The Constitution of the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic

The Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic 1920-1989

The Guild of Roman Catholic craftworkers founded on Ditchling Common is the most distinctive aspect of the role of Ditchling in the development of arts and crafts during the 20th century.

The idea of uniting craftworkers in a religious association was developed by Eric Gill, Douglas Pepler and Desmond Chute during 1919 and brought into being on 18th July 1920 when they were joined by Joseph Cribb in its formal foundation on 10th October. In September 1921 they published an announcement of its existence, making it clear that their intention was religious rather than artistic: "The Guild of SS. Joseph and Dominic is a craft Guild, but is not primarily a craft Guild. It is primarily a religious fraternity for those who make things with their hands. As a guild it aims only at the sanctification of the brethren, and holds that the love of God is the only source of good".

Their intentions are made clear in the Guild’s constitution and rules:


The Guild is a society of Catholic craftsmen who wish to make the Catholic Faith the rule, not only of their life but of their workmanship and to that end to live and work in association in order that mutual aid may strengthen individual effort.
Supporting themselves and their families by the practice of a craft, the members choose St. Joseph as their patron. Further, having found the Dominican Order their most explicit teachers, they also place the Guild under the patronage of St. Dominic.

The Guild holds:-
That all work is ordained to God and should be Divine worship.
As human life is ordained to God so must human work be. We cannot serve God and Mammon but we can love God and our neighbour. The love of God means that work must be done according to an absolute standard of reasonableness; the love of our neighbour means that work must be done according to an absolute standard of serviceableness. Good quality is therefore twofold, work must be good in itself and good for use. (From ‘Actus Sequitur Esse’ (act follows upon being).

That the principle of individual human responsibility being a fundamental of Catholic doctrine and this principle involving the principle of ownership, workmen should own their own tools, their workshops and the product of their work.

The Guild therefore aims at:-

Making the goodness of the thing to be made the immediate concern in work.

Undertaking and imposing only such work as involves responsibility for the thing to be made.

Making the good of the work and the freedom of the workman the test of its workshop methods, tools and appliances.


Members shall be

Practising Catholics

Earning their living by creative manual work

Owners of their tools and of their work

Admission to the Guild shall be by the unanimous consent of the members

Applicants for membership who fulfil all conditions for admission shall be postulants for at least one year and shall be known as Qualified Postulants.

Applicants, such as apprentices, may be admitted to membership who do not yet fulfil the third condition for admission, but shall remain postulants until such time as they are able to fulfil it and shall be known as Unqualified Postulants

The approval of the Guild must be obtained for the entrance of any apprentice or employee to a member's workshop and such apprentices or employees must be Catholics

A Guildsman may not enter into workshop partnership with a non Guildsman

The members shall elect annually a Prior who shall represent the Guild in all its affairs and superintend the work of such other officers as may be appointed. He shall generally take care that the Constitution be observed

There shall be a meeting of the members at least once a month to decide whatever may be required. Postulants shall attend the Guild meetings but without a vote

It shall be the Guild's duty to encourage understanding and practice of its principles among its members by arranging occasions for their discussion and exposition

Guildsmen shall meet in the Chapel for prayer in common on such regular occasions as may be arranged

There shall be a regular Guild subscription for the upkeep of the Chapel and other expenses

The Guild owns its land and buildings under the name of the Spoil Bank Association Limited

The property is intended for occupation by Guild members and for use for Guild purposes only

The Guild shall administer its property through its officers and at its meetings, but the property accounts shall go through the books of the Spoil Bank Association only

Membership of the Guild shall include membership of the Spoil Bank Association Limited

The Constitution and Rules were printed by Pepler in 1922 on handmade paper, encased in a folder bearing the Guild badge, an open hand marked with a cross, designed by Gill

At first all the members of the Guild were members of the Third Order of St Dominic, a lay order of the Dominicans. Most of their wives and several local Catholics also joined the order. The Spoilbank Association was the limited company which acted on behalf of the Guild and held its property

Although Chute left the Guild in 1921 to become a priest, and Gill departed in 1924 to live in Wales and Pepler was forced out in 1934, because he employed a non-Catholic, Cribb remained a member until his death in 1967 and new members joined so that the Guild continued until 1989

The Catholic origins of the Guild had a strong influence on its work and many of the members specialised in equipping Catholic churches, with crucifixes, statues, pews, altars, prayer and hymn books, vestments and church plate. In the 1930s and 1940s the Guild members advertised their work in a small booklet Things for Liturgical and Devotional Use

Their work is to be seen in many local Churches (Catholic churches in Burgess Hill, Ditchling Common, Haywards Heath and Keymer) and in Ditchling’s own parish church, St Margaret of Antioch, as well as in many local cemeteries

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