A couple of years ago I wrote about a visit to the Red House at Bexley, London which was the former home of the designer and artist Willam Morris. Recently I was fortunate enough to visit his other home, Kelmscott Manor which he leased with his fellow Pre-Raphaelite artist, Dante Gabriel Rosetti.
There must have been a bit of a ‘theme’ going on in Morris’ mind, as Kelmscott is very remote, much as the Red House was in his time (although this is definitely not the case today!) In fact Kelmscott Manor is so remote that the easiest way to access it in Morris’ time was by boat! Today there are winding narrow country lanes which lead to the hamlet clustered around the church; Morris and his wife are buried side by side in the churchyard here, and then a 10 minute walk down another narrow lane to the house itself. Interestingly it is still possible to access the house by boat as there is a mooring about 5 minutes away from the house. The house sits on the banks of the upper part of the River Thames.
Kelmscott Manor from the garden taken with my Holga Toy camera. I love the vignetting caused by the plastic lens and the faded slightly ethereal quality of the colour produced by the film and light leakage
Originally built around 1600 for a yeoman farmer, Thomas Turner, Kelmscott Manor stayed in the Turner family until the late 1860’s when it passed to a cousin who put it up for rent, the lease being taken by Morris and Rosetti. Since 1962 it has been in the hands of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Sparsely furnished, there are items from the Turner family as well as the Morrises, including some pieces which were originally designed and installed at the Red House. While these items are present and interesting to see, there was not, for me at least, much of a ‘feeling’ of Morris. The house operates timed entries and as it is so compact, there is a one way system in operation. There are 3 floors on show, including Jane Morris’ bedroom, William Morris’ bedroom and room filled with tapestries and the most amazing attic space which is accessed by a steep and narrow asymmetrical staircase. This is not contemporary to Morris’ time when the attic was accessed by an open ladder, but installed to allow visitors safe access to the upper part of the house.
Morris & Co tiled fireplace in The Green Room
Jane Morris’ chair in which she kept her books
embroidery designed by May Morris and embroidered by her mother Augusta de Morgan (sister of Willam de Morgan)
William Morris’ bed
Asymmetric staircase allows access to the attic rooms
Attic space at Kelmscott
Tavern clock owned by Dante Gabriel Rosetti
The grounds are also compact with the garden immediately around the house resembling that at the Red House. The house has the most amazing guttering with huge chutes to allow roof water to drain away from the house.
Rainwater chutes at Kelmscott
Kelmscott Manor is small, but perfectly formed in the peaceful area of natural beauty close to the River Thames. There is a tearoom and a shop as well as barn housing an informative display about the house and Morris. All in all an afternoon well spent.
Medlar fruit tree in the garden at Kelmscott
3 person privy in the garden!
Morris and Co Tiles
Stone slab fence possibly designed by Ernest Gimson