FAQs

Your Cart

Close
Paper Plane Your order qualifies for free standard delivery
Subtotal £0.00
Delivery £0.00
Order Total £0
Checkout Securely

William Morris; His Life and Work

30th December 2018

We’ve written quite a few blogs about William Morris over the years. We’re aware though that in the eternal filing cabinet of our blog, older blogs can get lost in the noise of the internet. We therefore thought it was time to do another blog about William Morris. Though we of course focus on his life in terms of his designs, there’s so much more to him. Focusing on his life, work and passions, here’s everything you need to know about a man that never seemed to slow down. Achieving so much in his life, it’s no wonder that when he died, his physician gave the cause of death. “Simply being William Morris, and having done more work than most ten men.”

A multifaceted man

Today, many of us know Morris as a designer – but actually, during his lifetime, he was best known as a poet. With beautiful work such as our favourite, ‘Love is Enough,’ it’s not hard to see why. He is recognised as one of the most significant and important cultural figures of Victorian England. He was pioneering in his thoughts, attitude and actions.

A few of his passions can be summarised. He either took an interest in one or more of these things and though some lasted for only a chapter of his life, many were important to him throughout his life. A designer, he had multiple talents including the design of textiles, wallpapers, tapestries, chintzes. He could weave, he could create stained glass and manufacture furniture. Also, he was a keen socialist, social reformer, preservationist and had a huge interest in the politics of the time. As mentioned, Morris was a wonderful poet and wrote novels, even creating his own press as the founder of the Kelmscott Press. Morris also started two businesses; The Firm came first, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. before being disbanded and reformed as Morris & Co.

Early Life

Morris, 24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896, was born in Walthamstow, Essex. He attended Oxford University where he studied at Exeter College at Oxford University. Here, he met characters that shaped him forever. Edward Burne-Jones and Morris became friends here which would be a friendship which would last their life and they would also work collaboratively on projects throughout the years.

Morris and Burne-Jones were hugely influenced by the Oxford movement within the Church of England – it was even assumed that both would go into the Church as Clergymen. However, it was the work and ideas of John Ruskin that truly shaped them as they read his work on the social and moral basis of architecture. Morris went on to take a position in the office of G.E.Street – an architect of Gothic Revivalist. It’s known that being in Oxford hugely influenced Morris – he didn’t want to see the beautiful gothic architecture be replaced with more modern buildings.

Family Life

Morris met Jane Burden in October 1857. She attended a performance of the Drury Lane Theatre Company in Oxford. Spotted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Burne-Jones in the audience along with her sister Bessie. They wanted her to model for their art because she was the ideal of Pre-Raphaelite beauty. She initially was wary of the group and didn’t turn up for the painting but eventually, she was featured in many of the groups work and is immortalised forever in paintings such as Rossetti’s famous Queen Guinevere and Morris’ La Belle Iseult which today is featured in the Tate Gallery.

Morris fell in love with Burden and asked for her hand in marriage. From a poor working class background, it’s claimed she said yes because of the status of Morris. By her own admission, she wasn’t in love with Morris and in fact, has a long and documented affair with Rossetti.

Morris and Burden had two children together, May (born in March 1862) and Jane Alice – known as Jenny (born in January 1861.) May later worked for Morris & Co. you can read more about her in our post here.

Socialism and the Arts and Crafts Movement

“…I do not want art for a few; any more than education for a few; or freedom for a few… ” – William Morris.

This summarises the views of Morris in terms of his ideals. Art, for Morris, was a necessity for a fulfilling life. The conditions of Victorian life including the poverty, pollution and working conditions angered Morris.

As industrialisation occurred, he also campaigned against the destruction of the world’s natural resources. He was quoted saying, “there is no square mile of earth’s inhabitable surface that is not beautiful in its own way, if we men will only abstain from wilfully destroying that beauty.” That view is worryingly still important today and something we will always keep in mind when licensing and printing his designs. You can read our environmental policy on how we print and manufacture our products here. 

William Morris was also a leader within the Arts and Crafts movement. The group of artists were passionate in preserving the traditional crafts. They resisted the mass production that came hand in hand with industrialisation. Morris actually started printing his own textiles at Merton Abbey in 1881. With workshops on site, Merton Abbey was used for weaving, dyeing, creating stained glass. Methods such as the Indigo Dye technique were achieved here after much trial and error to achieve the perfect print. Within three years, 100 craftsmen were employed at Merton Abbey. You can read our blog on the Indigo Dye Technique here.

The Firm

A stunning Arts & Crafts property in Bexleyheath, London, Red House was to be a family home for Morris and Jane. The house was complete in 1860 after being co-designed by William Morris and his friend and colleague Philip Webb. The interior was mostly designed by Morris and the exterior by architect Webb. The home was named after the red bricks and tiles which it was built from. The home itself influenced by contemporary Neo-Gothic architecture. It was described by Burne-Jones as ”the beautifulest place on Earth.”

