William Morris’s Red House medieval meets bohemianism

Isn’t it super when you stumble upon a his- torically fascinating hot spot in the most unexpected of places? You can turn up somewhere unplanned – like I am now, house-sitting in Bexley – look up what there is to do nearby and, voila, sometimes – not always but sometimes – you score a winner. Tis is exactly what happened when I re-

alized that William Morris’s Red House, his iconic Arts & Crafts home, was around the corner from where I am currently staying. Now I have to confess, I wasn’t completely sure who William Morris was until I saw the designs and wallpaper and recognised them immediately. His designs are leg- endary, sold by Liberty and Sandersons and recognised by all. Surely you also recognise his furnishings, wallpaper and timeless designs. Te man himself is a national treasure. Morris bought the Red House situated in

Bexleyheath in the 1800s and worked with the builders on the design to create a family home with the medieval style and theme that he was so fond of. Since then, the house has changed hands and some parts have been painted over. However, much of his inbuilt furniture and some paint and de- sign features remain. Some of the furniture was made especially

for the house and certainly makes a state- ment. It’s a quirky place with lots of creative details that add to the character and charm. Clearly, Morris’s own personality and beliefs are embodied in the walls and even in the ceiling. His patterns for textiles and wallpaper

were revolutionary at the time, and quite at odds with the fashion for illusion and exag- geration. Tey were distinctive for their soft, flat colours, their stylised natural

forms, their symmetry and their sense of order. Te walls of the manor also proudly display his love of stories, myths of bygone days of chivalry, romance and friends.

Medieval Village Mayhem Like the man, Morris’s creative bohemian style would have raised an eyebrow or two in the late 1800s. My tour guide filled us in on the late nights, loud parties and apple fights, all of which caused a bit of a ruckus back in the day. Tis ultimately led to the family moving back to London in 1865. It’s a little more tranquil in the house and gar- dens today as it’s owned by the National Trust, which gives us all the opportunity to visit the house and gardens.

A tour worth taking led by volunteers As with many National Trust buildings, there is often a tour available included with the entrance fee. While I am not normally a tour type of person, I do love to hear the stories, especially those that you would oth- erwise not find out about by wandering around by yourself.

The man was and remains a creative legend When I started the day, I didn’t know much about him but I certainly knew him by the end of it. His house, his heart and inspiring creative spirit lives on here in the UK as does his style. For the William Morris’s Red House

opening hours and admission fees and to uncover similar gems operated by the National Trust house throughout the UK, go to their website

Michelle van den Hout is an avid traveller and perpetual nomad.

She can be found residing in stone circles in England and over on or @travelmovelive on Instagram

FOCUS The Magazine 27

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