If you follow this blog (or follow me on instagram) you know of my deep and everlasting love of designer and activist William Morris! This post another Morris fan letter.
This whole house is full of love, inspiration and fun. Morris wanted a place to live with his wife Jane and their children. He chose Bexleyheath for its location of the Pilgrimage route to Canterbury tales (Morris loved Chaucer about as much as I love him).
The house was designed by architect Phillip Webb with loads of input from Morris and his group of friends. It is the first Arts & Crafts style house. It is also the place where Morris realised he was good at Interior Design and led him to open Morris & Co. design wallpapers and make tapestries!
Every week Morris’ friends like his bestie Edward Burne-Jones and other Pre-Raphaelites would come by to help out. They wanted to make a home like a medieval hall – complete with banquets and having visitors sleep in the hall.
This included painting murals! This is Burne-Jones’ work based on the Canterbury Tales. Notice the king and queen? That’s William and Jane! One of many little personal touches.
The very same mural has a painting of a small furry animal. Some people think it is a dog or a cat but others think it may be a wombat! Apparently the Pre-Raphaelites loved them and Dante Gabriel Rossetti even owned a pair as pets (after the mural was painted though). In honour of this fun connect there are a few stuffed animal wombats hidden around the house! Its a fun thing for kids and adults alike.
In the dining room they have on display Morris & Co.’s famous Sussex chairs. They made a few different models and one was designed by Rossetti for the company.
The beautiful stained glass windows look out onto the lush grounds. The National Trust now owns and operates the property. They were able to acquire the lot next door so the gardens are wonderfully sprawling. The words on the glass is Morris’ personal motto ‘Si Je Puis’ which translates from french as ‘If I can’
The whole house features Morris wallpaper although he had not designed any until he moved out of the home. It adds a really nice touch. Originally the house was hand painted – an example of which you can see on the ceiling.
I visited when the house was decorated for christmas. These lavender bunches on the stairs are a beautiful touch. It alludes to the medieval period when people would spread sweet smelling herbs on the floor to make the house smell nice. Very Morris!
The minstrels gallery here was used by Morris’ two young daughters May and Jenny. The ceiling here has been painted white in order to preserve the murals and wall paintings underneath. In a few places there are little peaks at what lies beneath. The Morris’ eventually left this home after 5 years and moved closer to London and never returned.
Pros: Amazing building, wonderful story and interpretation, great collection, good for all ages, friendly staff who are super knowledgable, cute cafe, nice shop, beautiful garden, fun events
Cons: Check how to get there as it is a distance from London, it closes up in the winter months, not the most friendly for those with mobility issues