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A UK Staycation: William Morris Edition

9th September 2020

In the year of the staycation, are you planning a trip away within the UK? Whether a day trip or a longer stay, there is so much to do within the United Kingdom this year. We thought we’d chime in with some of our ideas for a staycation based around Morris; places he went, where he lived, his inspirations so that you can visit!

Kelmscott – West Oxfordshire

Now, the beautiful Kelmscott Manor and gardens are currently closed for conservation and improvement works through to 2021. However, you can visit the actual village. In the churchyard of the Parish Church is the tomb of William Morris which was designed by Philip Webb. A little morbid perhaps, but the church is featured in Morris’s novel, News from Nowhere, when in the final part of the book, the Guest is taken there for the feast. There’s also a pub to enjoy, The Plough Inn, and next to it are the remains of a 14th or 15th century cross. How many places can you see that kind of history!

We’ve also found a circular walk for you to enjoy! A short, 1 mile walk that starts at Kelmscott Manor and finishes at the pub, what more could you want!

Wightwick Manor – Wolverhampton

Wightwick Manor is back open, but all visits must be pre-booked, so take a look at their website for more information. There’s a lovely tearoom which we’d very much encourage a visit to!

Wightwick was built by Theodore Mander and his wife Flora. Theodore and the Mander family were successful 19th-century industrialist in the area. A lecture in Wolverhampton in 1884 by Oscar Wilde on the “House Beautiful” inspired the interiors. The inspiration meant that Flora and Theodore decorated it’s interiors with the designs of Morris and his Arts and Crafts contemporaries. Wightwick self describes on the National Trust website as, “the legacy of a family’s passion for Victorian art and design.” That warrants a visit and a place on this staycation list we think!

Standen – West Sussex

Another National Trust property and therefore always beautiful, is Standen. Again, you need a booking before you go, so remember to plan ahead. You need to book before 3pm the day before you visit just an FYI on that from looking at the website. The Arts and Craft home has lots of beautiful Morris & Co. interiors and is a wonderful place to spend hours exploring the house and gardens.

Standen was designed by Philip Webb, Morris’s lifelong friend and colleague. So, of course, the interior is decorated with beautiful Morris & Co. works.

Red House – Bexleyheath

The final National Trust property we’ll mention, Red House is the only house commissioned, created and lived in by William Morris.
It’s not only been designed and worked on by some of the founders of the Arts  & Crafts movement, but holds such a rich history of who has visited alone! Designed by Philip Webb, it was completed in 1860. It’s famous to have been described by Edward Burne-Jones as “the beautifullest place on earth.”
Lived in by the Morris family; William, Jane, May and Jenny, it’s an insight into their family life. When decorating the home, the idea of Morris & Co. came to be as Morris couldn’t find interiors that he saw beautiful enough to be within the home and so the Firm was born. (The Firm being Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. which reformed eventually into Morris & Co.)
So what is there to now see at Red House? Firstly, the stunning property itself, a wonderful representation of Webb’s architecture. Stained glass and paintings by Edward Burne-Jones, features and furniture by Morris & Webb and embroidery by Jane and Elizabeth Burden.
It’s high on our list to visit during a staycation, it’s here that inspired Trellis from the trellis’s Morris had in the garden. It’s currently closed but the website states they’re working hard to reopen which is why we’ve included it. Keep checking the website to see when they’ve deemed safe to open. 

Oxford

Lots of the way Morris thought, and the entire course of his life shifted at Oxford Exeter College. He developed an interest in Medieval architecture in particular, Oxford’s architecture remains absolutely stunning so we can see why. But, he saw Victorian industrial revolution pushing to modernise these buildings and there begun his lifelong pursuit to stop industrialisation from affecting both architecture and traditional ways of manufacture.

Oxford is always beautiful to visit, you can see why it was such a point of inspiration for Morris.

 

Merton Abbey – London

Merton Abbey was where Morris moved his textile design and printing company to from 1881 to 1888. The Abbey was on the River Wandle which made it perfect for textile printing due to the water. We’ve blogged about Merton Abbey lots, Morris showed his remarkable personality and idealism during this time. He paid his workers more than the average, supplied a library for their own education. He importantly provided a working environment that was clean, healthy and safe for his workers.

The Abbey is today actually a shopping centre. There seems to not only be independent crafting shops and a zero waste food shop but also things to do, lots of musical events and places to eat and drink. Sounds a fun place to visit on a staycation!

 

William Morris Gallery – Walthamstow

There’s lots of galleries within the UK that showcase both Morris’s work and also, fellow Pre-Raphaelites. The V&A’s British Galleries house decorative works by Morris and friends. However, you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere that’s more dedicated to Morris than the actual William Morris Gallery!

It was actually once called Water House and was Morris’ home as a teenager. He was also born in Walthamstow so go walk round there too if you have time!

You’ll need to book online to enter the gallery so keep that in mind and plan ahead, but inside you can find so many treasures. You can see all the gallery exhibits here so take a look through everything there is to see to plan your trip. Letters, original works, stained glass, embroidery by May, Morris’s daughter and more can all be enjoyed. There’s also a tea room and a shop, so what more could you want for a day out!

 

We hope you like some of our ideas for places to visit on a staycation in the UK. Many are of course down south as that’s where Morris lived, so that’s always a lovely trip away to see friends at these places for us, being from the north!

If you visit, let us know, we’d love to see pictures of your adventures!

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🌿 William Morris Month Day 25 🌿 Florals on florals on florals; all of the William Morris florals just look so beautiful together and, as Morris said himself, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” 🌷
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