific topic helping the students to consolidate their knowledge, promoting in-depth learning, and inspiring them to do more self-directed learning. We were delighted to welcome Kate.”

Lizzie Neville, Head of the School of Conservation, commented “The limited training availability in bookbinding, combined with the recent addition of letterpress printing onto the Historic Crafts Association’s, Red List of Endangered Crafts has encouraged West Dean to submit a new course proposal to Sussex University to develop a 2-year Foundation Degree in Books and Bindings to complement our other Craft Practice courses in clocks, furniture and musical instruments. Consultations are about to start and if everything goes to plan we will be able to recruit for the 2021/22 academic year.”

This isn’t the only involvement that West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has with The Clothworkers’ Company. Alison Richmond, Trustee of the Edward James Foundation and West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has recently become an Honorary member of the Livery of The Clothworkers’ Company. Prior to that, The Clothworkers’ Company entrusted the conservation of a recently recovered 19th-century Vulliamy mantle clock to West Dean; The Company was eager for the clock to be returned to working order, but also that a student could derive valuable practical conservation experience from the project. Finally, The Clothworkers’ Foundation (funded primarily by The Clothworkers’ Company) is currently supporting a Clock Conservation Internship for student Ben Hall.

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has an international reputation for excellence and is a full partner of the University of Sussex. Students get to view or work with material from the College’s amazing Collection and Archive. For Conservation and Fine Art study opportunities, see www.westdean.ac.uk. The deadline for 2021 applications is January 29, 2021. 

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has an international reputation for excellence and is a full partner of the University of Sussex. Students with an interest in studying conservation can find out more at westdean.ac.uk, dates for 2021 Virtual Open Days will be announced soon.

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Notes to Editors:

  • West Dean College of Arts and Conservation was founded in 1971 by the poet and Surrealist patron, Edward James, recognised by BBC Arts as the ‘the greatest patron of art of the early 20th century’.
  • The College is part of The Edward James Foundation (Charity No. 1126084), also comprising West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and West Dean Tapestry Studio.
  • All photography is free to use for editorial purposes.
  • West Dean College is situated on the A286, six miles north of Chichester and within 
easy access of Portsmouth, Guildford, Brighton and London.


For all media enquiries please contact Rachel Aked:
Email: rachel.aked@westdean.org.uk
Telephone: 07790 732448

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0QZ