Earthly Paradise on the Infant Thames

William_Morris_Jane_Burden_1858_One special joy of walking along the Thames Path through the water meadows of the Infant Thames near Lechlade is the chance to visit Kelmscott Manor, which is tucked away in sleepy agricultural fields surrounding Kelmscott Village.

Kelmscott Manor is open April to October on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 11am and 5pm.  It may be that these infrequent opening  hours have preserved something unique about this experience.  This is not a ‘destination’ site over-run by tourists, coaches and bored people on outings.  This is a place for visitors who make the effort to find the Manor and want to explore it and learn more about the man who made it famous, William Morris. There is even the delightful possibility of arriving by boat and using the private mooring available.

Kelmscott Manor was the Cotswold retreat of William Morris who discovered it in 1871 and described it famously as ‘the loveliest haunt of ancient peace.’  The Manor, with its’ barns, dovecot, meadows. streams and formal gardens, was built around 1600, and was the Father of the Arts and Crafts Movement’s ‘heavenly paradise’ until his death in 1886.

Kelmscott was a constant source of inspiration for Morris, and the local flora and fauna echoed many of his textiles and wallpaper designs, especially the Willow design, so loved today, which was inspired by his walks along the willows lined river.  Morris loved the beauty and seclusion of this out of the way hamlet, and this atmosphere influenced his thinking on environmental issues and building conservation.

A visit to Kelmscott Manor gives you an insight into Morris’ home life. Though primarily a poet, he was one of the greatest pattern designers since the Middle Ages, who revived stained glass, ceramics, stencils embroider, wallpapers, chintzes, printed fabrics, woven materials, tapestries, book design, carpets, and illumininated manuscripts.  It was at Kelmscott that Morris lived with his wife Jane (pictured), considered one of the most beautiful women of that period, and daughter May, and members of the High Gothic and Pre-Raphaelite movements.

He was one of the major thinkers influencing the Oxford Movement and a Pre-Raphaelite ‘prophet.  He lived here in a notorious menage a trois with Dante Gabrielle Rossetti until the friendship ended with Rossetti’s attempted suicide in 1874.  Morris’s friends and artists, such as Edward Burne-Jones joined him at this handsome farmhouse.  Many of Burne-Jones’ works can be found in churches and country houses of this area.

Kelmscott Manor is owned by the Society of Antiquaries, which saved it from dilapidation and near collapse in the ’60s.   Although it is visited by thousands of visitors each year, it is not a ‘tourist destination’  and it preserves the quiet beauty of Morris’ enchantment with this place.  You can enjoy light meals and a cream teas, home made from locally-sourced products.  In every respect Kelmscott Manor is ‘locally sourced.’  It’s a real treat, and ‘worth the journey!’

Kelmscott Manor
Kelmscott, near Lechlade, GL7 3HJ
01367 253348

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