In 1889, seeking a winter retreat from New Little Holland House, their London home, George and Mary Watts stayed with friends in Compton. They quickly decided that this picturesque village nestled in the Surrey hills would make the ideal location for their own autumn/winter residence.
Sir Ernest George built the studio-home in 1891 for George and Mary. He designed it in the Arts & Crafts style. The couple hoped that this house would bring a new lease of creative life. Its name, Limnerslease, combines the Old English words ‘limner’, meaning artist, with ‘leasen’, meaning to glean. Leading politicians, musicians, writers, and artists all came to visit. George painted some of his most ambitious Symbolist works in his new studio, designed with his large canvases in mind and desire for good light. Mary Watts turned the house into a canvas for her work, decorating walls and ceilings. She also hosted clay modelling classes for the local community in the drawing room.
George and Mary Watts outside their Surrey home, Limnerslease
As the years passed, time spent at the little house grew, taking precedence over their London residence, New Little Holland House. Free from the interruptions of London society that George's fame attracted, the couple were able to work uninterrupted while becoming a celebrated part of the Compton community. The couple welcomed a number of well-known artists and figures of Victorian society, to Limnerslease including the great violinist Joseph Joachim and the young Vanessa Bell.
Following George's death in 1904, Mary made Limnerslease her permanent residence. She became a recognised figure within the local community as both an artist and the keeper of her husband's legacy in the form of Watts Gallery and The Annals, the biography she published on the life and thoughts of her dear husband.
Following Mary's death in 1938, Limnerslease became separated from the Watts Gallery Trust estate. In the 1950s, it was divided into three separate residences and considerable changes were made to the east wing where George's and Mary's studios had been.
Watts Gallery - Artists' Village now owns the east wing of Limnerslease, here you can explore the G F Watts Studio, Mary Watts Gallery and Compton Gallery.