Monday, 9 May 2011

William Morris and the Red House

I have been meaning to write this posting for some weeks but somehow always managed to get distracted by other matters. So, here we go with my visit to the Red House. I had been trying to visit the Red House for years and luckily a local coach company had organised coach trip which took in both this house and the Paladian mansion, Danson House.

The first impressions of the house was it's location, surprisingly in the middle of a mid 20th century housing estate ! of course we later learnt that when newly built it was in the middle of open country side. Second impression was how small it is and how plain the front was. Almost no ornamentation, which was a surprise for somebody know for his patterns.

The group was treated to a lovely guided tour by lady who must have known Morris, from the way she enthused about his life and works. I did not realize that the house dated the period before both William Morris and Philip Webb had made the mark on the design world and that the in vogue designer preferences was Victorian Gothic rather than the Arts and Crafts style that these two are now remembered for. Hence the pointy gothic arches and gable ends. William Morris and his wife Jane Burden moved took up residence in 1860 and only lived there for a few years.

Above is the classic view we see in all the books including the well head. This is actually the back of the house, the front was too dark to get a good quality picture. The tour took us inside where we were shown the original painted walls and stained glass from the period and several of the original Morris period items of furniture, which were too large to moved and had survived, even if they had been painted over in later years.

The inside was thinly furnished when we visited, I got the impression that it was very much an on going restoration project. They had been sympathetic with the history of the house and had not totally ignored the later occupant's contribution. There was the fitted office furniture owned by the last owner. This was a nice touch.

Whilst there were a few original Morris painted panels with pre-raphaelite ladies and a few Sussex type chairs scattered about the interior was largely unfurnished. The best piece in the house was a large Philip Webb designed oak table.

There was also an exhibition by Sanderson's of William Morris fabrics and wall papers. I must not forget to mention the stable tea room in the garden. I think it was a bit overwhelmed by our little trip but I still recommend the toasted tea cakes (slighty crisp) and a good mug of tea. Whilst drinking my tea I noticed a tea towel for sale with
 William Morris' famous advise;

Have nothing in your homes
 that you do not know to be useful
 or believe to be beautiful.

If you are plannig a visit then I would advise that it is only a mornings worth and would suggest a short trip across the road to visit Danson House which is set in the park of the same name which may not have been designed with help from Lancelot "Capability" Brown or something like that.

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