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The house and collection at Wightwick

The interior of Wightwick Manor, West Midlands, featuring a superb collection of William Morris fabrics and wallpapers and Pre-Raphaelite paintings alongside de Morgan tiles
See Pre-Raphaelite paintings alongside de Morgan ceramics and William Morris fabrics and wallpapers | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

When Theodore Mander commissioned the building of a new manor on Wightwick Bank in 1887 he started the Mander family's love for Victorian art and design which would unfold over a century of collecting and preservation. HIs untimely death in 1900 left the care and development of the new home to his son, Geoffrey. His story is one of art and design, industry and politics, told through the house he saved and lived in.

The Big MEND Project in 2024

Essential conservation work is taking place on the exterior of the Manor and in the Great Parlour from April - early autumn 2024. Scaffolding has been erected on the south front and near the front door of the Manor to enable repairs to timber framework, repoint the chimneys and more. The majority of the work will focus on the Great Parlour and the frames of the stained-glass windows. To facilitate these works, we'll briefly close the Great Parlour and Billiard Room in April. When the Great Parlour reopens as the work continues, visitors will gain unprecedented access to the intricacies of building and collections care and the room will be re-displayed to reflect this important conservation project.

Please be aware before you visit us

Before you enter the Manor, you will be asked to leave any rucksacks or large bags in your car, or placed in one of our lockers (available on a first-come, first-served basis). In addition, large back-carrying baby carriers are not permitted in the Manor; front-style carriers are ok or we have hip carriers available to borrow. We also ask that pushchairs and mobility scooters are left outside the Manor, only electric wheelchairs are permitted. Manual wheelchairs are available to borrow upon request. Thank you for your support in caring for our house and collection.

A family home

Although the art and design collections stand out, most of the items at Wightwick are deeply personal. The Mander family left an archive full of letters and photos covering their whole lives.

Geoffrey Mander was very clear the house should remain a home and not become an art gallery, and he said as much in Parliament.

The artwork is therefore shown in a domestic setting. This theme is maintained by not placing labels next to items. Instead, information can be found in the catalogues provided in rooms.

Using electric light

When it was built the house was fitted with electric lighting, which was cutting edge for 1887.

However, by today's standards the rooms are quite dark and, on a cloudy day, areas can feel a bit gloomy, so give your eyes a chance to adjust.

Using central heating

The house was built with central heating, and many of the original radiators still work.

However, the house is now heated more for the care of the collection than to stay warm. The heating helps combat high humidity levels, which can lead to mould growth.

Creating a Morris house

It often surprises visitors that William Morris never came to the house, nor did his company formally design for it.

Instead, all the wallpapers, fabric wall coverings and soft furnishings were bought through the Morris & Co shop or catalogue.

Unlike the artwork, Morris & Co designs were included in the 1887 and 1893 buildings.

However, they were much enhanced after the 1937 saving of the property, when Sir Geoffrey expanded the Manor's Morris collection (or 'Morrisania' as the National Trust's Historic Buildings secretary called it).

This included sketches for Morris designs, as well as large items of furnishings, such as carpets and curtains.

Managing light levels

Morris loved traditional dyes and colours, however they don't stand the test of time or exposure to light particularly well. Light levels are managed carefully in certain rooms. Unlike a watercolour or photograph you can't move wallpaper to a darker corner.

Still alive

The house still has the feeling of being lived in. Paintings and furniture are regularly moved around just as the family would have done. Paintings are regularly loaned to other museums for exhibition.

If you want to sit down and take a moment to savour the space, all you have to do is look out for a cushion with a cat on it - a tribute to Lady Mander's love of cats.

Just like home

There are toys to play with in the nursery and you can try out the full-size billiards table, allowing you to pretend you're an Edwardian gentleman playing in opulent surroundings.

The old range is still in use and lit on cold days, giving the Victorian Kitchen a special atmosphere with the smell of burning coal.

