News-Antique.com - Mar 29,2010 - The decorating firm which later became known as Morris & Co was founded in 1861. Under the direction of William Morris it developed into a flourishing and fashionable business particularly renowned for its wallpapers and textiles.
The majority of these were designed by Morris himself, although some very fine patterns were drawn by other designers such as Morris' daughter, May, and J.H.Dearle, who became artistic director of the firm after Morris' death in 1896.
The Morris & Co patterns have their origins in the arts and crafts movement and became popular in late Victorian 'artistic homes of taste', but it is true to say that their characteristic style has never been more widely appreciated than it is today.
Born into a wealthy family in Walthamstow and educated at Marlborough and Exeter College, Oxford, where he met his life long friend Edward Burne-Jones, Morris entered G.E. Street’s architectural office in 1856 where Phillip Webb was senior clerk. He founded the co-operative firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. on the suggestion of Ford Madox Brown in 1861. It remained a partnership until Morris took sole proprietorship in 1875, changing the name to Morris & Co., and introducing an extensive range of textiles and wallpapers many of which he designed. In 1878 he moved his family to Kelmscott House in Hammersmith where he began the manufacture of hand knotted carpets.
In the search to improve the quality of the firm’s manufactures Morris moved his works from London to Merton Abbey Mills in 1881. Here there was now room to manufacture carpets and tapestries that had previously only been possible on an experimental scale. From 1870 Morris had been interested in illuminating manuscripts and planned publication of his own poems, but it was not until 1891 that he set up the Kelmscott Press for which he designed three typefaces. It produced 53 books before closing in 1898.
Morris was a founder member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877. During the 1870s Morris became involved with politics and from 1883 with the Socialist Democratic Federation. He was a founder member of the Socialist League and editor and financier of the ‘Commonweal’. Morris died in Hammersmith after a prolonged illness.