‘Heaven on Earth’: Kelmscott Manor, the Cotswold Retreat of William Morris

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Kelmscott Manor was the iconic country home of William Morris; poet, designer, craftsman, socialist and founding father of the Arts and Crafts movement.

This Grade I listed house was loved by Morris as a survival of traditional craftsmanship in harmony with the nearby village and surrounding landscape, which lies towards the very upper reaches of the Thames, inspiring many of his most important designs and writings, including the world-famous Willow pattern.

Today, visitors will find an outstanding collection, from early 17th Century furniture to a unique collection of furnishings chosen by Pre-Raphaelite painter-poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti and pieces from each of Morris’ London homes, including several designed especially for the iconic Red House. Morris’ wife Jane and daughter May also have a vivid presences at Kelmscott Manor: many examples reflect their beautiful and accomplished needlework; much of this was designed by May, a significant and accomplished designer in her own right.

The Manor has so many intriguing stories to tell; its collections span over 300 years and reflect the lives, ideas and creative legacy of those who lived and stayed there. Perhaps the most famous portrait of Jane Morris by Rossetti is The Blue Silk Dress which was completed in 1868, currently hanging in the White Room. The domestic charm and ambience of the house is still retained, despite having influenced Pre-Raphaelite art and design and the Arts & Crafts Movement, a legacy still very much treasured today.

Kelmscott Manor also boasts enchanting riverside gardens and the River Thames is located just a few hundred yards away. Beyond the walls of the formal garden stand the impressive farm barns – two of them house the Tearoom and beautiful Shop. The Tearoom is a must, with its friendly staff and delicious home-made meals and cakes, whilst the Shop is packed with decorative and unusual items ideal for gifts or mementoes.

William Morris and his family are buried in the village in the picturesque 12th Century Church of St George’s. Also, worth visiting is the Morris Memorial Hall, built by his daughter May as a memorial to her father.

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Kelmscott Manor is owned and managed by the Society of Antiquaries at Burlington House in London (next to the Royal Academy). Our Friends Scheme supports the many conservation projects necessary to maintain the Kelmscott Manor collections and estate. Members benefit from free entry, discount in the Tearoom and Shop, a regular newsletter and Free or discounted tickets to lectures and events at the Manor and at Burlington House.

These internationally important works of art, design and personal possessions are on permanent display at the Manor from April to October; public open days are currently Wednesday and Saturday, 10.30am-5pm.