William Morris Gallery

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An award-winning museum of arts and crafts

William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow

Doorways on the ground floor of the William Morris Gallery
View through two door­ways across the gallery’s ground floor

William Mor­ris (1834–96) was an artist, crafts­man, tex­tile design­er and writer – among sev­er­al oth­er attrib­ut­es. He was both a pas­sion­ate social­ist and a suc­cess­ful entre­pre­neur, found­ing and run­ning the busi­ness that became Mor­ris & Co.

Then called the Water House, the mod­est man­sion that is now the William Mor­ris Gallery was his home as a teenag­er. He was born in Waltham­stow too, in a house that stood about half a mile west of here.

The pub­lish­er Edward Lloyd bought the Water House after the Mor­ris fam­i­ly depart­ed in 1856 – and Lloy­d’s son Frank pre­sent­ed the house and its gar­dens to the bor­ough of Waltham­stow in 1898. With­in two years Lloyd Park had been cre­at­ed but it was not until 1950 that the William Mor­ris Gallery final­ly opened, though the idea had first been moot­ed in 1914 and active plan­ning had begun fol­low­ing local cel­e­bra­tions of the cen­te­nary of Mor­ris’s birth.

Finan­cial crises have threat­ened the gallery’s exis­tence more than once in the ensu­ing years, most recent­ly in 2007. Three years lat­er, funds were secured to enable the house to be restored, revamped and extend­ed. The William Mor­ris Gallery reopened in August 2012, to pop­u­lar acclaim. The fol­low­ing year it won the Art Fund’s pres­ti­gious Muse­um of the Year prize.

There are nine indi­vid­ual gal­leries, arranged the­mat­i­cal­ly and filled with tex­tiles, fur­ni­ture, ceram­ics, paint­ings, books and per­son­al items con­nect­ed with Mor­ris and his asso­ciates. As you’d expect in a mod­ern muse­um, the objects on dis­play are com­ple­ment­ed by films, audio and hands-on inter­ac­tives.

Gifts on sale in the foyer
Gifts for sale in the ‘wel­come area’

The most styl­ish indi­vid­ual gallery – a cor­ner of which is shown in one of the slides below – is based on Morris’s Oxford Street shop.

The room most pop­u­lar with vis­i­tors seems to be the gallery inspired by the Mor­ris & Co. work­shops at Mer­ton Abbey, in which adults and chil­dren can learn (in grown-up or child­ish ways) how the print­ed fab­rics and oth­er mate­ri­als were made.

Hid­den Lon­don’s favourite is Gallery 6: the Ide­al Book, which is devot­ed to Mor­ris’s life­long love of sto­ry­telling and to his last great project, the Kelm­scott Press.

The new for­mat allows the cura­tors to rotate dis­plays more eas­i­ly, fre­quent­ly bring­ing out fresh items and putting oth­ers back into stor­age. This helps pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble objects from exces­sive expo­sure to light – and gives reg­u­lar vis­i­tors some­thing dif­fer­ent to see every time.

The William Mor­ris Gallery also organ­is­es an impres­sive cal­en­dar of talks, tours, work­shops, inter­ac­tive ses­sions for fam­i­lies, film screen­ings and oth­er events.

In addi­tion to the William Mor­ris Gallery, the great man’s life and work are also cel­e­brat­ed in depth at three oth­er Lon­don address­es:

  • Red House in Upton, Bex­ley­heath, which he co-built and where he lived for five years with his wife Jane and their two daugh­ters
  • The Vic­to­ria & Albert Muse­um in South Kens­ing­ton, which Mor­ris sup­port­ed and helped dec­o­rate and where he served as an ‘art ref­er­ee’
  • Kelm­scott House in Ham­mer­smith, where he died at the age of 62 and which is now the home of the William Mor­ris Soci­ety (in the coach house and base­ment)
William Morris Gallery, Lloyd Park, Forest Road, London E17 4PP
Phone: 020 8496 4390
Email: wmg.enquiries@walthamforest.gov.uk
Website: William Morris Gallery; also on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr
Open: Wednesday–Sunday and bank holidays 10am–5pm
Admission: Free
Facilities: Tea room and shop
Nearest station: Walthamstow Central (Victoria line and London Overground)
See also: Hidden London’s page on Lloyd Park for more on the history of the house and its grounds