The story behind the Garden Snug project at Red House

The Garden Snug at Red House, Bexleyheath, London

This year we reinstated a lost Arts and Crafts ‘Garden Snug’ inspired by the original notes of Red House architect Philip Webb and an ordnance survey map from when William Morris and his family live here at Red House.

An artistic yet tranquil space, it offers a place for quiet reflection surrounded by the nature that inspired its famous former residents.

The story behind the 'Snug' 

While building Red House in 1859 William Morris and his architect Philip Webb put a lot of thought into the design of the garden. They wanted it to ‘clothe the house’, softening the effect of the startling red brick. 
 

" fill up the flower-growing space with things that are free and interesting in their growth, leaving nature to do the desired complexity "
- William Morris

The site was originally a Kentish orchard and as many of the gnarled apple trees were kept as possible. William Morris thought of the house and garden as one, and as such introduced the concept of ‘garden rooms’, dividing the garden into a series of small enclosures surrounded by wattle fencing.

Roses in the Garden Snug at Red House, Bexleyheath, London
Roses in the Garden Snug at Red House, Bexleyheath, London
Roses in the Garden Snug at Red House, Bexleyheath, London


Research material, including photographs of the garden from in 1890s, helped guided the project to reistate one of these spaces and marks the start of a longer-term ambition to bring back lost design elements and recapture the feel of William Morris’s original garden.

Design and planting

The new garden seeks inspiration from iconic Morris & Co designs like Trellis, Daisy and Fruit which Morris produced looking out over the garden more than 150 years ago. It is enclosed with traditional hazel and hawthorn and complemented by traditional cottage plants like Shasta daisies, columbines, honeysuckle, irises, peonies, jasmine and mock orange. 

Chairs in the Garden Snug at Red House by Angus Ross
Chairs in the Garden Snug at Red House by Angus Ross
Chairs in the Garden Snug at Red House by Angus Ross

In keeping with the spirit of the Arts & Crafts movement, which aimed to revive traditional craftsmanship skills, talented craftspeople from near and far have created hard landscaping features for the garden.

Four specially commissioned wooden seats from Scottish craftsman Angus Ross, with distinctive two-metre high arches, are designed to echo the house’s medieval-inspired architecture and sit harmoniously alongside the hand-woven wattle created by local craftsman and underwoodman John Waller.

" fill up the flower-growing space with things that are free and interesting in their growth, leaving nature to do the desired complexity "
- William Morris
Gardener in Charge, Rob Smith, sits in the Garden Snug project at Red House

Keep up to date with the Red House garden 

Read our regular updates about our work on the Garden Snug project at Red House.