In April 1861, after being disappointed with the quality of items to furnish his new home, Morris was inspired to create a decorative arts company. With six other partners; Burne-Jones, Webb, Rossetti, Charles Faulkner, Peter Paul Marshall and Ford Madox Brown. They called it Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. and was often referred to as ”The Firm.” They focused on Ruskin’s ideals of how the British producers should reform their ideas on how arts are produced and enjoyed.

Morris & Co.

The Firm was dissolved and then reorganised under Morris’ sole ownership on the 31st March 1875. Becoming Morris & Co. It continued as a furnishing and decorative arts manufacturer. Along with friends from the Pre-Raphaelite movement, they were all passionate about hand crafting, hand printing and using traditional methods of production. The designs Morris created during this time are so beautiful. We licence many of these designs today according to our own specifications. Both in terms of size and colour to meet our own requirements for our products.

 

There’s so much more to Morris and his life, we hope you do go back within our blogs to learn more about him. Including travels, work, art and his life’s work. We can’t fit it all in one blog but we hope this is enough of an introduction to Morris and his life. We blog weekly all about William Morris and his work so make sure to keep checking back. You can also follow us on social media on Instagram and Twitter so we can let you know when the next blog is live!

Related Articles

Post Title

William Morris Strawberry Thief

If you browse through our collections, you will see just how many beautiful William Morris designs we license and print for an array of products....

Post Title

The Great British Bake-Off Final!

As big fans of the Great British Bake-Off, we can't wait for tonights big final! With Richard Burr, Nancy Birtwhistle and Luis Troyano battling it...

Post Title

John Ruskin Exhibition in Sheffield

John Ruskin Exhibition in Sheffield This is likely to be of great interest to William Morris fans.  There is a fascinating exhibition entitled  Force of...

A William Morris fabric stack 😍 What would you make from our licensed William Morris floral fabrics? 🪡🧵
•
•
•
#williammorris #williammorrisfabric #williammorrisfabrics #fabrics #fabric #fabricdestashuk #fabricstack #upholsteryfabric #curtainfabric
We hope you’re having a lovely Easter 🐣 Choccy treats galore with some beautiful Morris florals, what more could we want! 🌷🤍
•
•
•
#williammorris #williammorrisfabrics #williammorrisfabric #floraldesign #tablescapestyling #upholsteryfabric #curtainfabric #preraphaelite #floral
Morris fan? There’s 15% off our entire collection of licensed William Morris fabrics and products, this Easter weekend only! 🐣 Use code: EASTER15 at checkout, on our website only, until Monday at midnight 🌙 Enjoy this Easter treat from us! 🤍
•
•
•
#williammorris #williammorrisfabric #williammorrisdesign #onlinefabric #onlinefabrics #preraphaelite #upholsteryfabric #curtainfabric #floraldesign
We love all the beautiful spring florals this time of year 🌷 We’ve also not been able to resist starting early on the Easter treats! 🐣
•
•
•
#williammorris #williammorrisfabric #williammorrisdesign #williammorrisfabrics #willowbough #tablescape #tablescapes #eastertablesetting #upholsteryfabric #upholsteryfabrics #curtainfabrics #eastertableideas
Introducing Daisy, our latest William Morris licensed design 🌿 Daisy was the second wallpaper William Morris designed, but the first to be produced in 1864, so it remains a special design to every Morris fan ✨ It must have been a favourite of Morris himself, as embroideries of Daisy were used to decorate at the stunning Red House, Morris's home in Bexleyheath. 
We hope you love Daisy as much as we do! Available now on our website, in a limited range of products, fabric is coming soon! ☺️
-
-
-
#williammorris #williammorrisfabric #williammorrisfabrics #fabric#onlinefabricstore #preraphaelite #williammorrisdesign#upholsteryfabric #curtainfabric #daisy
A fabric stack of William Morris floral dreams 🤍
•
•
•
#williammorris #williammorrisfabric #williammorrisfabrics #fabrics #floralfabrics #onlinefabrics #onlinefabricshop #upholsteryfabric #upholsteryfabrics #curtainfabric #curtainfabrics #strawberrythief #fabricstack
Spring floral ready with our William Morris Willow Bough table setting 🌿 Do your weekend plans also revolve around tea/coffee and baked goods? 🤍
•
•
•
#williammorris #williammorrisfabric #willowbough #springfloral #preraphaelite #spring #florals #floralfabric #tablescape #onlinefabric #onlinefabricstore #curtainfabric #upholsteryfabric
Monday done right, laying the table with our beautiful licensed William Morris Willow Bough green tablecloth, completed with a @bettys treat 🥰 
•
•
•
#williammorris #williammorrisfabric #williammorrisdesign #willowbough #tablescape #tablescapes #tablescapestyling #bettys #preraphaelite #preraphaelites #tablecloth #floraltable #onlinefabric #onlinefabrics
A little fabric stack of our William Morris florals, waiting to be crafted into a project 🪡 Can you name them all from the little peak? 🌿 
All our fabrics are printed in the UK and are licensed William Morris designs, printed both size and colour wise to our own specification ✨ If you’d like a sample, just send us a message 📬
•
•
•
#williammorris #morris #williammorrisfabric #williammorrisfabrics #fabricstash #fabricstack #morrisfabric #preraphaelite #floralfabric #upholsteryfabric #curtainfabric #onlinefabricshop #onlinefabricshopping
Showcasing our licensed William Morris Lily fabric, it’s so light and bright it’s making us excited for Spring! 🌿
Designed by William Morris in 1874, it incorporates the willow background with lilies and wild flowers ✨ The design must have been well loved by Morris himself- it was the wallpaper he used to decorate his bedroom at Kelmscott Manor, his home in Lechlade, Gloucestershire 🌿
•
•
•
#williammorris #williammorrisfabric #williammorrisfabrics #fabrics #floralfabric #lily #onlinefabricstore #onlinefabrics #onlinefabric #independentbusiness #preraphaelite
Thrilled with our reupholstered chair, brought back to life with our heavyweight William Morris Willow Bough Green 🌿 It’s amazing what a pop of colour and a floral will do to a room 🤍 If you fancy learning how we did this upcycle, we’ll write a blog on it ☺️ 
& if you’re in the UK and would like a sample of any of our fabrics, please let us know 📮
•
•
•
#williammorris #morris #williammorrisfabric #morrisfabric #williammorrisfabrics #willowbough #reupholstery #reupholstered #upholsteryfabric #upcycledfurniture
The different weights of fabric 🧵 We have four weights of fabrics; cotton, heavyweight, drill and pvc, all work well for different projects. For a free sample, please feel free to message us and we’ll get them sent out to you 📮
✨ For our 100% cotton, it’s great for quilting, dress making and more, our lightest weight of cotton
✨ Our heavyweight cotton is perfect for curtains and light upholstery, a heavier fabric than our 100% cotton 
✨ Our drill cotton fabric is our heaviest weave fabric, suitable for light upholstery 
✨ Our PVC is our pvc/oilcloth coated cotton fabric, brilliant as a table covering, it’s sold by the half metre and as it won’t fray, is great to put straight on the table 🌿

