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Webb’s Early Years…

22nd January 2016

Welcome to part two of our Philip Webb chronicle! We’re concentrating on his early years in this blog, his friendship to Morris at this formative time was important and we look to explore this more as well as understand how both Webb and Morris rose to be such influential figures in their crafts- before they could do this, they had to learn their trade…

On the 16th May 1854, Webb began work at G.E. Street’s office- his salary? £1 a week- I bet we all wish such a an architect was a pound a week! It wasn’t until 1856 that Morris and Webb met, when Morris went to work for G.E.Street in Oxford, whilst Webb was the senior assistant. It has been recorded that Webb described Morris as, “a slim boy, like a wonderful bird just out of his shell.” It was these two who were to become the Art and Crafts movements most influential pioneers. It was around this time that Webb and Morris took up the crafts that would make them famous over a hundred  years after their deaths for the talents they possessed- the crafts included carving, wood-engraving, embroidery and clay-modelling. Morris was inspired by John Ruskin who designed many beautiful Gothic buildings, and upon finishing his degree he devoted his life to architecture.

15-philip-speakman-webb-by-charles-fairfax-murray-c2ac-national-portrait-gallery-london

Portrait of Philip Webb by Charles Fairfax Murray. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Morris didn’t enjoy the work in Street’s office, he found the measured drawings tedious and difficult. Webb and Morris continued their friendship as Webb showed him his favourite haunts in Oxford, taking him to old churches and showing him the architecture around them. They formed a close friendship which would last until Morris’ death, and have important affects on English architecture, interior design and the preservation of historical buildings. The book Philip Webb, ‘Pioneer of Arts & Crafts Architecture’ by Sheila Kirk summarises their friendship wonderfully, “Their personalities were complementary. Morris, usually somewhat unkempt, was mercurial, rebellious, vehement, and prone to sudden enthusiasms which he pursued with an egotism Webb described as ‘amusing and childlike’, and to sudden violent rages in which he sometimes damaged himself and the furniture. Webb, a tall, slim man with a serious, intelligent and kindly expression, was extremely reticent, of equable temper, self-controlled, slow to form or change his beliefs, and careful of his appearance. Both men were steadfast on matters of principle, loyal, sincere, lacking in pettiness, and wholly without pretence, with a strong aversion to the artificiality of formal social occasions.” (Kirk, 2005, P.15)

When Burne-Jones first met Webb, he apparently was suprised he was of the same age as him as when Morris described his friend from work he spoke of him as a, “very fine old fellow in the office.” (Kirk, 2005, p 15) Morris left Street’s office in 1856, he was tired of architecture full time, and though it remained a passion, he preferred to create things with his own two hands- though an architect designs the property, they don’t create it, and so he left to pursue painting.

phil

Philip Webb’s drawing instruments. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Red House, 2014. ©National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, begun in 1848 had been disbanded by 1856, but, “a wider circle of painters, centred round Rosetti, had espoused its ideal of portraying people and events in the colours and attitudes of real life instead of the formal conventionalised postures and arrangements, with colour subordinated to drawing, demanded by the royal academy.” (Kirk, 2005, p15)

Webb was, by all accounts, a lovely man. He was immensely kind, honest, and was hugely supportive of his friends successes. When someone was worse off than him, he made a point to help them out even if he didn’t have it himself, he was known for giving money as ‘gifts’ not loans, so only if someone came into good fortune were they to repay him. When Morris set up the Kelmscott Press in 1891, Morris insisted on giving Webb a copy of every book he published, so Webb bought a copy of every book published to lend to friends so Morris wouldn’t financially suffer from his generosity. Sydney Carlyle Cockerell, the secretary of Morris’ Kelmscott Press from 1891-1896 recalled Morris referred to Webb as, “the best man that he had ever known.” (Kirk, 2005, p16.)

After Morris met and married Jane Burden, Burne-Jones engaged to Georgiana Macdonald and Rossetti to Elizabeth Siddall, Morris decided to build a house in the country to realise his and Burne-Jones’ dream of a monastic establishment, calling themselves the brotherhood. This had to be revised once the men married, and the dream would be realised on a part time basis. This house remains today as Red House, which we will focus on in our next blog, and is now a beautiful National Trust property which we would highly recommend visiting.

The_Red_House,_Bexleyheath

Webb met Faulkner when they were both painting the Debating Hall, and in 1858 Faulkner, Webb and Morris took a trip to Paris, which has become a famous holiday as the three were heavily inspired whilst in France, Webb returned to England with not only an intensive knowledge of British buildings, but now also an awareness of French churches, castles and townhouses. Taking a month to complete, the three rowed from Paris to Caudebec, the boat arrived with a hole in it from Oxford, to Morris’ fury. “They hoisted sail in favourable winds, slept at inns, and stopped to explore towns and make short excursions. It was an unusual and adventurous holiday, involving not only he studying of medieval architecture but also hilarious battles with soda-water syphons, a leaking boat, being stranded in a lock because Morris had angered the lock-keeper, and a narrow escape from being shipwrecked by the tidal bore.” (Kirk, 2005, p.19)

Our next blog picks up the story after the friends return from their trip!

