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William Morris. He was the third of nine children and the oldest child of William and Emma Shelton Morris. His famile was very well off and during Morris's youth became increasingly wealthy: at twenty-one, Morris had an income of £900, quite a sum in those days.

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william morris
William Morris

He was the third of nine children and the oldest child of William and

Emma Shelton Morris. His famile was very well off and during Morris's

youth became increasingly wealthy: at twenty-one, Morris had an income

of £900, quite a sum in those days.

  • William Morris was born on March 24, 1834, at Elm House, Walthamstow.
  • Morris's childhood was a happy one. He was spoiled by everyone, and was rather tempermental, as in fact he would be for the rest of his life: he would throw his dinner out of the window if he did not approve of the manner in which it had been prepared. He was smitten at a very early age, as many young gentlemen of his day were, with a great passion for all things mediaeval.

At age four he began to read Sir Walter Scott's Waverley Novels, and he had finished them all by the time he was nine.

  • In 1859 Morris married Jane at Oxford. Morris's marriage was a very difficult one: Jane was moody and frequently ill, and within a few years of their marriage, playing Guenevere this time, had embarked upon a long affair with Rossetti, which permanently strained Morris's relationship not only with Jane herself but also with the man who had been first one of his heroes and then one of his closest friends.
  • In 1862 Morris designed the first of many enormously influential wallpapers for the Company.
  • 1870 saw the publication of Morris's prose translation of the Volsunga Saga, The Story of the Volsungs.
  • Morris saw the Socialist movement as a way to resolve the problems his problems of poverty, unemployment. He also thought that the movement could help fix the death of art and the growing gap between the upper and lower Classes which he saw as being the pervasive legacy, in Victorian society, of the ongoing Industrial Revolution.
  • Over the next few years Morris wrote socialist pamphlets, sold socialist literature on street corners, went on speaking tours, encouraged and participated in strikes and took part in several political demonstrations. In July, 1887 Morris was arrested after a demonstration in London.
  • In 1891 William Morris became seriously ill with kidney disease. He continued to write on socialism and occasionally was fit enough to give speeches at public meetings. Morris political views had been influenced by the anarchist theories of Peter Kropotkin.
william morris gallery
  • The William Morris Gallery, opened by Prime Minister Clement Attlee in 1950, is the only public museum devoted to England's best known and most versatile designer. The Gallery is located at Walthamstow in Morris's family home from 1848 to 1856, the former Water House, a substantial Georgian dwelling of about 1750 which is set in its own extensive grounds (now Lloyd Park).
william morris gallery9
  • The Gallery's internationally important collections illustrate William Morris's life, work and influence. There are permanent displays of printed, woven and embroidered fabrics, rugs, carpets, wallpapers, furniture, stained glass and painted tiles designed by Morris himself.
  • The intricate layering and intertwining of organic forms in Morris's patterns for wallpapers, such as Jasmine, and textiles, such as his design for the printed textile Iris, are still instantly recognizable today.
daisy wallpaper
  • Morris designed two wallpapers, Daisy and Trellis, in the early 1860s when he was living at Red House. Both designs were registered in February 1864 and the wallpapers were hand-printed for Morris by Jeffrey & Company of Islington. The Daisy pattern was directly inspired by a wall-hanging depicted in a 15th-century manuscript of Froissart’s Chronicles. Morris used similar ‘clumps’ of flowers for embroidery and tile designs of the 1860s.


wandle chintz
  • Like a number of Morris’s chintz patterns of the 1880s, Wandle is named after a tributary of the river Thames, the Wandle being the stream which flowed past the Morris & Company workshops at Merton Abbey, Surrey. Morris began the design in September 1883, writing to his daughter Jenny that, although ‘the wet Wandle is not big but small’, he wanted to make the pattern ‘very elaborate and splendid … to honour our helpful stream’.
marigold wallpaper and chintz marigold wallpaper and chintz
  • The Marigold pattern was one of relatively few which Morris used for both wallpapers and printed textiles. As a wallpaper, the sinuous vertical meander is especially prominent, whereas the pattern-structure is more subtly suggested in a draped textile (e.g. as curtain fabric). Marigold was one of the first textiles to be printed - on both cotton and silk - for Morris by Thomas Wardle at his factory at Leek, Staffordshire.
brother rabbit chintz
  • The Brother Rabbit pattern was inspired, according to May Morris, by the ‘Uncle Remus’ stories which her father was reading to the family at their Hammersmith home, Kelmscott House. It was one of the first textiles to be printed at Merton Abbey, where Morris & Co. moved its workshop premises at the end of 1881.
emery walker papers
Emery Walker Papers
  • The woodcut initials and intricate borders are directly related to the ornamentation of Morris's tapestries, chintzes, and wallpapers. They were specially designed to contribute to the total visual effect of the Kelmscott book, alongside the type, woodcut illustrations, paper, and ink, and were later imitated by scores of commercial and fine presses in England and (especially) the U.S. The initials were produced using a modern electrotyping process.
bloody sunday
Bloody Sunday
  • Four months later he participated in what became known as Bloody Sunday, when three people were killed and 200 injured during a public meeting in Trafalgar Square. The following week, a friend, Alfred Linnell, was fatally injured during another protest demonstration and this event resulted in Morris writing, Death Song.
  • He became a committed socialist, joining the Democratic Federation and later founding the Socialist League and working tirelessly as a political activist. His embrace of socialism was a response to the new conditions of labor resulting from the industrialization of Britain.
  • He founded the Kelmscott Press, named after his beloved home, to print books "with the hope of producing some which would have a definite claim to beauty." For Morris, the book was an art object to be appreciated in the same way as a beautiful home or a painting.
the golden legend
The Golden Legend
  • The Golden Legend finally appeared as the seventh book from the Kelmscott press, rather than the first, as was originally intended. The text, a thirteenth-century collection of lives of the saints, was chosen because of its centrality to medieval culture as well as its association with some of the most important early printers.
the decoration of churches
  • Morris & Company made an important contribution to the development of church decoration in the nineteenth century. The Firm joined a number of companies competing to meet the demand for stained glass created by the mid-nineteenth-century boom in church-building inspired by the Gothic Revival and the Anglican High Church movement.
last few years
Last Few Years
  • In his last few years of his life Morris wrote Socialism, Its Growth and Outcome (1893), Manifesto of English Socialists (1893) The Wood Beyond the World (1894) and Well at the World's End (1896).
  • William Morris died on 3rd October, 1896.
  • Morris's ideas lived on even after his death, not only in the work of his protégé John Henry Dearle (1860-1932), who took over as artistic director of the Firm and guided it almost until its end, but in that of countless other artists and designers who, for a century and a half, have looked to Morris for inspiration. His influence extended from the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late nineteenth century to the organic modernism of Frank Lloyd Wright in America and the stark functionalism of the Bauhaus in Europe.
  • 1. 13 Oct. 2007 <http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Jmorris.htm>.
  • 2. 14 Oct. 2007 <http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/morris/wmbio.html>.
  • 3. 16 Oct. 2007 <http://www1.walthamforest.gov.uk/wmg/free.htm>.
  • 4. 19 Oct. 2007 <http://www1.walthamforest.gov.uk/wmg/about.htm>.