The cotton, heavyweight and drill cotton are all 152cm wide and the pvc fabric is 140cm wide. All are sold by the half metre 📏
•
•
•
#williammorris #williammorrisfabric #williammorrisfabrics #fabrics #morrisfabric #goldenlily #onlinefabric #upholsteryfabric #curtainfabrics #quiltingfabric
In January when the Christmas sparkles come down, we’ve got to bring out even more Morris florals to make sure the house still feels sparkly and beautiful ✨ if you’re also looking to revamp any of the home and looking for a licensed William Morris design for a pop of colour, get in touch for any samples so you can choose which works in your home 🤍
•
•
•
#williammorris #morris #strawberrythief #preraphaelite #onlinefabric #onlinefabricstore #fabrics #williammorrisfabric
Our blue Strawberry Thief oven gloves are back in stock, just in time for Christmas! 🎄 will you be gifting some Morris floral magic this year? Or hope to be receiving some! 🎁 Our matching sets of kitchenware and tableware are very popular this time of year, remember if you’re sending direct to your loved one, you can select for the items to be gift wrapped at checkout on our website! 🌟
•
•
•
#williammorris #strawberrythief #williammorrisdesign #williammorrisfabric #williammorrisdesigns #ovengloves #christmasgiftsideas #kitchenware #tablescape
Our Black Friday sale is now live! 🥂 On our website only, use code, BLACKFRIDAY10 all weekend for 10% off your order ☺️ Ends Sunday at midnight 🌙
•
•
•
#williammorris #williammorrisfabric #williammorrisfabrics #preraphaelite #willowbough #tablescape #placemats #floraldesign
Dreaming of the sunshine 💭 This is our smallest size of tote bag, in our licensed William Morris Strawberry Thief, on this bike ride we were pretty happy that it was filled to the brim with snacks to eat on the beach ☀️ On Wintery nights we love to look back on the sunshine! ☁️
•
•
•
#strawberrythief #williammorris #preraphaelite #morris #williammorrisdesign #totebag #summerdreaming #williammorrisfabric #coronado
We're so thrilled our new website is now live! 🌿Just in time for Christmas shopping, it's much easier to use, and still full of beautiful licensed William Morris designs on every page! We hope you like the change, especially where lots of you are featured on the new 'inspiration' page! 🌟 We absolutely love that it showcases everyones tablescapes and craft projects, just click on them to see the design and who posted the photo so you can see more of their content ☺️ If you're happy for us to use your photos, just send us a message, we'd love it to be a page we can keep adding to throughout the seasons 🪴
Special thank you to @adigi_agency for creating our website, we love it! 🤍
•
•
•
#williammorris #morris #williammorrisfabric #williammorrisfabrics #onlinefabrics #countrykitchendecor #christmasgiftsideas #newwebsitelaunch