Museums + Heritage Awards Winner – Permanent Exhibition

Housed in the former home of the father of the arts and crafts movement the William Morris Gallery has undergone a multi-million restoration programme to provide a fitting home for the artists collect.

The grade II* listed building dates back to the 1740s and was Morris’s family home from 1848 to 1856. It is the only public Gallery devoted to the works of William Morris, and reopened in August 2012 following its refurbishment. Since that time more than 100,000 visitors have been welcomed through its doors.

The designer, craftsman, writer, conservationist and socialist, lived here with his widowed mother and his eight brothers and sisters from the age of fourteen until he was twenty-two. Morris wrote some of his earliest poetry seated in the tall window on the main staircase, and his friend Edward Burne-Jones, on a visit to the Morrises in the 1850s, painted studies of the trees on the island. Plans to establish a Gallery dedicated to William Morris were first made in 1914. The William Morris Gallery was opened in 1950 by the Prime Minister, Clement Attlee. One of the Gallery’s first visitors was H.M. Queen Mary, whose husband George V had given Morris & Co the Royal Warrant for its contributions to the 1911 Coronation. The artists Sir Frank Brangwyn and Arthur Mackmurdo presented a large part of their collections of 19th and early 20th century art as a memorial to the achievements of William Morris and those who worked with him. Frank Brangwyn himself began his career as an apprentice draughtsman with Morris & Co in the 1880s. Regularly changing displays of works by, and from the collections of, Brangwyn and Mackmurdo are on display in the Gallery. The Gallery underwent a major redevelopment during 2011-12. The redevelopment was led by Waltham Forest Council, which owns and manages the Gallery, and was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Friends of the William Morris Gallery and numerous charitable trusts, sponsors and individual donors. The historic house was fully refurbished, with new collection displays being created on the ground and first floors. The top floor was turned into a learning and research centre, with staff offices being relocated to the refurbished basement. A new extension was built on the site of the old east wing, housing a tea room, a special exhibition gallery and a collection store. The new exhibition space has already boosted a number of high profile exhibitors including Greyson Perry and David Bailey. Both artists have strong links to Waltham Forest, with Perry’s 15m-long Walthamstow Tapestry – a detailed woven drawing crowded with the names of famous labels – the first to take over the exhibition space. Pringle Richards Sharratt were the architects and exhibition designers. As well as providing a fitting home for Morris’s creations the project created a new website, new schools resources and a three-year activities and events programme designed to engage the widest possible audience with the Gallery, the collection and the life, work and continuing influence of William Morris.