The Shops were established in 1977 when the Dartington Hall Trust – acting upon the wishes of Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, famous patrons of the arts, pioneers of social justice and owners of Dartington Hall – established a gallery at Shinners Bridge as a platform for local craftspeople to exhibit their work. The Gallery was so successful that it soon outgrew its original location (in what is now our Fashion and Beauty Gallery) and expanded over the years into the eclectic offer we have today; comprised of the Craft Centre, Devon Drinks (specialising in showcasing a selection of Devon’s finest alcoholic products), Food Shop, Fashion and Beauty Gallery, Glass Gallery, Home, Kitchen Shop, Stationery, Tog 24 and Toyshop. There are also two cafes on site – Bayards Kitchen and Venus Cafe – along with our concession partners The Mason-Laurence Gallery, Big Fire and Crazy about Clay.
The site where The Shops are located is culturally and historically significant for a number of reasons. Throughout the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, the local apple harvest was stored in the old apple barn – a building which now houses Devon Drinks and Stationery – before being pressed and made into cider (using the traditional cider press which still stands today outside Tog 24). Although cider is no longer pressed on site, we stock an extensive variety of local ciders in Devon Drinks and the Food Shop, including the Dartington own-label ciders, produced for us by Ashridge Cider.
Located just past the Craft Centre, Refurnish Devon’s Re-Store occupies the site where Bernard Leach – founder of The Leach Pottery in St. Ives – established Dartington Pottery in 1932. Over the years, many talented artists (including Marianne de Trey, Janice Tchalenko and Stephen Course) have worked with the company and although production has now moved to Grayshott in Surrey, a wide range of Dartington Pottery is available for sale in the Craft Centre.
In addition to furthering the cause of the arts, Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst were keen to aid the economic regeneration of rural areas with low employment prospects and to this end, in 1967 they established Dartington Glass (now Dartington Crystal) in Torrington in North Devon. A team of highly-skilled Swedish glass-blowers was invited to run the factory and pass on their knowledge to recruited Devon craftspeople, who formed the original workforce of 35. From these small beginnings the company has developed and thrived and is now the only manufacturer of mouth-blown crystal still in production in the UK, with much of the range still handcrafted at the Torrington factory. The Shops maintain the link with Dartington Crystal and offer a comprehensive selection of their designs for sale in the Glass Gallery.
We at The Shops at Dartington are proud of our heritage and strive to trade ethically and fairly, respecting the ethos of The Dartington Hall Trust. We actively support and promote the local economy and community, with over 80% of the produce available in the Food Shop made, reared or grown in the West Country. Additionally, as a social enterprise in line with the Elmhirsts’ vision, a portion of our profits go towards supporting the charitable activities of The Dartington Hall Trust. www.shopsatdartington.co.uk features a selection of our products but our online range is growing daily, so be sure to check back frequently to discover what’s new.