Jaadu at Dartington Hall
by Alice Black
On a verdant hillside, at the centre of a 1,200-acre estate, overlooking the river Dart, stands Dartington Hall. Stunning in its location and fascinating in its history, Dartington is the site of Jaadu’s first concession…and what a wonderful site it is!
Originally built by John Holland, half-brother to Richard II, Dartington can trace its history back to 1388 when work began on its construction. On the death of Holland (who was beheaded for his role in a plot to assassinate King Henry IV), the estate passed to the Crown and then to the Champernowne family, in whose ownership it remained for 336 years.
Sadly, by 1925 the medieval hall had fallen into disrepair. That is, until it was purchased by American millionaire Dorothy Elmhirst and her English husband, Leonard.
The Elmhirsts were activists and philanthropists who saw, in Dartington Hall, a grand opportunity to build a community of artists, craftspeople, students, and farmers. Naming it ‘The Dartington Experiment’, the Elmhirsts worked on restoring the dilapidated buildings and set up a range of farming, forestry, and educational projects, designed to reinvigorate the area’s industry and economy. In spite of their strong vision and plans for the area, it’s difficult to imagine that even the Elmhirsts could have foreseen the impact their dream would have, not only within Dartington but reaching out into the world beyond.
With its creative and philanthropic ethos, Dartington Hall (and its school, which opened in 1926) quickly became a magnet for artists from around the world, including writers, painters, musicians, and architects – all of whom helped to forge its reputation as a truly incomparable centre of artistic endeavour. The astonishing list of those who have contributed to Dartington Hall over the years includes Igor Stravinsky, Benjamin Britten, H.G.Wells, Helena Norberg Hodge, Rabindranath Tagore, Bernard Leech, Bertrand Russell and, more recently, David Attenborough, to name but a few!
Along with its many famous luminaries, the hall has also played host to historic moments and inspirations. The Arts Council, for example, was conceived within the walls of Dartington, and Labour’s 1945 manifesto – which led to the formation of the NHS – was also formed here.
Amongst Dartington Hall’s many famous connections, perhaps the one which prevails as its most famous export is Dartington Glass. Established at the Hall in 1967, Dartington Glass (more commonly known as Dartington Crystal) remains to this day an important regional employer and,as the only remaining large-scale supplier of glass and crystal in the UK, the name Dartington endures as a byword for quality and artistry.
In 1977, the Cider Press retail outlet opened and an immediate relationship was formed with Dartington Crystal, which exists to this day. Later renamed the Shops at Dartington, this is where Jaadu is proud to have found its newest home. The stores offer an eclectic range of wares, from fashion to food, beauty to books, everything carefully selected to uphold the fair and ethical ethos which The Shops have inherited from the Elmhirsts and The Dartington Hall Trust. With this commitment to fair trading and an eye for beautiful products, it is little wonder that Jaadu feels at home nestled within The Shops at Dartington! In fact, if the Elmhirsts could see Jaadu’s beautiful, handmade wares sitting alongside some of the area’s finest produce and art, all bound by a shared sense of quality, artistry and ethical trading…well, you can’t help but feel that they would approve.
- Written by Alice Black