Lloyd Park in Walthamstow is home to a museum dedicated to the famous English designer and craftsman, William Morris. Morris was a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood design circle and was also one of the founders of the Arts and Craft movement.
In addition to his design work, Morris also wrote poetry and prose romances and ran a private printing press.
He spent a few years of his childhood living in the Grade II listed house in which this gallery is located, and the house and its grounds are a good reason for a visit to Walthamstow in itself. This is the only public gallery dedicated to Morris and his work in the country.
The Winns or Water House
The gallery is housed in a Georgian House, originally known as The Winns or the Water House. Its original names probably came from the ornamental moat situated in its gardens. The house was built in the mid 1740s, probably around 1744 according to a date carved into a brick in the building itself. It is thought, however, that there had been a house in the park as far back as the 15th century. The house today still closely resembles the original, although some renovation work has been done on the building over the years.
William Morris’s life in Walthamstow
Morris’s widowed mother moved into the house in 1848 with William and his eight sisters and brothers. Morris lived here from the ages of 14 to 22; the family left the house in 1856. It is thought that Morris created some of his earliest works here, including some of his early poems.
The creation of Lloyd Park
After the Morris family moved out, the house was taken over by Edward Lloyd, a publisher. Lloyd was renowned for producing lurid and sensationalist books, known as Penny Dreadfuls. He also later set up popular newspapers of the time such as Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper and the Daily Chronicle. His family donated the house and its surrounding land to the local authorities and, by 1900, it was opened as Lloyd Park.
You can now take a walk around the park area when you visit the gallery or bypass the house and visit the grounds alone. They have been recently redeveloped and include a moated island. It is said that William Morris managed to get marooned on this island as a boy! Behind the main house, you can also see a specially designed garden in the grounds. This includes a lot of the plants that Morris used in some of his most famous designs.
Visiting the William Morris Gallery
Although plans to open a gallery dedicated to William Morris were made as early as 1914, it was not officially opened until 1950. The local antiquarian society had, however, started to collect things associated with Morris in the early part of the century. Many of these objects formed the core of the gallery’s exhibits and are still on display in the building.
Following extensive work in 2012, the house was completely renovated and refurbished and it is now home to a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions about Morris and some of the artists who worked with him in the Arts and Crafts movement. These include Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Webb, Mackmurdo, the Century Guild and Brangwyn.
According to the gallery, it now contains over 10,000 objects relating to both Morris and to the Arts and Craft movement as a whole. These include original designs, examples of wallpapers and textiles, ceramics and books. You can also see some of Morris’s personal possessions, including his satchel and coffee cup.
You don’t have to be a designer to enjoy the gallery’s exhibitions or displays. There really is something for everyone here. Children, for example, may enjoy looking at the set of Beauty and the Beast tiles that were created by Edward Burne-Jones. You can also take a first-hand look at Morris’s iconic Chrysanthemum wallpaper design and see some of the beautiful books that Morris created on his private printing press, many of which are considered to be design classics in their own right.
Family Events at The Gallery
The William Morris Gallery has regular activities and events for both children and adults. Some, such as the Birds of Prey display, are held in the grounds of Lloyd Park. Others are held in the gallery itself. As you might expect, there are interesting creative workshops and activities for children on site – if you’re visiting with the family, it might be a good idea to go on the last Saturday of the month. This is the gallery’s “Family Day”, which is the focus of much of its creative activities.
Entrance to the William Morris Gallery is free, although some special events may have a charge. The gallery is open from Wednesdays to Sundays from 10am to 5pm.