Simon Daykin: Celebrating the story of Emery Walker and William Morris

simon daykin close cropA guest post from Simon Daykin, the Project Manager for Arts and Crafts Hammersmith

Two of Hammersmith’s favourite former residents are to be put even more firmly on the map, thanks to a new project and an injection of Lottery cash.

Arts and Crafts Hammersmith is a new partnership project between Emery Walker Trust and William Morris Society, who respectively run museums at the former homes of Arts and Crafts pioneers Emery Walker and William Morris on the Hammersmith riverside. The ambitious project, which has just announced funding from Heritage Lottery Fund of £631,100, began this month.

It comprises a range of refurbishment works to the former homes of Morris and Walker – Kelmscott House and 7 Hammersmith Terrace – plus a range of activities and initiatives to bring the men and the rich stories of their work, influences and friendship to as wide an audience as possible.

7 Hammersmith Terrace Dining Room High Res7 Hammersmith Terrace, home to typographer and antiquarian Emery Walker from 1903 until his death in 1933, is widely considered as one of the best preserved examples of an Arts and Crafts interior still in existence.

It’s a veritable treasure house of authentic textiles, furnishings, artworks and personal ephemera literally oozing with the influences of William Morris and his Arts and Crafts contemporaries from the late 19th century. By the good grace of Walker’s daughter Dorothy, who inherited the house after his death until her own in the 1960s, and Dorothy’s companion in later life Elizabeth de Haas, who endowed the house and its vast collections to the newly formed Emery Walker Trust in 1999, the house has delighted visitors with its tucked away and secret charms since then.

Kelmscott House extWilliam Morris’s former home, Kelmscott House, 1/4 mile away, has its own charms, housing important designs, textiles and archives from Morris and his daughter May and their work as designers, artists, political activists and campaigners. The house is also open to the public, and provides a venue for lectures, talks and workshops through the year.

However, time takes its toll on priceless collections and buildings. Not only that, but this stretch of riverside holds an array of stories of the collaborations and friendship between Morris and Walker, bursting to be told. Morris is more readily known, of course, but Walker was his mentor and guide in printing and typography, and together they nurtured their influences and views on art, design, society and politics as the Thames flowed by.

Roll the clock back 100 or so years, and this part of Hammersmith was truly a crucible of creativity and politics, that went far beyond our two pioneering legends.

With support from Heritage Lottery Fund, complemented by grants from charitable trusts such as Garfield Weston Foundation, Heritage of London Trust and the Ashley Family Foundation (Laura Ashley was heavily influenced by Morris in her textile and fabric designs), Arts and Crafts Hammersmith will initially involve building refurbishment and improvements.

This will preserve the fabric of both properties and ensure that they can properly house these unique collections. Visitor amenities will improve, and space developed for more exhibitions and displays, particularly of the items currently in storage. 7 Hammersmith Terrace will close to the public at the end of summer 2015, although we aim for Kelmscott House to stay open throughout. The newly refurbished and improved houses open again fully in spring 2017.

WMS printing pressWhilst the capital works take place, we tackle the huge task of completely cataloguing and digitising (creating an online searchable catalogue, including pictures, in other words) our collections and archives, giving an permanent accessible record and telling the stories of Morris and Walker to today’s digital world. A new website, virtual tours, and a mobile app are all planned. Come 2016, an array of participatory activities with schools, colleges, universities and the local community are planned, including writing projects, textile workshops and printing and typesetting work (Morris’s original printing press still operates today). We are also heavily promoting the development of volunteering and training, with a range of opportunities for learning and skills development in such areas as museum curation, archive and collections management, and heritage marketing and promotions.

Fundraising for the latter stages of the project continues. We’ll feature regular information as the project progresses on our websites http://www.emerywalker.org.uk and http://www.williammorrissociety.org.uk.

We know that the stories that lie within the houses of Morris and Walker are too important and too fascinating not to be told. The project allows us to share and celebrate them. We hope you will be able to join us.

7 Hammersmith Terrace Drawing Room 2

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