Archive for the ‘William Morris’ Category

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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Let’s start with the ‘William Morris Fountain’. Named after the founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, it includes a central flute with motifs based on the architecture of the Red House, his Bexleyheath home. Designed by Mel Chantry, a former Turner Prize nominee, the fountain cost £50,000 and was unveiled in March 2001. Described as ‘futuristic’, it stands at 6.5m high.

In April 2011 the decision was taken by Bexley Council to switch off the fountain to save money. It was filled with soil, turned into a flower bed and surrounded by chicken wire. While the central flute was retained as a decorative feature, the equipment to operate it has been removed, preventing it from ever being returned to service at a future date.

Can we still appreciate the striking design, even if its original purpose has been lost? According to a News Shopper article of 29.1.2001, the inspiration behind the striking fountain includes:

– Its herringbone relief can be found on a door of the house.

– The conical detail of the tops of the newel posts on the stairway of the Red House, a motif repeated in light fittings, original furniture and the architectural design of the house, forms the top of the fountain.

– The five balls echo the famous Five Arches bridge in Foots Cray Meadows and are a motif found in Webbs sketches and in the lights of the Broadway.

– The spheres re-appear, in the feature on the top of the fountain whose shape was inspired by an ornamental hinge at the Red House and echoes the B of the new Bexleyheath logo.

– Around the base of the fountain, five arches of water will arc in towards the centre, where lights will uplight the whole structure.

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