William Morris’s beloved Cotswold home containing a collection of his work. Time to explore the attractive Kelmscott village
Kelmscott Manor is a limestone manor house in the Cotswold village of Kelmscott, Oxfordshire, England. It dates from around 1570, with a late 17th-century wing, and is a Grade I listed building. It is situated close to the River Thames, and it is frequently flooded. The nearest town is Faringdon in the Vale of the White Horse.
The house was built by local farmer Thomas Turner and remained in the family for many generations. After George Turner died in 1734, the house was rented out. The house was originally called Lower House, but became Kelmscott Manor when James Turner (d.1870) purchased 53½ acres of manorial land together with the lordship in 1864. After James died the manor passed to his nephew, Charles Hobbs, who let out the property.
Kelmscott Manor was the country home of the writer, designer and socialist William Morris from 1871 until his death in 1896. Today it is owned by the Society of Antiquaries of London, and is open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the summer.
Morris drew great inspiration from the unspoilt authenticity of the house’s architecture and craftsmanship, and its organic relationship with its setting, especially its garden. The Manor is featured in Morris’ work News from Nowhere. It also appears in the background of Water Willow, a portrait of his wife, Jane Morris, painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1871.
After William Morris’s death in 1896, the Manor continued to be occupied by his widow, Jane Morris (who purchased it in 1913) and later, his daughters. May Morris died in 1938 and bequeathed the house to Oxford University, on the basis the contents were preserved and the public were granted access. The University were unwilling to preserve the house as ‘a museum piece’ and passed the house and land to the Society of Antiquaries in 1962.
The internal decor today is substantially that of Morris, and includes many of his famous textile patterns as well as much of his furniture. There is a display of his textile designs in the converted loft, which would originally have been used for farm labourers. His bedroom contains many of his original books, and a collection of Dürer prints. The state of the house is much as it was left by Morris after his death.