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Archive for October, 2012

The Red House was built 1859-60 by the architect Philip Webb for his friend William Morris, the textile designer and artist.

Morris had wanted a countryside retreat and found land in Upton near the growing town of Bexleyheath. It was built in a Victorian Gothic style, and the interior was decorated by Morris, with help from his friends.

The Red House in Bexleyheath, a countryside retreat

Apparently Morris and his family were viewed with suspicion by their neighbours. They kept themselves to themselves, inviting their artistic friends to the house, and they did not go to church on Sundays. His wife wore her long hair loose, which was quite shocking for the time!

William Morris and his eccentric guests were often seen commuting between Abbey Wood railway station and the Red House in a wagon. (The Bexleyheath railway line was not constructed until long afterwards). A Bexley Civic Society plaque off Knee Hill now commemorates this journey.

Stone to commemorate William Morris’s commute from the Red House to Abbey Wood Railway Station

The Morris family only lived at the Red House for a short time, leaving in 1866. However, a bust of William Morris was installed at Bexleyheath’s Clock Tower in 1997 to commemorate the centenary of his death.

Bust of William Morris at the Clock Tower, Bexleyheath

The Red House in Red House Lane, Bexleyheath is open Wednesdays to Sundays. More information is at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/red-house.

 

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Arthur Boswell (1880-1966) lived in Bexleyheath. His family used to run a coach building business at Market Place, Bexleyheath. However, Boswell’s main passion in life was photography. Over the years he built up a collection of photographs tracing the development of the borough as well as more exotic slides from around the world. He toured the borough giving talks and lantern slide shows.

Arthur Boswell

A horse and cart outside Boswell wheelwright and coach builder at Market Place, Bexleyheath, c 1900

A relative found part of Boswell’s slide collection after his death and handed them to the Local Studies.  A further 1000 negatives were bought by Local Studies in 1989, and 25 prints were put on display at Hall Place in February 1989. [Kentish Times 9 Feb. 1989 p16]. Our project, ‘Changing Times: 100 Years of the Broadway 1912-2012’, has included the digitisation by volunteers of a selection of Boswell’s slides.

A new exhibition at Hall Place called ‘Illuminated World’ showcases his work again. The collection includes fascinating images of people and places in Africa, Norway and India, which the people of Bexleyheath attending his slide shows must have found quite extraordinary. There are also pieces of equipment on display, including stereoscopes which became popular in Victorian times.

The collection also creates a unique view of the Bexley Borough while it was undergoing huge changes. Boswell watched Bexleyheath’s Clock Tower being built in 1912 and saw vast house-building projects swallow up farmland.

A farm girl with wheat, Warren Farm, 1899

The exhibition at Hall Place, Bexley continues until 17 March 2013. http://www.bexleyheritagetrust.org.uk/hallplace/whats-on/

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