Kelmscott Manor and William Morris

William Morris

As Gustav Stickley is the father of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, then, so too is William Morris 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.

The Tree of Life

We are all connected, as the Tree of Life metaphor suggests.

Often, we know little of our ancestors beyond living memory.

I did not know my grandfather, though I carry his name. He emigrated from Langford, England, and more particularly Langford Downs as the 19th century and the Victorian era was ending. Langford is a small village and civil parish tucked away in the corner of West Oxfordshire, about 3 miles (5 km) northeast of Lechlade, which is to be found on the Thames River in neighboring Gloucestershire.The specificity of Langford Downs and not just Langford meant a place characterized by lack of trees, rolling hills, not suitable for farming and used mainly as pasture.

The last census recorded the parish's population as 349.

There were 3 social classes in the Victorian England. They were the wealthy class, the middle class, and the working class, which was poor in wealth and rich in spirit. Those who remember, say, when I asked, that my ancestors were chicken farmers. Perhaps that is lore. It gave my wife a chuckle. And I would have preferred something more rugged like cattle farming, for I prefer beef to chicken at meal times, but reality is what it is. To start a new life, for better opportunities, the reasons he left are unclear. But, came he did and that made all the difference to me.

My father gave me a picture of his father's family farm showing two old gentlemen posing, one standing, the other sitting in front of a two story brick and stone house. Imposing it was for the small community of Langford, but small by our standards. I suppose they are my great grandfather and grandfather, but that I will never know.

As I said the Tree of Life says that we are all connected.

Kelmscott Manor

So, when I was in England this summer, I learned that Langford Downs was a mile from the Kelmscott Manor, one of the several homes to William Morris 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.

The tenuous but real Stickley connection 

Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, O Ye, All Ye Who Walk in Willowood

Between 1871 and 1874, Dante Gabriel Rossetti used the Manor along with Morris and during this time composed his well-known poem  The Four Willowwood Sonnets from The House of Life. Inspired by the poem, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh created the stained glass panel O Ye, All Ye Who Walk in Willowood, in the Salon de Luxe in the Willow Tea Room in Glasgow, Scotland. The tea room also featured Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Willow Chair, which became the inspiration for Stickley's Willow Bed.


Popular Posts