Skip to content

History of Nuffield Place

Oil painting on canvas by John Wheatley of William Richard Morris, 1st Viscount Nuffield in a brown suit reading a book, 1949/50
Oil painting of Lord Nuffield by John Wheatley, 1949/50 | © National Trust Images

Lord Nuffield built the Morris Motor Company from the ground up. He became an incredibly successful and celebrated man, remaining humble and philanthropic throughout his life. Nuffield Place was his home for the last 30 years of his life – discover his fascinating story.

A young entrepreneur

William Morris was born in October 1877 in Worcester and moved to Oxford with his family at the age of three. At the age of 14 William left school and became an apprentice at an Oxford bicycle shop to help support his family.

After a year, William asked for a pay rise, which was denied, so he promptly set up his own business, a bicycle repair company, with just £4 capital. Morris’s boundless nervous energy and keen business sense saw him make rapid success, and formed the basis for his continued fortunes.

From bicycle to car

The bicycle repair business was a success, and in 1901 he acquired a shop on Oxford's high street. He began manufacturing motorcycles in 1903 and before long Morris had set up a garage on Longwall Street, where he started hiring, selling and repairing cars.

A blue Morris Minor car parked outside the front of Nuffield Place
Morris Minor parked outside Nuffield Place | © National Trust Images/Alex Prain

The Morris Motor Company

A practical man with a passion for engineering, Morris was fascinated by how things were made, and it was a natural move from repairing, hiring and selling cars to manufacturing them. In August 1912 he registered a new company, WRM Motors Ltd, for the manufacturing of motor cars and the first Morris car, the Bullnose, was created the following year.

A celebrated man

The contributions made throughout his life by William Morris, later Lord Nuffield, in the fields of motoring, education and health did not go unnoticed, and he was awarded the following titles:

  • 1917: OBE
  • 1929: Baronet, becoming Sir William Morris
  • 1930: Baron becoming Lord Nuffield
  • 1934: Viscount
  • 1941: GBE
  • 1948: Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons
  • 1958: Companion of Honour

Nuffield the philanthropist

At the height of Lord Nuffield's career, he was reputedly earning £2,000 a day. However, he was never extravagant with his money. Questioned about his riches, he replied: ‘Well, you can only wear one suit at a time.’ Naturally frugal, Lord Nuffield gave away much of his vast fortune. In total he donated £30 million to good causes, the equivalent of £700 million in today's money.

Nuffield Place: a modest home

Nuffield Place was Lord Nuffield’s home from 1933 until his death in 1963. Originally named Merrow Mount, the house was designed by Oswald Partridge Milne in 1914 for Sir John Bowring Wimble, a shipping tycoon. When Sir John Wimble died, his widow sold the house to William Morris. Having just been raised to peerage, Morris took his title from the local village and renamed the house Nuffield Place.

Lady Nuffield's Wolseley car inside a brown-painted garage at Nuffield Place, Oxfordshire
Lady Nuffield's Wolseley car at Nuffield Place, Oxfordshire | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

Lady Nuffield's Wolseley Eight

While living at Nuffield Place Lord Nuffield bought a Wolseley Eight for Lady Nuffield’s birthday in 1939. Her diaries tell us she used the car often, regularly driving into Wallingford, picking up cakes on a Friday, and visiting her sisters for afternoon tea. It was a treasured family car, and Lord Nuffield continued to drive it after his wife’s death in 1959, until his frailness meant he needed a chauffeur.

Caring for the Wolseley

Lady Nuffield’s Wolseley Eight is the only road-worthy historic car in the entirety of the National Trust collections. A small team of experienced volunteers care for the car but unlike privately owned vehicles, it hasn’t been restored to its former glory – it is maintained as it was when Lord and Lady Nuffield used the car.

An important collection item

Lord and Lady Nuffield used the car on a nearly daily basis and at the time it was considered a fairly cheap model of car to buy. This makes the very modest car a special part of Nuffield Place’s history, as it tells of the couple’s frugality, as well as revealing how they lived.

The Pantry at Nuffield Place, Oxfordshire, with a pale green cupboard and vintage kitchen items including a mixer, washboard, carpet beater and utensils. The house was designed and built in 1914, and was the home of William Morris, Lord Nuffield (1877-1963), motor manufacturer, from 1933 until his death.

Nuffield Place's collection

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

You might also be interested in

Lawn stretching up to the house with a flower border in the middle and to the right with blue skies and a few clouds above

Planning your visit to Nuffield Place 

We've pulled together all of the information you need to help you make the most of your visit to Nuffield Place.

A selection of mid-century tools displayed in a cupboard in Lord Nuffield's Bedroom at Nuffield Place, Oxfordshire.

The house at Nuffield Place 

Explore the house at Nuffield Place. Lord Nuffield's beloved home remains just as it was left, from the wireless to his hidden tool cupboard. Join a morning guided experience or explore at your own pace in the afternoon.

Lawn stretching up to the house with a flower border in the middle and to the right with blue skies and a few clouds above

Things to do in the garden at Nuffield Place 

Discover what to see in the garden at Nuffield Place. Explore the winding paths of the Arts and Crafts garden at Lord Nuffield's former home.

A view of the house and garden at Nuffield Place from the front framed by foliage

Our work in the garden at Nuffield Place 

Find out how the team at Nuffield Place has worked to recapture how the garden would have looked in the 1950s when Lord and Lady Nuffield lived here.

Lawn stretching up to the house with a flower border in the middle and to the right with blue skies and a few clouds above

Renewable energy at Nuffield Place 

Discover why Nuffield Place in Oxfordshire has switched to renewable energy and the technology behind the move.

Overhead view of an octagonal table with the figure of Silenus, a drunken follower of Bacchu, in The Library at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire


Learn about people from the past, discover remarkable works of art and brush up on your knowledge of architecture and gardens.