History at Red House

The Red House weathervane, covered with William Morris designs

William Morris, and his friends, certainly left his mark on this handsomely decorated house but plenty more was added to Red House by its later owners. It became a true home for creative types, which is perhaps the reason it became the stylish home we care for today.

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.
Read more about Morris' time at Red House
Painted glass window at Red House, Kent
Painted glass window at Red House
Painted glass window at Red House, Kent

Circle of friends

Morris was a generous host and his friends visited frequently, their days filled with fun and laughter. As well as being the architect, Philip Webb designed furniture for the house but there are examples throughout of how they all worked collaboratively. In the gallery for example, Morris painted flowers and Philip Webb painted birds on the glass, both overlaid with Burne Jones' work depicting Fortuna.
Learn how Red House launched Philip Webb's career

Morris & Co

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