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The Garden Snug project at Red House

The Garden Snug at Red House, London, with its sculpture seats and flowers in bloom
The Garden Snug at Red House | © National Trust Images/Chris Davies

In 2019 the Red House team embarked on a project to re-imagine one of William Morris’s garden enclosures. Using notes from architect Philip Webb and maps from the 1860s, we followed the footprint of one of the original ‘rooms.’ Now complete, the Garden Snug is a peaceful place for visitors to appreciate the simple beauty of the Red House garden, surrounded by the nature that inspired its famous former residents.

The story behind the Red House’s ‘garden rooms’

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.

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 soften 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

Designing the Garden Snug

Just like William Morris, the project team took inspiration from medieval gardens. The space now includes artistic hand-crafted seating, traditional wattle fencing and some of William Morris’s favourite flowers.

The Snug has also been inspired by famous Morris & Co designs like Trellis, Daisy and Fruit, which Morris produced looking out over the garden at Red House 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.

Person reading on a bench in the Garden Snug at Red House, London, with the wattle fencing visible.
Relaxing in the Garden Snug in the garden at Red House | © National Trust Images/Chris Davies

Traditional craftmanship in the Snug

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

Four specially commissioned wooden seats from Scottish craftsman Angus Ross, with distinctive 2m high arches, were designed to echo the house’s medieval-inspired architecture. They sit harmoniously alongside the hand-woven wattle created by local craftsman John Waller.

This project marks the start of a longer-term ambition to bring back lost design elements and recapture the feel of William Morris’s original garden.

Snippets from the creation of the Garden Snug

April 2021

Wattle fencing

The whole Snug area has been lined with hand-woven wattle (coppiced hazel), exactly as we believe William Morris had used to line his garden enclosures at Red House. The wattle was woven by John Waller, Underwoodsman, of the Green Wood Workshop and his team across three days. When the roses planted in the borders begin to grow, they'll climb and weave between the wattle recreating the natural growth patterns that inspired many of Morris's designs. If you'd like to know more about the Green Wood Workshop, visit the website here:

The imposing red facade of the house at Red House in London with its well and high peaked roof surrounded by a luscious green garden full of plants and flowers

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