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[BKARTS] Fwd: REV-EX: Kelmscott House, London

Forwarding, with permission, a review of a William Morris museum that
may be of interest to binders and printers here.

---Amy West

X-Post: H-MUSEUM@xxxxxxxxxxxxx Date: Sun, 18 Jul 2004 22:08:44 +0200 Sender: H-Net Network for Museum Professionals <H-MUSEUM@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> From: "H-Museum (Marra)" <marra@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> Subject: REV-EX: Kelmscott House, London To: H-MUSEUM@xxxxxxxxxxxxx

From: "Antoine Capet" <antoine.capet@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Kelmscott House report
Date: Fri, 16 Jul 2004 15:18:18 +0200

Kelmscott House, London
A report for H-Museum by Prof. Dr. Antoine Capet, University of Rouen
Email: antoine.capet@xxxxxxxxxxx

H-Museum subscribers interested in William Morris (1834-1896) are probably
familiar with the William Morris Gallery at Walthamstow (North-East London),
the Gallery (in fact a substantial museum run by the London council
authorities) being the large house in which he spent a large part of his
youth, from 1848 to 1856. [1] But they may not have paid Kelmscott House the
attention which it deserves.

Kelmscott House, a plain Georgian brick dwelling which was William Morris's
London home from 1878 to his death in 1896, is located on the banks of the
Thames in the West London borough of Hammersmith. The house is now the
property of the William Morris Society, which rents out the upper floors for
income, keeping the basement and coach house as its headquarters. The
Society, however, is too modest in its literature, as it does not indicate
that the rooms are more than a mere administrative office. Though it is not
a 'proper' museum, Kelmscott House holds a lot of museographic interest. The
first room which one enters from outside contains a Morris relic of
outstanding interest, namely one of the two magnificent second-hand iron
Albion hand-presses which he bought when he decided to turn to printing in

The central room is now a library open to bona fide William Morris scholars.
The books are not directly accessible - one has to use old-fashioned index
cards and ask a very helpful Society volunteer to go and get the actual
books from the reserves, which only takes a few minutes. This precaution is
justified by the fact that many of the works are extremely precious: first
editions, fragile pamphlets and de luxe bindings in vellum or by twentieth-
century British designer-bookbinders. This is the place to go if you
actually want to have an inkling of what Kelmscott Press hand-made paper
felt like - in conventional William Morris museums his books are in glass
show-cases. The furniture in this reading room is associated with the Arts &
Crafts movement, so dear to William Morris.

Then, after climbing a few steps, one reaches the historic coach house,
first used by Morris for making carpets, and later the seat of the
Hammersmith Socialist Society, his breakaway faction (1890) from the
Socialist League founded (by Morris and others) in 1884, which he now found
overly dominated by Anarchists. The orators who gave the solemn Sunday
evening lectures on Socialism in that coach house included Annie Besant,
Kropotkin, G.B. Shaw and the Webbs, and among the younger members of the
audience one could sometimes see Gustav Holst (the composer of 'The Planets
'), H.G. Wells, Oscar Wilde and W.B. Yeats. Various group photographs and
autograph letters by these activists are displayed on the walls, together
with an assortment of William Morris tapestries and designs, and other
mementoes, like a 'Sussex chair' made by Morris & Co. A replica of the
Hammersmith Socialist Society banner made by a member of the William Morris
Society hangs near the glazed sliding door of the coach house.

The researcher visiting Kelmscott House will also find on sale there a large
selection of hard-to-find pamphlets and printed lectures and essays on
William Morris, some published by small 'private presses', others published
by the William Morris Society itself (notably past issues of its excellent
Journal), and most of them unobtainable in conventional bookshops.

At Number 16, a few yards from Kelmscott House along the Thames, one can see
the house which William Morris rented from January 1891 as the printing shop
where he set up his Kelmscott Press - the press which produced the superbly
decorated books in the old style with which his name is associated, many
copies of them now being in the Library at Kelmscott House.

Kelmscott House does therefore undoubtedly deserve a special trip to
Hammersmith for the serious William Morris enthusiast, but anybody
interested in the Arts & Crafts movement or the British Socialist movement
or both will find a visit rewarding - the more so as it is situated in quiet
unspoilt surroundings, with architecturally interesting old dwellings around
it. An added incentive is that one is not disturbed by noisy crowds: I was
the only caller when I went, and the Visitors' Book indicates that this is
very common.

Kelmscott House
26 Upper Mall, Hammersmith
London W6 9TA, UK
Tel. (0)20 8741 3735, Fax: (0)20 8748 5207, Mail:
open: Thursdays and Saturday from 2-5 pm
Underground station: Ravenscourt Park (District Line).

Note: [1] William Morris Gallery at Walthamstow (North-East London) <http://www.lbwf.gov.uk/wmg/home.htm>.

Copyright (c) 2004 by H-MUSEUM (H-Net), all rights reserved.
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