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🌷 William Morris month day 30 🌷 As we come near the end of Morris month, we’re celebrating with a fabric stack, full of beautiful licensed designs, which is your fave? 🌿 “Remember that a pattern is either right or wrong. It cannot be forgiven for blundering, as a picture may be which has otherwise great qualities in it. It is with a pattern as with a fortress, it is no stronger than its weakest point.”- William Morris 🤍 
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🐭 William Morris month day 29 🐭 We’ve been loving William Morris month to celebrate Morris’s birthday month, spreading his floral magic by posting everyday - have you discovered a new favourite design of his this month? 🌿 We absolutely love these little mice and the banner by @mini_and_bob - aren’t they so lovely! 🐭🤍
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🌷William Morris Month Day 28🌷 Happy Easter weekend everyone! 🐥 We hope everyone has a lovely long bank holiday 🌿 We’re already planning some beautiful William Morris tablescapes, nothing too complex, all you need is some Morris florals, some flowers and lots of chocolate! 🐰
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🌷 William Morris Month Day 26 🌷 Absolutely loving a spring time floral on the table right now, especially when paired with an Easter craft or two! 🤍
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#williammorris #williammorrisfabrics #williammorrisfabric #morris #fabric #fabriccraft #fabrics #crafting #independantbusiness #indiebusiness #preraphaelite
🌿 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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🐥 William Morris Month Day 23 🐥 Loving the sunshine this week for springtime 🌿 We absolutely love Willow Bough on the table in the sunshine paired with spring blooms 🌷
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🌷 William Morris Month Day 22🌷 A themed table is always our favourite, we’ve been loving setting the table lately with an Easter theme- especially when it means we can eat the eggs after! 🐣✨ 
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#williammorris #williammorrismonth #williammorrisfabric #williammorrisfabrics #preraphaelite #eastertables #eastereggs #eastertablescape #springflorals
🌿 William Morris Day 20 🌿 William Morris fact of the day; did you know he founded the Kelmscott Press? 🖋️ He wrote of the venture – “Here is a new craft to conquer and to perfect.” Printing began at the press in Spring 1891 🪴 He designed multiple fonts including “Golden” Roman typeface and “Troy” Gothic type along with “Chaucer” and he worked to create beautiful books in regards to their designs which took into account their type, image and decorative elements – you can see beautiful examples of what he achieved today if you do a quick search on the Kelmscott Press- it’s well worth a Google! 🌷
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🌷 William Morris Month Day 19🌷 Happy first day of spring everyone! 🪴 We celebrated in our favourite way; coffee and cake of course! 🍰 Now we love florals all year round of course, but especially love adding in even more this time of year to reflect the blooms in the garden 🌷 What’s your favourite Morris design this time of year? 🌿
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📝 William Morris Month Day 18 📝 Did you know that as well as being an incredible designer, William Morris was also a brilliant writer and poet; have you read any of his writing? What’s your favourite quote? 🌷🌿
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☀️ William Morris Month Day 17 ☀️ The sunshine today has made us feel so excited for spring, it’s almost officially here! 🪴 This William Morris bunting is the dreamiest backdrop to all the spring summer days in the garden, it’s by @ellejoycreations - isn’t it fabulous!🌷
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🐰 William Morris Month Day 16 🐰 A Sunday spent Easter decorating, these cute little bunnies were a craft a few years back and they are always a firm favourite to bring out this time of year to hang on our Easter tree 🐥 Have you started decorating or eating eggs yet? 🐣
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🍓 William Morris Month Day 15 🍓 Absolutely can’t wait for the summer months to get our Strawberry Thief picnic basket and blanket back out- if you missed this craft we have a DIY on our website blog, along with a lot of other craft ideas and how-to blogs ☺️
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🍓 William Morris Month Day 14 🍓 Strawberry Thief was inspired by William Morris’s watching the thrushes under the strawberry nets at the stunning @kelmscottmanor 🌿 May Morris conjured up this scene when speaking of the design, “You can imagine my Father going out in the early morning and watching the rascally thrushes at work on the fruit beds and telling the fanned who growls ‘I’d like to wring their necks!’ that no bird in the garden must be touched. There were certainly more birds than strawberries in spite of attempts at protection. And the walls of the little dining-room are hung with this note of the June garden and the little lords of it.” 🍓 What a lovely insight into the Morris family life! 🥰
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