The Red House weathervane is covered with William Morris designs © National Trust/James Breslin

The Red House weathervane is covered with William Morris designs

Palace of art

William Morris commissioned Red House from his friend and architect Philip Webb in 1859 and moved in with his wife Jane a year later. He dreamed of the house becoming a 'Palace of Art', a place where his talented friends could decorate the walls with stories of medieval legends. In the event he only stayed till 1865, leaving tantalising glimpses of his vision for us to discover.

Circle of friends

Windows in the gallery show how the friends decorated Red House together

Morris was a generous host and his friends visited frequently, their days filled with fun and laughter. There are examples throughout the house of how they worked collaboratively. In the gallery Morris painted flowers and Webb painted birds on the glass, both overlaid with Burne Jones' work depicting Fortuna.

Morris & Co

Early Morris

It was at Red House in 1862 that 'the Firm' began as Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co directly as a result of Morris finding nothing he liked to furnish the house. Later to become Morris & Co, the company still exists today producing wallpaper and textiles based on interpretations of his timeless designs.

Later owners

  • James Heathcote (1866-1877) who bought from Morris at a knockdown price of £1800
  • Charles Holme (1889-1903) who set up the Studio, an influential magazine supporting the Arts & Crafts movement
  • Henry Maufe (1903-1910), whose wife extended the garden by buying the orchard
  • Thomas Hills (1935-1952) who rented the ground floor to the National Assistance Board during the war. They decorated liberally with brown paint and filled the house with ration books
  • Ted and Doris Hollamby (1952-2003) who lived and cared for the house for over 50 years