Strawberry Thief detail

Collection overview

Overview

The William Morris Gallery collection comprises over 10,000 objects and is uniquely placed to tell the story of the life and work of Morris and his artistic circle. Holdings include original designs, textiles, wallpapers, furniture, stained glass, ceramics, metalwork, books and archival materials as well as personal items, such as his coffee cup and satchel. They offer a comprehensive view of the varied aspects of Morris’s career – as a poet, designer, craftsman, retailer and social activist. His closest collaborators, including Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Philip Webb are also well-represented.

In addition to the Morris holdings, the Gallery owns a wide-ranging collection of Arts and Crafts material. This includes significant works by Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo and the Century Guild, William De Morgan, Walter Crane, May Morris, George Jack and Christopher Whall to name but a few.

The artist Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956) is also well-represented. Brangwyn served a brief apprenticeship with Morris & Co as a young man and was one of the Gallery’s major early benefactors. With the encouragement of local artist, Walter Spradbery, Brangwyn donated a wide selection of his own work, including prints, oils, furniture, ceramics and designs for interior decorative schemes. He also gifted a fine art collection of works by the Pre-Raphaelites and other 19th and early 20th century British and Continental artists.

Origins

In the early 20th century, the Walthamstow Antiquarian Society started to collect objects relating to William Morris with the idea of establishing a museum in his hometown. In 1934 local celebrations on the centenary of Morris’s birth gave renewed impetus to these plans. Soon afterwards, the local council was offered two important collections of art – the Brangwyn Gift and the Mackmurdo Bequest. These formed the nucleus of a collection which has continued to grow ever since.

Reserve collection

The 2012 redevelopment of the Gallery has created more display space so that a greater proportion of the collection can be on show at any one time. In addition, a new, more flexible hanging system has been installed so that the works on display can be rotated regularly. This is beneficial both for visitors and for the objects, many of which are sensitive to light and can only be on display for limited periods of time.

Objects which are not currently on display (‘reserve collection’) can be viewed by appointment. For further information please contact wmg.enquiries@walthamforest.gov.uk.