The William Morris Society is a charitable organisation whose aim is to promote the life and work of designer, writer and socialist William Morris, one of the most outstanding figures of the nineteenth century whose influence and ideas remain as important today as they were in his own lifetime. Membership to the Society includes a number of benefits such as a quarterly newsletter, the Journal of William Morris Studies and a range of talks and events relating to Morris's life and works. We also run a small museum at our premises in Hammersmith, London, in the basement and Coach House of Morris's last home.
THE MUSEUM (FREE ENTRY)
Kelmscott House dates from the 1780s and Morris lived here from 1878 until his death in 1896. The Coach House, Library and Basement rooms are open to the public on Thursday and Saturday afternoons from 2-5pm. There are frequent demonstrations on Morris's printing press, and a well stocked shop.
MORRIS AT KELMSCOTT HOUSE
Soon after moving into Kelmscott House, Morris began experiments with weaving. He set up a tapestry loom in his ground floor bedroom and carpet looms in the Coach House. The latter were moved to his new works at Merton Abbey in 1881. The small rugs and carpets made here are known as Hammersmith rugs and bear the woven device of a hammer in the border.
During the 1870s Morris had become increasingly active in politics. In 1883 he joined the Socialist Democratic Federation and established a branch which met in the Coach House. When he left the Federation in 1885 to form the Socialist League the meetings continued with many distinguished speakers such as Lucy Parsons, Peter Kropotkin and Annie Besant. This tradition continues today with speakers most weekends including Tony Benn.
In his last years Morris embarked upon printing by establishing the Kelmscott Press in nearby properties. The Chaucer, the press's greatest book, was completed shortly before he died and one of the proofing presses used in its printing is now on permanent display.
We hold the archive of the Kelmscott Fellowship and the Women’s Guild of Arts. Founded in 1918 by May Morris, Emery Walker and AH Verstage, the Kelmscott Fellowship was the forerunner of the William Morris Society, and they merged in 1966. With May Morris at its first President, the Fellowship aimed to keep Morris legacy alive through a series of events and exhibitions, and through an active membership which included Walter Crane, Georgiana Burne-Jones and Emery Walker. The Women’s Guild of Arts was established in 1904 as a reaction to the lack of professional art organisations willing to admit women. May Morris was responsible for organising the may lectures and events that appealed to a wide range of craftswomen. The archive includes minutes of meetings, accounts and membership lists.
The collection contains a number of Kelmscott Press titles and working proofs as well as the only printing press used by Morris left in the country. Dating from c1835 it is fully operational and used on a regular basis by our artist in residence. The Society has a comprehensive collection of Morris and Company wallpapers, watercolour designs, and a selection of textiles, ranging from a Hammersmith rug and woven hangings to printed cottons, silks and embroideries.
As a writer, designer, printer, passionate socialist and pioneer of the Arts and Crafts Movement William Morris remains an influential and inspirational figure. The Society offers many ways to learn about and enjoy the work of this eminent Victorian.
Learning Outside the Classroom
Visits from schools and local children are vital in strengthening the Society’s links to the community. Over the past 10 years, curator Helen Elletson has been working hard to expand our programme of educational activities. We particularly welcome pupils from Years 5 and 6 who are studying the Victorian period. You can choose between programmes on art, literacy and history and we tailor the learning to suit your needs.
Learn about the Arts and Crafts Movement with an up-close look at fascinating artefacts including original textile designs, wallpaper samples, furniture, embroidery and Pre-Raphaelite drawings. Ten and eleven-year-olds can have a go at textile designing, weaving and painting on acetate to create their own “stained glass”. The success of these visits shows that traditional crafts that take their inspiration from Nature can still have a role in the lives of today’s gadget-obsessed kids.
Citizenship Programme for Key Stage 2 and 3
Kelmscott House is now offering an innovative Citizenship programme with cross-curricular links to English and History for Key Stage 2 and 3. Teachers, go to the citizenship page to read more about the programme, how you can book your class to take part at the museum, or download the resources to carry out the workshops offsite.
ALSO Keep an eye out for FREE half-term and summer break drop in workshops!