William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow, London
This Grade II-listed Georgian house was once the home of designer and artist, William Morris, father of the arts and crafts movement. Morris lived in the property with his mother and eight siblings from 1834 to 1896 where the children enjoyed having the run of the grounds, including the garden moat where they would go boating in the summer and ice-skating in the winter. Today, the property houses a museum and gallery dedicated to Morris’ life and legacy where the breadth of his work is viewable to the general public.
The gallery was originally opened in 1950 when it welcomed H.M Queen Mary as one of its first visitors after George V granted Morris & Co the Royal Warrant for its contributions to the 1911 Coronation. After a £5 million redevelopment project carried out in 2012, the museum has now been transformed into a world-class visitor attraction and has since been awarded the title of Museum of the Year for 2013 by the Art Fund. Innovative displays help bring the new contemporary exhibition space to life while the museum’s permanent collections contain key works that highlight the different aspects of Morris’ life from his childhood to the birth of the Arts and Crafts movement and beyond. New collection displays have been created on the ground and first floors of the house while the top floor has been turned into a learning and research centre helping to chart the continuing influence of William Morris.
Stained glass, metalwork, textiles and ceramics are all on display within the museum as well as some of Morris’ early drawings. Morris didn’t have any formal training in art so it came as a shock to his family when he announced that he would be dedicating his life to it. He was greatly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite artists and each gallery within the museum centres on internationally important collections connected with Morris and his associates, including the Pre-Raphaelites.
One of the areas within the property is dedicated to Frank Brangwyn, one of the founders of the William Morris Gallery. Brangwyn was apprentice to Morris and later became a successful artist himself with a selection of his work now on show at the gallery.
Getting there: By car, leave the North Circular at the Billet roundabout onto the A112 (Chingford Road) and continue until you come to the junction with Forest road. Turn right into Forest Road and the Gallery is about 100 yards on the right. By train, the gallery is located a 15-minute walk away from Walthamstow Central.
Don’t miss: The embroidery work of Morris’ daughter, May, who was a respected designer in her own right.
William Morris Gallery, Lloyd Park, Forest Road, Walthamstow, London E17 4PP. Open Wednesday to Sunday 10am-5pm. Tel: 020 8496 4390. www.wmgallery.org.uk