Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kelmscott Manor and William Morris

If Gustav Stickley is the father of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, then William Morris is the father of the English Arts and Crafts Movement.

Morris lived from 1834 to 1896, the epicenter of the Victorian era. His life, design, and philosophy was in reaction to the rigid formality of the Victorian era and the mechanical qualities of the industrial age. Morris epitomized a return to the simple country life. In 1869, Morris bought a country home called Kelmscott Manor to the west of London, on the edge of the Cotswolds and near the town of Lechlade.

Visit Kelmscott.

My grandfather emigrated from England, probably during the 1890's. I still possess a picture of his family farm in Langford Downs showing two old gentlemen proudly standing and sitting in front of a two story brick and stone house. The gentlemen are likely my great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather.
The age and style of the picture are such that it was taken sometime during the period when Morris lived at Kelmscott.

It is always fun to discover connections. So, when I was in England this summer, I learned that Langford Downs was a mile from the Kelmscott Manor. Whether my great-grandfather knew of Morris, I will never know. Their social classes were miles apart, and even thought Morris himself was a socialist, it is unlikely that he spent much time among the local folks.

Image from wikipedia.

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