Blog#9 Village House at Kelmscott

Morris, Kelmscott and Observations from Nature

During my recent trip to the UK I found an opportunity to pay homage to the Father of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris. Just before lockdown was announced in England, I managed to squeeze in a visit to the ‘earthly paradise’ that he so loved, Kelmscott Manor.

Blog#9 William Morris Carving at Kelmscott
Stone Carving of William Morris in Kelmscott, Oxfordshire

Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire, situated in the unspoilt surroundings of the Cotswolds, along the banks of the River Thames, was described by William Morris as “heaven on earth”. The stunning seventeenth century manor house with its well preserved barns and outbuildings enveloped by high, manicured hedges and walls, was the summer residence of William Morris from 1871 to 1896, a home which he shared with his family and creative associates. He found Kelmscott to be a fine example of true craftsmanship and an inspiring retreat from the bustle of city life where he was able to create, design and write.

The seclusion of Kelmscott village and its Manor House have remained relatively unaltered since Morris lived there and it is easy to understand how the site influenced and reflected Morris’s energy and creativity.
Blog#9 William Morris Carving Kelmscott
Image of William Morris in Kelmscott

The seclusion of Kelmscott village and its Manor House have remained relatively unaltered since Morris lived there and it is easy to understand how the site influenced and reflected Morris’s energy and creativity. The village and manor are hauntingly atmospheric. His translation of the natural environment at Kelmscott was the source for his numerous wallpaper designs. Inspired by the layering of willow branches over hedgerows for the Willow bough wallpaper, this was the only pattern he created whilst actually in residence.

Morris had an almost transcendent connection to the buildings of Kelmscott Manor which he felt embodied the spirit of the craftsmen who originally built it, in every stone and timber that they used for these buildings. Kelmscott Manor is owned and cared for by the Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries and because of its importance worldwide, it has been necessary to upgrade the manor house and its surrounding farm and outbuildings. The gardens and buildings are currently undergoing conservation work and not open for tours throughout 2020/21 but walking amongst the stone cottages and along the winding lanes, one can sense the spirit of a place that deeply affected Morris.

The gardens today are planted to reflect a Victorian cottage garden, the varieties of soft fruit trees are Victorian and appear to be in perfect harmony with nature and which allude to Morris’s botanical designs. Larkspur and acanthus have died back this time of the year but the natural pattern in the hedgerows and the fruit bearing trees gently refer to the informal designs inspired by the British countryside that gave Morris his reputation as a distinctive designer.

Renovations at Kelmscott Manor