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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

Prime Minister Clement Attlee opened the William Morris Gallery in 1950. It's the former house of the English artist and socialist William Morris. The distinguished gallery housed in a Georgian building in Walthamstow, Lloyd Park.

The 18th-century building is a magnificent Grade II-listed villa with a white timber porch and Corinthian columns. Its magnificent Georgian architecture dates to 1744, which is the date signed on a brick situated in the upper east wing of the house. What's more, past records show that an additional house was built on the site or on the island behind the house, dating to the 15th century. Nevertheless, the existing building is known as the Water House due to the moat behind it.

A map dating to 1758 highlights the west and east wings of the house. But the 2 southern bays were only added about 40 years later. Also, at the beginning of the 1900s, the east wing was destroyed. But in 2012, during renovation, an extension was added. The Corinthian porch is one of the most attractive features of the house. The timber columns and capitals add a majestic note to the building, which is also expressed through decorative rosettes. And the façade's symmetry is executed through string and band courses as well as the superior cornice, which were added at the beginning of the 1800s.

The Location

The William Morris Gallery is situated in Walthamstow, Lloyd Park. It's a beautiful and majestic building set among local urban developments in northeast London. The building comprises 3 floors and it's where the Morris family lived between 1848 and 1856. During this time, William Morris was studying at Marlborough College and Oxford University. Next to the William Morris Gallery you'll find the ancient Epping Forest. Morris, who was born in 1834 in Walthamstow, used to explore this forest as a child. What's more, his interest in textile design was inspired after a visit to Elizabeth I hunting lodge at Chingford. It's where he first saw a room decorated with old tapestry.

The Beginnings of the Gallery

The initiative to develop a gallery in honour of Wiliam Morris began in 1914. However, it wasn't until 1950 when Prime Minister Clement Attlee inaugurated the William Morris Gallery. The first visitor to the gallery was Her Majesty, Queen Mary. And George V, her husband, gave the Royal Warrant to Morris & Co for its contributions to the Coronation in 1911. Artists Arthur Mackmurdo and Sir Frank Brangwyn displayed a large part of their artwork as a memorial to William Morris. Frank Brangwyn was an apprentice with Morris & Co in the early 1880s. Today, the gallery includes displays of artwork from the collections of Macjmurdo and Brangwyn.

The Gallery After the 2012 Renovation

The William Morris Gallery comprises about 600 artworks throughout 12 galleries. All the objects tell the story of the artists' life with accessibility, precision, and clarity. The walls, which previously were dark green, are designed in a light colour and the windows allow bright light to shine through. Visitors can also admire the beautiful views of the park. After the renovation, most of the building's original paneling was revealed. The entire atmosphere of the house is welcoming and fresher. And a new gallery for temporary artwork exhibitions was added. It's designed with a satirical 15m long Walthamstow Tapestry.

After an intro section, you'll find a clear display of William Morris' career. What's most impressive is the room dedicated to the Kelmscott Press, which Morris founded in 1891. All labels are designed in easy-to-understand language, fit for an artist who believed that art is for all. The William Morris Gallery, or the Water House, is the former home of the Morris family. The artist, craftsman, and socialist William Morris lived at the Water House during 1848 and 1856. The Gallery comprises spectacular artworks of William Morris and other artists inspired by him. Visitors can also admire his personal objects such as the artist's coffee cup and the bag he used to distribute pamphlets. The gallery underwent an extensive renovation in 2012, which highlighted the true beauty of the building.