British Design 1850 - 1950

Ref: C2227520

At the height of 19c imperial power British designers rebelled against mainstream commodification: the beautiful designs by Pugin, Henry Cole, William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement clearly linked form with function. In the 20c ‘flapper’ dress combined practicality with high fashion, while in the cash-strapped 1930s Clarice Cliff’s and Susie Cooper's ceramics made art deco style affordable for the modern consumer. During WWII restrictions on clothes styles aimed to save fabric, and after the War pre-fabricated homes with fitted kitchens became a solution to an acute housing crisis. Later, Swedish interior designs complemented new-built homes and the increasingly informal living of post-WWII Britain. This course discusses these topics and many more - it looks at innovative designers, sets the history of design in its historical context, focuses in on fascinating topics and includes some architecture.

Additional information about this course

No skills or experience needed.

Course aim

This course introduces students to the wide range of fascinating and often beautiful objects, and some buildings, designed in Britain from 1850 to 1950. The tutor will foster and encourage active learning, including discussion in the Zoom class.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • You will need to be able to follow links to join our WEA live video learning platform: WEA Zoom. If you’d like to understand more about our video learning platform, Zoom please visit: and
  • You will need your own personal email address so that you’re able to login to the WEA’s digital learning platform: WEA Canvas. You will need to be able to understand how to follow URL links to pages on the internet. If you want to understand more about Canvas please visit:

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Talk about some of the designs and design movements discussed during the course, within the limits of a one-term course.
  • Understand how British Design 1850-1950 relates to the historical and social conditions of the period 1850-1950, at an introductory level.
  • Identify some of the objects introduced in the course.
  • Enjoy looking at objects and buildings.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas will be used to provide resources or to support lessons, enable assessment, provide learner feedback and for other activities for individuals away from the course. If you want to understand more about our digital learning platform please visit:
  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion

What else do I need to know?

  • You will need a personal email address to join the WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas so that you can receive resources, record your progress and achievement and to work with others and share ideas. If you want to understand more about our digital learning platform please visit:
  • You will also need access to the internet outside of your sessions. You could do this using a smart phone, tablet, laptop or a desktop computer (at home or through a library etc.).
  • What you need: You will need an internet connection, speakers, a microphone and a webcam so that you can use our video learning platform, Zoom. If you’d like to understand more Zoom please visit:
  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here

Download full course information sheet

British Design 1850 - 1950


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2020
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact

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