Born on this day: Philip Webb

12th January 2018

Born on this day in 1831, he was an architect, designer and long time close friend with William Morris; the two worked together many times throughout their lives and were closely linked in their ideals as they were both members of the Arts and Craft movement. Webb is now widely considered as the ‘father’ of the movement!

We often speak about Webb in our blogs, especially when it comes to his work on Morris’ designs and the houses he designed – Red House in Bexleyheath (London) and Standen in West Sussex.

Morris and Webb met when Morris was 22 and Webb was 25, becoming friends for life, Webb called Morris, “the best man” he ever knew, showing the affection between the two. They bonded over their love of the arts, the English countryside, the buildings of the medieval era and their need to preserve them! The Arts & Craft Movement was actually a reaction to Victorian Industrialisation – killing the skills of traditional craftsmanship. Progress in machinery takes away from the traditional methods of art that they both were keen to revive and keep going for both buildings and furnishings. Webb was also the co-founder of the SPAB – Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

In terms of his childhood, it was a happy one – one of 11 children, he grew up in Oxford and showed an interest in the beautiful architecture all around him from a very young age. The cottages, churches and cottages sparked his lifelong love for architecture. His interest of preserving the older buildings began in 1852 when there was set to be an alteration to the spire of St Mary’s Church in Oxford. For the rest of his life he carried on his battle of preserve and restore old buildings to their former glory in an authentic way – traditional restoration instead of modernising them with their restoration.

His influences of the English countryside are clear throughout his work. His father took him for numerous visits during his childhood to the countryside and we can see the influence of this through his work. The birds and rabbits he drew in Morris’ Brother Rabbit is reflective of this – we license this beautiful design and think that this is a fantastically timeless design and one we can see Webb’s art at it’s best. His father encouraged his artistic talents – as he drew the plants and animals seen on their travels and his father secured tuition for him from a skilled botanical artist – Mrs Richardson.

Along with Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, they established the interior decorating and furnishing business, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. which later became Morris  & Co.

Stylistically, in the homes he designed, Webb embraced the comfortable and traditional, choosing functional over the ornate Victorian ornamentation. In his work we can see traditional English building methods with red bricks, sash windows, gables, steep-sloped roof and tall Tudor-like chimneys. For hobbies, as well as his art, he also loved horses, riding and keeping them he even designed stables for them. From being a young child until he died, he kept horses and when the time came that he was too restricted by his rheumatism to ride, he watched them run in the field behind his home.

We can clearly see Webb’s beautiful art in our licensed William Morris design, Brother Rabbit.

(Featured image is a Portrait of Philip Webb by Charles Fairfax Murray. ©National Portrait Gallery, London)