Arts & Crafts Trail: Victoria And Albert Museum, Greater London And The South

By Ylva French | 01 January 2006
shows a Chintz design with birds against an ornate back design of symmetrical flower patterns

Strawberry Thief Chintz, designed by William Morris (1834-1896) for Morris & Company, 1883. Picture © William Morris Gallery.

Part 1: London

This part of the tour takes the visitor from the riches of the V & A to three of William Morris’s former homes, now open to visitors; and also to the much smaller but no less inspiring Geffrye Museum.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is in many ways the heart of the Arts & Crafts movement in the UK with whole interiors by William Morris and his contemporaries including the Morris Room or Green Dining Room, also known as the Gamble Room. The British Galleries place Arts & Crafts in the context of British design.

The 2005 International Arts and Crafts exhibition will make new links between the UK and developments in the US, Japan and Northern Europe.

Shows an interior shot of the William Morris room at the V&A

The William Morris Room at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Work by Morris' pre-Raphaelite friends, including Edward Burne-Jones is also on show. © The V&A

The William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, East London is the next stop on this trail. Walthamstow was then a comfortable Victorian suburb and the attractive Georgian Water House in Lloyd Park made a suitable family home for the prosperous Morris family from 1848 to 1856.

It is now a museum in the care of the London Borough of Walthamstow. Discover the history of William Morris here and see his designs as well as those of his followers, including fabrics, rugs, carpets, wallpapers, furniture, stained glass and painted tiles. The versatility and true inspiration of William Morris can be fully appreciated as well as his influence on his contemporaries and followers.

Shows a living room with high-backed armchairs and a fireplace with a wood and tile surround.

An Arts & Crafts living room at the Geffrye. Courtesy the Geffrye Museum.

The Geffrye Museum, a former almshouse, stands in the heart of Shoreditch in East London, once an area of furniture makers and craftsmen. It is now London’s museum of domestic interiors. The Arts and Crafts style features mainly in the Edwardian Room but is also included in the garden and in temporary exhibitions.

Shows exterior view of William Morris' Red House.

25-years-old and newly married to Jane Burden, William Morris commissioned architect Philip Webb to design their first home. Photo: Barry Waddam.

The Red House at Bexley, South East London, is now in the ownership of the National Trust, and is open for pre-booked tours. Commissioned by William Morris in 1859 and designed by Philip Webb, the Red House was built for William Morris and his wife Jane. His two daughters were born here.

The house is of enormous international significance in the history of domestic architecture and garden design. The unique building is constructed of warm red brick, under a steep red-tiled roof, with an emphasis on natural materials and a strong Gothic influence.

Shows a cupboard with Morris painting.

Many of the original paintings and designs created for the interior of Red House by Morris can still be seen. Photo: Barry Waddam

The garden was designed to 'clothe' the house with a series of sub-divided areas, which still clearly exist today. Inside, the house retains many of the original features and fixed items of furniture designed by Morris and Webb, as well as wall paintings and stained glass by Rossetti and Burne-Jones. Originally surrounded by orchards and countryside, the Red House is now an oasis in the midst of suburbia.

William Morris and his family moved back to central London (Queen’s Square) in 1865. Together with Rossetti he rented Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire in 1871 as a country retreat (see Cheltenham, the Cotswolds, Midlands and Lake District).

In 1879 William Morris settled at Kelmscott House in Hammersmith, part of which is now the home of the William Morris Society. On view here is the craft workshop including William Morris' Albion Press Coach House and library with changing exhibitions of Morris embroideries and pre-Raphaelite drawings.

Shows a photo of a garden with a stone urn as a centrepiece. The beds are delineated with low walls and flowers and foliage spill out.

Arts & Crafts style not only took its motifs from nature, but extended into the garden. Courtesy the Geffrye Museum.

No Arts & Crafts tour of London would be complete without a visit to Liberty’s on Regent Street. This treasure house of design excellence opened in 1875, from the start stocking one-off hand-made items and factory made goods from the Arts & Crafts tradition – as they do today.

The London part of the Arts & Crafts trail ends here; but if you have time, do continue through south London to some stunning Arts & Crafts collections in the south-east.

Shows a photo of a room with high-backed wooden chairs and an Arts & Crafts fireplace.

The living room of Little Holland House. Courtesy London Borough of Sutton.

Part 2: Surrey and Sussex

Little Holland House, standing in a suburban street in Carlshalton, is a unique house created by Frank Dickinson (1874–1961). The house is now in the care of the London Borough of Sutton and open to the public. Every decorative part of the house was made by Dickinson, inspired by Ruskin and Morris, in the Arts & Crafts style.

In Farnham a new museum of craft is now open. The former Crafts Study Centre collection at the Holburne Museum, Bath, has relocated to the Surrey Institute of Art and Design.

Since moving, the collection has been in storage whilst a digitisation project, funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee, has created a resource of some 4000 digital images. The purpose-built museum and study centre is open to the public Tuesday to Friday. Check before visiting.

Shows a photo of the drawing room, with white panelled walls and a Morris carpet.

The drawing room, Standen, with Morris Company carpet and wall hangings. Courtesy the National Trust, Standen.

The historic house of Standen sits on the borders of Surrey and Sussex, south of East Grinstead. This fine National Trust property was designed by Philip Webb, friend of William Morris, and is a showpiece of the Arts & Crafts movement.

It is decorated throughout with Morris carpets, fabrics and wallpapers, complemented by contemporary paintings, tapestries and furniture. The house retains many of its original electrical fittings. The beautiful hillside garden gives fine views over the Sussex countryside and there are delightful woodland walks set in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty of the High Weald.

Shows a photo of a bedroom with a large wardrobe and a patterned bedspread.

The bedspread in the guest room at Standen is a brilliantly preserved piece by William's daughter, May Morris, which was recently discovered after having spent the 20th century hidden away in a trunk. Courtesy the National Trust, Standen.

To the south is Ditchling and the Ditchling Museum. Inspired by its downland setting and attracted by its rural way of life, many distinguished artists and craftsmen and women came to live here, including Edward Johnston, calligrapher, Ethel Maieret, weaver, Sir Frank Brangwyn, artist and muralist who had worked in the William Morris workshop at Hammersmith, and Ann Sawyer, artist.

Shows a black and white photo of a man in a suit, writing with a feather quill at a writing table.

Edward Johnston, calligrapher and Ditchling resident. Courtesy the Ditchling Museum.

A Rebellion of Substance and Style / Cheltenham, the Cotswolds, Midlands and Lake District / Glasgow and the Scottish Legacy

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