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William Morris Gallery

With their repetitive flourishes and idealized florals, the designs of William Morris seem especially geared to kids. The artist’s former home is located in Walthamstow, an up-and-coming artistic community in North London, and once you walk into the elegant Georgian foyer, you’re instantly struck by how such a niche slice of British history can be so universally appealing.

William Morris GalleryPhoto: Paul Tucker

Morris was, of course, Britain’s most successful textile designer and craftsman: master of the floral print and closely linked to the Pre-Raphaelite movement led by his friendly rivals, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Over the years, half a dozen local buildings have claimed “Morris Slept Here,” but the Walthamstow gallery – his actual residence between 1848 and 1856 – now houses the most comprehensive collection of his life’s work around the globe. Two years ago, it relaunched with a freshly designed interior and more child-friendly displays than the Victorians would have deemed appropriate.

We visit on a quiet weekday, when the activity rooms are tidy, and the kids explore the upstairs warren like it’s our summer rental. They painstakingly trace daffodil swatches onto scrap paper and use coloured pencils to make rubbings from Morris’ original woodblock. Then they’re off to a table fitted with mirrors and assorted flower shapes; the fun is in arranging the shapes in a pattern, then seeing how the mirrors repeat the design. My older daughter disappears to help a preschooler build a cathedral with blocks cut like spires and clerestory windows. After we inspect rooms of stained glass by Edward Burne-Jones, the kids discover a light box where they can assemble coloured Plexiglass-like puzzle pieces.

William Morris GalleryPhoto: Olivier Dixon, Imagewise

Eventually, they catch a glimpse of the garden through the picture window and make for the door. This used to be the Morris’ private idyll, but it now belongs to the local forest council. Renamed Lloyd Park, it has a duck pond shaded by weeping willows, a skate park, a playground and a small community centre for storytime in the afternoon. We chase after the kids as they fly across the bridge suspended above the moat where the Morris children used to fish – a modern-day Arts and Crafts movement.

Lloyd Park, Forest Rd., 44-20-8496-4390

Fun Fact
William Morris lived here until he was 22. His poetry career began here, and his friend Edward Burne-Jones painted studies of the trees in Lloyd Park.

Lunch Break
It’s only a 10-minute walk into Walthamstow Village, which has a lock on salt-of-the-earth pubs and a couple of traditional Italian trattorias. The folksy Nags Head pub is stocked with kitschy knick-knacks, offering local brews, a colossal beer garden and live jazz on Sundays.

9 Orford Rd., 44-20-8520-9709

Souvenir
Animal brooches or the strawberry necklace (inspired by Morris’ popular “Strawberry Thief” design and exclusive to the gallery) by London jeweller Tatty Devine. The fox brooch is £35 (about $65).

Tags

CHILDREN     FAMILY TRAVEL     LONDON     MUSEUMS    

Comments… or add another

NELSON CHEY

Friday, July 11th 2014 01:52
I would like to visit every museum in London, England.
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