Happy 180th Birthday, William Morris!

w morris quote
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Arts-and-crafts designer William Morris — architect, painter, poet, and political activist — entered Exeter College at Oxford, in 1853, where he became a member of an undergraduate aesthetic circle which was enamoured of an idealised Middle Ages and heavily under the influence of Tennyson’s Arthurian poems, Carlyle‘s Past and Present, and Ruskin‘s The Stones of Venice.

During his formative years, Morris expressed a deep interest in mediaeval art and architecture and with the mediaeval ideals of chivalry and of the communal life. With his friend Edward Burne-Jones, who would later become one of the greatest of the Pre-Raphaelite artists, he made a walking tour of the great Gothic cathedrals of Northern France. Both of them were overcome and decided to abandon their clerical studies in order to become artists, and Morris left Oxford at the end of the year.
Born: 24th March, 1834, in Walthamstow, Great Britain.
Died: 3rd October, 1896, in London, Great Britain.

Early Training:

Attends Exeter College, Oxford, with the intention of becoming a clergyman. Meets Edward Burne-Jones, also a first-year undergraduate. His love of medieval art and architecture begins while at college.

Begins work in the architectural office of G E Street. Meets Philip Webb, who would become another close friend and associate, and, later that year, Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Morris abandons his fledgeling career in architecture and becomes an artist.


Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. founded. Founder members include Ford Madox Brown, Burne-Jones, Rosetti and Webb. Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. profoundly influenced the decoration of churches and houses into the early 20th century.

Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. dissolved and reconstituted as Morris & Co., with Morris as sole proprietor.

Morris founds The Society for Preservation of Ancient Buildings, now a statutory element in the preservation of historic buildings in the UK.

Publishes Art and Socialism and A Summary of the Principles of Socialism. Founds the Socialist League. Becomes deeply involved in political activism, and is arrested in connection with free speech demonstrations.

Projects by William Morris:
Architectural commissions by William Morris and his Company included:

Red House (Designed with Philip Webb), London, Great Britain.

Armoury & Tapestry Room, St. James’ Palace, London, Great Britain.

The Green Dining Room, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, Great Britain.

Writings by William Morris:

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