William Morris & His Family

William Morris (1834-1896)

William Morris was a hugely influential craftsman, designer, writer, environmentalist, socialist and much more. He is commonly referred to as the Father of the Arts & Crafts Movement and in his early years was associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. William Morris first saw Kelmscott Manor in 1871 and was enchanted by ‘the loveliest haunt of ancient peace’. He initially took out a joint lease with Dante Gabriel Rossetti but, unlike Rossetti, Morris passionately loved all aspects of Kelmscott, and the Manor remained his favourite family retreat until his death in 1896. The house, its gardens and the surrounding landscape were sources of inspiration for Morris’s artistic, literary and political works, and notably features in his Socialist novel News from Nowhere. 

Jane (Burden) Morris (1839-1914)

Jane (Burden) Morris was a model and muse to Pre-Raphaelite artists DG Rossetti and William Morris. After modelling for William Morris, she married him on 26 April 1859. During the early days of their marriage, when they lived at Red House, Bexleyheath, they embroidered a group of daisy-patterned wall-hangings, which were later discovered lining a dog-basket at the Manor in the 1960s! Jane purchased Kelmscott Manor just before her death in 1914, safeguarding it for her daughters.

Jane “Jenny” Morris (1861-1935)

Jenny Morris was the elder daughter of Jane (Burden) Morris and William Morris. She and her sister, May, spent their summers at Kelmscott Manor, helped their father with his work, and often modelled for DG Rossetti. The onset of epilepsy when Jenny was a teenager prevented her from living an independent life as an adult, but earlier in her life she had begun her own magazine, The Scribbler, and produced 17 issues for distribution among family and friends. William Morris sent many affectionate letters to Jenny so that she was kept informed of his various activities. 

Mary “May” Morris (1862-1938)

May Morris was the younger daughter of Jane (Burden) Morris and William Morris. She loved spending summers with her family at Kelmscott Manor and became a favourite model for DG Rossetti. Later, she was also actively involved with her father’s political, social, and artistic works; she became the director of the Morris & Co. embroidery department in 1885 and edited her father’s Collected Works (24 volumes, published between 1910 and 1915). A talented artist-craftworker herself, she co-founded the Women’s Guild of Arts in 1907. After her mother’s death, she furnished Kelmscott Manor with pieces from the family’s other residences and lived there with her companion, Mary Lobb, until her own death in 1938.