Dartington Hall (1925--) By Nicholas, Larraine
Dartington Hall (near Totnes, Devon, England) is a country estate centered on a medieval courtyard and Great Hall. In 1925, the newly married Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst bought and renovated the crumbling buildings with Dorothy’s family fortune. Plans for the Elmhirsts’ ideal community were based upon early twentieth-century progressive notions of education, technology, agriculture, and social justice. Community access to the arts, including music, dance, and theater, was an important principle from the beginning.
The years up to World War II marked the high point of artistic modernism at Dartington. Commissioned houses, including High Cross House, were built in the international style of modernist architecture. There were studios for painters (Mark Tobey, Cecil Collins, Hein Heckroth), pottery (Bernard Leach), theater (Michael Chekhov), and dance (Kurt Jooss, Sigurd Leeder). The estate was a haven for refugee artists from Europe including Chekhov, Heckroth, Jooss, Sigurd Leeder, and Rudolf Laban.
After the war, Dartington became both a regional arts venue and a site for developments in education. With the conviction that potential teachers should also be practising artists, Dartington College of Arts provided teacher training courses in arts subjects, later setting up degree courses. Dartington College of Arts was incorporated into University College Falmouth in 2010.