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William Morris (1834-1896)

William Morris

Copyright: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1890s)

Initially inspired by John Ruskin, Morris was one of the founders of the British Arts and Crafts Movement. He started his own firm, Morris & Co. in 1861 working across a broad field and developing techniques in the production of traditional textile arts including wood block printing, embroidery, carpet-making, wallpaper and patterned fabrics. Morris’ own work began to favour craftsmanship which was beautiful, affordable and hand-made, leaving industrial manufacture behind.


Morris’ inspiration came to him whilst studying at Exeter College, Oxford and becoming exposed to the work of John Ruskin. It was also at Oxford that Morris met Edward Burne-Jones who was to become his faithful life-long friend and collaborator.


In 1856, Morris was apprenticed to George Edmund Street (Royal Gold Medallist in 1874) where he met the architect Philip Webb. Webb worked with Morris to design The Red House at Bexleyheath, a wedding gift from Morris to his wife.


Morris rented a country house in Kelmscott, Oxfordshire, Kelmscott Manor, as a summer retreat, and also owned Kelmscott House in Hammersmith, London. It was after these two buildings that he named his printing company: the Kelmscott Press.


Today, Morris’ influence is still present in the modern world as his designs are sold under licence to Sanderson & Sons and Liberty of London.


Although Morris never trained or was appreciated as a practising architect, his interest in architecture continued throughout his life. He founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877.


Morris was never nominated for the Royal Gold Medal.