William Morris Gallery Reopened in North London
Born in 1834, William Morris was one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement, supporter of the Pre-Raphaelites, political activist, designer, craftsman and all round Renaissance man kind of guy whose vision are still major influences today.
Now having been transformed into a new world class destination and “international center of excellence” for the study of all things Morris, the childhood home of this famed polymath’s has reopened to the public as a gallery offering an unprecedented (and free!) opportunity to explore the life and work of one of the most important creative artists and original thinkers of the 19th century.
Housed in the family home where Morris lived from 1848 to 1856, the William Morris Gallery is an 18th century, Grade II* listed building that’s been completely refurbished to reveal its original Georgian features, enabling visitors to experience the house as the Morris family would have. Indeed, a trip to the gallery is worth it just for getting to see the house alone. The driveway entrance to the gallery’s grounds has been remodeled as a circular carriageway sweep, providing historically accurate approach. The gardens have been restored using design and planting inspired by Morris and plants of the garden from the 18th century and have been restored as part of a wider refurbishment of the greater Lloyd Park, in which the Gallery is situated.
The transformation delivers increased and fully-refurbished exhibition space with three new galleries and the chance for previously unseen works to be displayed, a library, research and education center and a new Georgian orangery-inspired extension housing a new tearoom and balcony overlooking the gardens.
Almost 600 objects are now on display across 12 exhibition spaces within the gallery, along with a brand new cafe with outdoor terraced and garden seating, facilities for educational and speaking events and an extensive research library. Word is this lovely and art-filled house is an excellent wedding venue too.
Many of the gallery’s artefacts are on display for the first time and arranged across six major themes exploring different aspects of Morris’ life. Examples include a letter from Morris to his mother addressing her feelings that he lacked ambition and her concern about him not going into the Church; a hand inscribed book for his wife, Jane, for her birthday; and his coffee cup and trusty satchel in which he carried his sketches, essays and political pamphlets. Those familiar with Morris are probably best acquainted with his wallpaper designs. The gallery exhibits his first ever wallpaper design through to the wallpaper he designed for St James’s Palace. A range of ephemera related to Morris along with art by his contemporaries and those inspired by him today feature prominently as well.
The William Morris Gallery is located at Forest Road in Walthamstow in North London (E17 4PP). It’s a 15-minute walk from either Walthamstow Central or Blackhorse Road Tube stations on the Victoria Line. Opening times are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. Entry is free. Visit wmgallery.org.uk for more information.
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photo: Chris Osburn