The visitor staircase at Wightwick Manor, West Midlands, featuring Indian rush-work below the dado rail and William Morris' Willow Bough pattern wallpaper above
Wilde's lecture on Aestheticism can be seen to influence the decoration choices | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Discovering and exploring the collection

Wightwick is a house and collection which has something to appeal to all visitors.

For those who love Pre-Raphaelite art or Morris designs and want to understand where an item came from, feel free to ask our volunteer room guides any questions during your visit.

Alternatively, you can find our detailed guidebook for sale in the Old Manor shop.

Giving the impression of age

When Edward Ould designed the house, he was trying to make it feel quirky and give the impression it was a much older house which had evolved over time.

This means there are some short flights of steps in the Manor, but most of the ground floor with the principal collection is accessible, and if you can't make the stairs to the bedrooms there is a photo guide you can leaf through.

Pre-Raphaelite art collection

Remarkably for a house now so associated with this art movement, Wightwick had no Pre-Raphaelite art prior to 1937.

Once the house was known to be in our care, Sir Geoffrey and Lady Mander started to buy art to put on display for their visitors.

The first was a portrait of Jane Morris by Rossetti and Madox Brown, which the Manders donated to the Trust.

Creating a collection

Over time a unique collection developed, with some major pieces supplied by the National Trust, and small works and sketches either purchased or given to the National Trust.

The collection now boasts over 70 works by D.G Rossetti, 50 by Edward Burne-Jones, 23 by Evelyn De Morgan's and 20 by Millais.

There are also works by the often overlooked Pre-Raphaelites; Lizzy Siddal, Lucy Maddox Brown and Simeon Solomon.

'Out of Darkness Cometh Light' Exhibition

We invite art enthusiasts and history buffs alike to delve into the captivating world of stained-glass artistry with our latest exhibition ‘Out of Darkness Cometh Light’.

Inspired by the motto of Wolverhampton, this exhibition offers a rare glimpse into the intricate processes behind the creation of Arts and Crafts stained-glass.

On show are a stunning collection of ten works on paper, which include preparatory watercolour designs, sketches, and pastels by eminent artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their associates, in addition to stained glass fragments.

William Morris, a trailblazer in the revival of stained glass artistry, established Morris, Marshall Faulkner & Co. in 1861, producing windows of unparalleled quality and design – some of which can be seen at Wightwick.

The exhibition also highlights the collaborative nature of stained-glass creation, showcasing the contributions of renowned artists such as Edward Burne Jones, Ford Madox Brown, and Phillip Webb. These artists, under Morris's guidance, brought his designs to life, infusing them with luminosity and depth.

The exhibition ‘Out of Darkness Cometh Light’ will be on display in the Daisy Room in Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, from Saturday 6 April to December 2024. Please note, this room is on the upper floor of the Manor and is not wheelchair accessible.

A view of the Daisy Room at Wightwick Manor; the room has a display case on the left wall, which contains stained glass window sketches and interpretation on the walls.
Out of Darkness Cometh Light Exhibition at Wightwick Manor | © National Trust/Libby Taylor

Highlights of the collection

Jane Morris, by Dante Gabriele Rossetti (1828-1882) completed by Ford Madox Brown,(1821-1893), in the Drawing Room at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, West Midlands
JANE MORRIS, by Dante Gabriele Rossetti (1828-1882) completed by Ford Madox Brown,(1821-1893), in the Drawing Room at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton, West Midlands | © National Trust Images/John Hammond

Jane Morris By Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown

The first Pre-Raphaelite picture the Manders ever bought has an interesting history. Started by Dante Gabriel Rossetti it shows Jane Morris, however the hair was added by Ford Madox Brown at a later date.

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Close view of the fireplace in the Acanthus Room at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton. The quotation is from "In Memoriam" By Tennyson.

Wightwick's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Wightwick Manor on the National Trust Collections website.

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