William Morris was one of the greatest artists of the Victorian era, who is commonly known for his textile designs. However, Morris was also a prolific writer, poet, translator, and social activist. His medievalist novels are considered one of the earliest examples of the high fantasy genre, directly influencing J. R. R. Tolkien.
From 1871 until his death in 1896, Morris mainly lived in a limestone manor house in the Cotswolds village of Kelmscott called Kelmscott Manor. It was originally constructed around 1570, with a wing built during the late 17th-century. The manor is listed as a Grade I location on the National Heritage List for England. The manor is said to have inspired Morris to a great extent, with its authentic architecture and craftsmanship, as well as its organic garden. He featured the manor in his 1890 novel News from Nowhere.
Morris had close associations with contemporary Pre-Raphaelite artists such as Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Rossetti painted a portrait of Morris’s wife, Jane, in 1871, titled “Water Willow”. It features Kelmscott Manor in the background, as well as the beautiful landscape surrounding the home.
Today, Kelmscott Manor is owned by the Society of Antiquaries of London and is open to the public during the summer on Wednesdays and Sundays. The interior is decorated with Morris’s textile patterns and furniture. His former bedroom contains many of his original books and a collection of artwork, including prints of Albrecht Dürer, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Rossetti, and Burne-Jones.