Where To Find Pre-Raphaelite Properties Houses And Interiors

By Richard Moss | 25 September 2003
Shows a photograph of a galleried interior at Wallington in Northumbria.

Wallington boasts one of the best preserved Pre-Raphaelite interiors anywhere in the world. Picture © NTPS

The influence of the Pre-Raphaelites (and by proxy the Arts and Crafts movement) is surprisingly pervasive. Virtually every town or city in the UK retains some trace of their art, architecture, sculpture or stained glass.

There are also numerous properties and locations dotted around the UK where you can explore preserved Victorian interiors, view art works and artefacts from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

One such place is Wallington in Northumbria, which boasts an impressive series of murals by William Bell Scott, a keen associate of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Executed around the same time as the Oxford Union Murals, the Wallington Murals consist of eight main panels painted between 1857 and 1862 on canvas, and subsequently fixed to the walls of the main hall.

The frieze tells the story of Northumbria from the building of Hadrian's Wall to the growth of industrial Tyneside and is the centrepiece to Wallington's Pre-Raphaelite decorative scheme.

this picture shows 'Building the Roman Wall', by William Bell Scott.

One of the tapestry paintings, Building the Wall, William Bell Scott. © NTPL

The pillars between the main panels are also of interest with herbaceous designs contributed by various guests. These included that great adherent to Pre-Raphaelite doctrines, Arthur Hughes and that champion of them John Ruskin.

Wallington also offers the chance to take in some good examples of Pre-Raphaelite sculpture. A particular favourite is Thomas Woolner’s mother-and-child with its bizarre base – depicting graphic scenes of early savagery. There are other Woolner's and also works by Alexander Munro, who was encouraged by Rossetti.

Staying in Northumberland, Cragside House in Morpeth is an imposing structure built on a bare and rugged hillside in the 1880's, but inside it is one of the most modern and surprising houses for its time in the country.

shows an interiror shot of a corridor in Cragside Houselined with marble busts, sofas and paintings

The imposing Cragside House is crammed full of technological wonders whilst its preserved Victorian interiors offer a unique chance to experience the rich world of Victorian art. © NTPL.

Cragside was the first house in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity and it had the luxuries of hot running water, electric lighting and a Turkish bath. It also contains the best set of Evelyn de Morgans outside of the De Morgan Collection in London.

There is also an extensive collection of other Victorian paintings including works by John Rodham Spencer Stanhope, George Frederick Watts and Walter Charles Horsley and some interesting Victorian sculpture and stained glass by Morris & Co after designs by Maddox Brown, Burne-Jones and Rossetti.

a black and white photograph of William Morris with thick curly hair and beard. He is seated and holds his hat

William Morris has left an indelible mark on the the world of art and design in the UK. The designs of Morris & Co. are still produced today whilst the principals of the Arts and Crafts Movement continue to influence new generations of craftsmen and designers. © William Morris Gallery

Travelling north of the border to Penkill Castle, Old Dailly, Pre-Raphaelite devotees can discover another classic Victorian interior furnished and decorated by Victorian artists.

Rebuilt by Alexander Thomson in the 1860s, the castle interior was decorated by William Morris and William Bell Scott. It is said that many Pre-Raphaelites visited here and that Dante Gabriel Rossetti actually wrote poems here.

It’s a difficult place to get to and admission is by appointment only, but once inside you are entering into the heart of a Victorian idyll brought to life by the artistic vision of one of the great patrons of nineteenth century art.

photo of a living room decorated with arts and crafts style furniture

The interiors of Wightwick boast Arts and Crafts furniture and fabrics and some important examples of Pre-Raphaelite artworks. © NTPL

For one of the best surviving examples of a house built and furnished under the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement, a visit to Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton reveals many original William Morris wallpapers and fabrics. There are also some great examples of Kempe glassware and ceramics designed by William de Morgan.

Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the property include works by Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and Burne-Jones’ Love Among the Ruins.

Another former private house with Pre-Raphaelite connections, now run by the National Trust, can be visited at Standen in East Sussex. Again it’s Arts and Crafts inspired – built by Philip Webb, the architect in whose office William Morris worked for a time.

shows two Arts and Crafts chairs upon a William Morris carpet

The interiors of Standen also boast some fine Arts and Crafts furniture and carpets. © NTPL

The interior retains many original features and contents including Morris & Co wallpaper and fabrics as well as sculptures, paintings and drawings by Ford Maddox Brown, Burne-Jones, Sandys and Rossetti.

Kelmscott House, Morris's London abode between 1878-96, is now a private property that acts as part-time HQ for the William Morris Society. They open their doors to the public on Thursdays and Saturdays between 2-5pm and have a small exhibition of his artefacts as well as other documents.

shows a contemporary photo of Jane Morris in a long dress and thick tressled hair

Jane Morris - posed and photographed by Rossetti. As well as being a muse, model, mother and wife she also found time to produce a selection of tapestries - some of which can be viewed at Red House. Picture © William Morris Gallery.

The Morris country pile at Kelmscott Manor, is a grade one-listed Tudor farmhouse adjacent to the River Thames, that dates back to 1570. Morris chose it as his summer home, signing a joint lease with Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the summer of 1871.

Owned and managed by the Society of Antiquaries of London, the house remains a true work of craftsmanship and is totally unspoilt and unaltered; very much in harmony with the surrounding countryside and the Morris aesthetic.

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.

But to really get to the heart of the William Morris world and to explore his vision a visit to the Red House, a beautiful red brick building in Bexleyheath, south-east London is a must.

Designed by Morris' friend and associate, Philip Webb and completed in 1859, the house is considered an architectural landmark whilst its garden inspired many of Morris' famous wallpaper and fabric designs.

Shows a cupboard with Morris painting.

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

Saved from an uncertain future by the National Trust in January 2003, the public can gain access to its stunning interiors in pre-booked guided tours. It’s a unique opportunity to see the property as it was when first acquired.

Research has recently uncovered original wall painting thought to be by Lizzie Siddal, wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, which has been hidden by a wall cupboard for many years.

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