Monday, 24 September 2012

Kelmscott Manor

William Morris
by Frederick Hollyer
Recently, with the Malmesbury group of the Embroiderers' Guild, I visited Kelmscott Manor, near Lechlade in Gloucestershire, summer home of William Morris and his family. It's a glorious place with a lovely sense of calm and is full of beautiful artefacts. Everywhere there are the designs, embroideries, and textiles of William Morris, of his wife Jane, and his daughter, May. There are also fascinating glimpses of the life of the family at Kelmscott and of the influence of other members of the Arts and Crafts Movement and Pre-Raphaelites who visited regularly.

Kelmscott Manor, Gloucestershire
The house is situated on the banks of a tributary of the upper Thames. Nearby is the Thames itself, along a quiet track. We spent the morning wandering around the gardens and walking to the river and the afternoon on a guided tour around the house.

As with so many visits I make these days, I spotted much potential inspiration for textile work, both in the house and the grounds. There was a beautiful old Cotswold stone barn and some other interesting farm buildings. I took photographs of the barn, the stone walls and of the trough structure pictured right. (I would be delighted if anyone could tell me what it was used for.)
Cotswold stone trough

I am sure these photographs will find their way into a textile piece in some form or another and have been playing with my images in Adobe Photoshop. I have enhanced the colours and lighting and added the posterise filter. Perhaps I will print one of these images onto fabric and then hand stitch, abstracting as I go - a favourite way of working for me. Great Western Embroiderers, with whom I exhibit regularly, are taking the Cotswolds and its history as the current focus for work and this idea would fit very well with that theme.

Stone wall
adapted in Adobe Photoshop

Cotswold stone trough
adapted in Adobe Photoshop

The Drawing Room at Kelmscott Manor
(from the Kelmscott website - see below)
After lunch, our group was shown around the house and we had a wonderful opportunity to look closely at the fabrics and textile designs of William Morris and his family. The house is surprisingly light and full of lovely examples of William Morris's designs. How tempting it was to touch the textiles - but I resisted - just.

I especially liked a woven tapestry hanging just inside the drawing room. It was fascinating to see the initial black pen design and its coloured version alongside the finished piece. I'm afraid I haven't been able to include a photo of this work as no photographs were allowed - but I have included an image from the Kelmscott website to give a taste of the house.
I can only suggest a visit to Kelmscott Manor - further details can be found at and the Society of Antiquiries at William Morris once said, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" so the house is a feast for anyone interested in textiles and design - or of course in the Arts and Crafts Movement. 

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