19 July 2014

Trekking to William Morris Gallery and Lloyd Park

I love the works of William Morris and examples of his designs can be found among my shirts, ties, mugs and gardening tools.

This is a passion that I share with many people which is why his works are on display across the London in both permanent and temporary exhibitions. In recent years I have made Morris pilgrimages to Two Temple Place and Kelmscott House.

Somehow, though, I had never been to William Morris Gallery before.

The main reason for that is because the Gallery is in one of William Morris' former home in Walthamstow (E17) which is the other side of London, which made getting there an interesting challenge.

Guided by an app on my iPhone I took the London Overground to Gospell Oak when I changed lines to get to Blackhorse Road and then a bus. (Admittedly the first bus went the wrong way and I had to cross the road at the first stop and swap buses.) I was pleasantly surprised at how pretty the area looked with plenty of parks and water. That was not the image that places like Tottenham Hale conjured up for me.

The William Morris Gallery was in another park. Lloyd Park was originally the estate that went with the house when this part of London was semi-rural and inhabited by rich people working in London. Rich people like William Morris' father who rented the house for a while.

The new extension on the far left of the house is a cafe and this is where I started my tour. I did not have much time to do everything, I got there around 3pm and it closed at 5pm, so I made just a fleeting foray in to the garden.

It may have been called the William Morris Gallery but it was more of a museum than a gallery and it had far fewer works on display than Two Temple Place had. That was OK with me as I like museums as much as I like galleries.

The museum covered both the man and his methods and covered both well. There was a lot of interesting stuff to read, but that does not make for interesting photos so I've chosen ones that show the works and, in some, tried to capture something of the essence of the museum too.

Palace Green was one of William Morris' early commissions and the display described the scope of the project, the approach adopted and had samples of the work. The background to the commissioning and design were interesting and helped to explain the final result.

I could not resist a close-up of Strawberry Theif, a pattern that appears on several of my things, including a favourite short that I still wear desipte the ravages of wear and sunshine.

There were plenty of other designs on show and also words, pictures and videos showing how they were made.

Morris' personal and business lives were interweaved through the museum and I learned much about both. This included little things like how he traveled between his country home and studio is Hammersmith by boat as well as the changes that gradually led to taking over the company that he helped to form, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., and how it then took just his name.

Another room explored his links with Socialism, which was an important part of his life. At the core was his wish to see good design everywhere, not just in the houses of the rich.

Morris worked in many areas, all of which were covered in the museum. In his day he was most knows for his books. These included his poetry, translations of North European sagas and an illustrated version of Chaucer.

I had to squeeze another coffee (and more cake) in before leaving so I rushed a little through the museum but in just over an hour I had done it justice. I could not leave without a memento so I bought myself a tie on the way out. I can always do with another pretty tie.

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