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Rita Beales

Rita Beales was born Rita Rabone in Marlborough, New Zealand in 1889. A talented singer, she worn a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, London in 1909, to study opera. During the four years she was there she met Percy Beales - who was studying the piano - while on holiday in Wales, but the outbreak of World War I dashed their hopes of musical careers. They went to Cheltenham to find work, settled there and married in 1917. They became interested in the crafts through taking evening classes and began to weave in wool after visiting an exhibition organised by Dryad's, the craft suppliers.

In 1926 they moved, with Percy Beales's parents, to a shared house in North Lopham, Norfolk. While they worked to improve their spinning and weaving technique, Rita Beales also made and sold leatherwork to provide an income. By the 1930s they were working with flax, on which Rita Beales became an acknowledged expert. In 1938 they moved back to Gloucestershire, living in a bungalow called 'Rosemary' at Cerney Wick. Percy laid out the garden while Rita (then aged 48) wove some of her best work: fine table linens and heavier cloth for curtains and upholstery. They grew fruit and vegetables, kept animals and dyed their own yarns, using natural dyes; they were almost self-sufficient.

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