At last I have been to Kelmscott Manor!
I admire the work and philosophy of William Morris and have had Kelmscott on my list of pilgrimages for a many years.
Steve and I went on a weeks trip taking in a stay with good friends at Totnes,then on to Kelmscott and finishing with a night and day in Glastonbury and guess what, the sun shone for the whole week!!
The house and garden where William Morris ,his wife Janey and their two daughters Jenny and May lived for much of the year is within a walk of the higher reaches of the Thames. The village of Kelmscott is delightful,untouched and has such a peaceful feel to it.
Here I am in the grounds in a rustic little summer house clutching the Morris fabric bag that my daughter Caroline made , people kept asking where I got it!
We walked round the house , me as usual when I visit the homes of those I consider great in a sort of ecstatic awe, sometimes I have been known to fall over because I just gaze around and do not look where I am going.
This is the front door,I could see the Morris's going and coming and maybe the wicked Rossetti nipping behind a bush trying to waylay Janey Morris for a cuddle. He did not like Kelmscott even though he shared the tenancy for a period , he said it was muddy! Janey was the attraction and William turned a blind eye, poor chap.
I did try not to imagine any of them using this three seater privy which had a charming herb garden just in front of it!
The garden is lovely and is intimate and natural,full of old fashioned flowers,herbs . It was easy to see why William loved it so much. He described it as "A little place in the country for the wife and kiddies"
Inside the house there is a feeling of what a homely place it must have been during the families time there and afterword when May lived there.It is hard to imagine however how cold it probably was even though there were large fireplaces in most rooms. Drapes, blankets and warm underwear would have been essential!
On the door in one of the rooms hung William's great coat and cape,it looked as though he might return for it! I wanted to give it a little stroke but sensibly the very helpful staff maintain a no touching policy throughout the house.
This is the back of the Manor.
You can see the fourposter bed with hangings woven and embroidered by the women of the house. William slept in this bed,Janey had an adjoining bedroom.
This was a very striking border,I love walled gardens!
Perhaps it gives a sense of safety and seclusion from the other doings of the world.
The gorgeous portrait of Janey in a blue silk dress by Rossetti is hanging in the house, it is stunning and she was of course a "Stunner"
The house has many Morris Fabrics and wall papers which are timeless in their appeal.
The willows around Kelmscott and on the Willow Walk which we followed up to Buscot Weir and Lock influenced this design which I particularly like for it simplicity.
Here is an unfinished design .
William and Edward Burne - Jones were best friends and Edward brought his family including his stalwart little wife Georgie who was a special friend to William to stay at Kelmscott. When Rossetti was romancing Janey Edward was chasing Marie Zambaco and various other muses so William and Georgie consoled each other .
Janey retained her mournful beauty into old age,seen here at Kelmscott.
I like this photo of William.
I visited the church and churchyard were the family are buried,it is a simple tomb with both their names and dates inscribed . The girls are at the side of the main tomb. The whole thing is very dignified and a bay tree stands sentinel at the side.
William was carried to the churchyard on a decourated farm cart,it must have been a poignant sight to see his family and friends following the flower decked rustic cortage.
We stayed at the old thatched inn at Kelmscott "The Plough" and had a view of a paddock and the other venerable stone houses of the village,all in all another wonderful memory to store away for those rainy days.I will especially recall walking by the Thames under willows,through fields of yellow buttercups and seeing swans and signets near the bank.The upper reaches of the Thames are magic .
Now I have to research another pilgrimage because as Monty Don says in his book on French gardens Quote I have always tried to visit the homes of writers and artists who have influenced me,believing that seeing where a man ate his breakfast or the wicker chair beneath the tree that remains is a key of sorts to their work."