Morris and Webb's influence on Standen

'Trellis' wallpaper by Morris, with birds drawn by Philip Webb © National Trust

'Trellis' wallpaper by Morris, with birds drawn by Philip Webb

William Morris is well known for his key role in the Arts and Crafts movement, which was a response to the Victorian Industrial Revolution and the effect it had on traditional craftsmanship.  However, there were other contemporaries of Morris who played their part in the movement too and have almost been forgotten.  One in particular, is Philip Webb who was the architect of Standen.

Webb’s early life

Growing up, Webb loved nature and historic buildings. He hoped to become an artist, but when his father died, it became necessary for him to follow a more lucrative trade – drawing on his love of buildings, he trained as an architect.

Webb quickly became a senior member of staff at the Oxford offices of architect G. E. Street. It was here in 1856 that Webb met William Morris.

We understood one another at once…’ Morris on meeting Webb

The two became firm friends: when Morris established his decorative arts firm, Morris & Co., Webb was one of the original co-directors, and remained closely linked with the firm throughout his life.

Morris and Webb co-founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and their friendship and professional collaboration is highlighted by Red House, which Webb designed for Morris and his wife.

Morris & Co.

Morris’ goal was the creation of beautiful homes, and he was inspired by the Middle-Ages, which he saw as a time of beauty and honesty. This was in stark contrast to the Victorian era, which produced what Morris and his contemporaries saw as cheap, unsophisticated rubbish.

Morris envisioned the firm as a group of craftsmen working together to produce decorative yet useful furnishings, textiles, ceramics and glassware – many examples of which can be seen at Standen.

Modest and well respected

Webb was respected by his clients and colleagues for being hardworking, high-principled and modest. He interviewed his clients in depth to establish how to cater to their needs and lifestyle, and also considered the welfare of servants when designing service areas.

The Beales and Webb

Morris and Webb were associated with Holland Park, where the Beale family lived, through various commissions and when James Beale decided to build a home in the country, Webb was recommended to him.

Standen is celebrated by many as a gem of the Arts and Crafts movement and the house is also a rare example of a virtually unaltered Webb design. It showcases his reverence for local materials and architecture.