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After Google celebrates Hammersmith based Victorian textile artist's 182nd birthday

Yes, you did read that correctly!

The multi-skilled Hammersmith based Victorian, best known today for his textile designs, was born 182 years ago on March 24, 1934.

The anniversary has inspired Google to commemorate him by using his designs as background for today's logo - with a different pattern each time you log in.

William Morris' London home from 1878 was Kelmscott House in Upper Mall, Hammersmith - now the home of the Willliam Morris Society.

Morris, who died on October 3, 1896, was much more than just an artist and designer - as the William Morris Society's biography explains, his work as a craftsman, writer and socialist dramatically changed the fashions and ideologies of the Victorian era.

Born to affluent parents, Morris by all accounts enjoyed an idyllic childhood growing up in the countryside in Essex and Walthamstow with seven siblings, and developing interests in reading, storytelling and nature - especially the local wildlife and flowers.

Morris was educated at Marlborough College and Exeter College, Oxford beofre going on to train as an architect. He married Jane Burden, and developed close friendships with the Pre-Raphaelite artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones, with whom he formed a deep and lasting friendship.

Morris founded his firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co in 1861 with Burne-Jones, Rossetti,his friend Philip Webb, and others. They were a group of like-minded artists and craftsmen responding to the shoddy practises of much of the Victorian manufacturing.

The firm became highly fashionable and much in demand, and it profoundly influenced interior decoration throughout the Victorian period, with Morris designing tapestries, wallpaper, fabrics, furniture, and stained glass windows. In 1875, Morris assumed total control of the company, which was renamed Morris & Co.

In 1878, Morris moved his London home to Kelmscott House, the current home of the Society. Alongside his work for the firm, Morris produced a series of English-language translations of Icelandic sagas with Eiríkr Magnússon, as he was greatly inspired by his visits to Iceland. He also achieved success with the publication of his epic poems and novels, and in 1877 he founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

In 1881 William Morris acquired the Merton Abbey Mills complex on the River Wandle in Merton as the new home of Morris & Co's workshops. The seven acre works included several buildings and a dyeworks, and the various buildings were adapted for stained glass making, textile printing, and fabric, tapestry, and carpet-weaving.

Morris employed a number of former Spitalfields silk weavers at Merton Abbey to produce hand-woven textiles, and used the gardens to grow dye plants and the water of the River Wandle to dye and rinse his fabrics.

Today the site of the mile is marked on the Wandle Trail, which follows the 14 mile course of the river.

In the 1880s Morris became a committed revolutionary socialist activist, setting up the Socialist League in 1994. Kelmscott House then became the meeting place of the Hammersmith Socialist League, where speakers such as Peter Kropotkin, George Bernard Shaw and many other socialist pioneers lectured, usually followed by a rigorous debate lead by Morris.

Morris left the Socialist League at the end of 1890 and continued to work in the Hammersmith Socialist Society, which was formed around the Hammersmith branch of the Socialist League.

In 1891 he founded the Kelmscott Press to publish limited-edition illustrated books. It was a cause that he devoted his last years to, and the Kelmscott Chaucer was completed shortly before he died.

You can find out more about William Morris by visiting Kelmscott House at 26 Upper Mall in Hammersmith, open to the public Thursdays and Saturdays from 2pm till 5pm and with a busy programme of exhibitions and events, including its current exhibition, Fellowship is Heaven, celebrating 60 years of the William Morris Society and an Easter Holiday Family Arts Workshop taking place on Friday April 8 offering children the chance to be inspired by original William Morris prints, draw on egg and bird shapes with a spring theme and create lovely designs of your own to take home!

Find out more at the William Morris Society website.


March 24, 2016