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William Morris and the Arts & Crafts Movement

Copyright English Heritage.NMRWilliam Morris (1834-96) - designer, artist-craftsman, businessman, political philosopher and author - is best remembered today for revolutionising interior design. He believed in the medieval idea of guilds of artist-craftsmen working together to produce high-quality handmade goods; and a group of like-minded young artists gathered around him. Together they did much to develop and win wide acceptance for a new and less formal style of decoration.

Morris, Marshall, Falkner & Co was established in 1861 with Morris, Burne-Jones, Ford Maddox Brown, Rosetti and Webb as founder members. It began as an artists' co-operative, producing furniture and other decorative work by hand on a commercial basis, with the partners not simply designing but frequently making the items themselves. In 1875 the firm was dissolved and Morris & Co was formed under Morris's sole ownership. This new company continued beyond Morris's death in 1896, only closing in 1940.

In 1881 the workshops were moved from the cramped inner city surroundings of Queen Square, Westminster, to an old factory site at Merton Abbey on the southern rural fringe of London. This allowed the scale of production to be increased and the range of products extended.

Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful (The Beauty of Life 1880).

Morris's name is also closely bound with that of Kelmscott Manor, a 16th- and 17th-century house of Cotswold stone by the River Thames in Oxfordshire. This house became the Morris's country retreat in 1871; William Morris was deeply attached to it and it was an inspiration to him.

Story author: English Heritage

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