Visiting the Red House
The Red House was designed for William Morris, famous wallpaper & fabric designer, in 1859.
Morris was already a multimillionaire (in modern terms) due to his father – a financier – when he commissioned the Red House from architect Philip Webb. As a huge fan of the Victorian Medieval Revivalist style, Morris wanted the house to be Camelot, the mythical home of King Arthur. The style – with its turrets and gothic staircases – reflects that dream.
Morris wasn’t a great artist, unfortunately, and the house shows that too. The National Trust, who’ve owned it since 2013, have uncovered some of his amateurish mock-medieval frescos. Along with the ceiling decorations, done by student friends (these include the world’s earliest emoji), the general impression is that Morris had a lucky escape from being a failed artist.
We went on a morning tour around the Red House (it’s open to wander about in the afternoon). With a guide pointing out the patches of old paint, modern wallpaper and original colour schemes, this was definitely the best way to experience the house – although my toddler spent most of the tour playing with a phone.
He had much more fun in the gardens, which have been returned to how they might have looked in Morris’ time. Although not large, they were beautifully landscaped and wonderfully cool on a hot afternoon.