Kelmscott Manor awarded £4.3m from the Heritage Lottery Fund

Kelmscott Manor, the country home of the internationally acclaimed craftsman, designer, writer, environmentalist and socialist William Morris, has been awarded a grant of £4.3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It  will secure the future of the Manor and safeguard its internationally important collections for future generations.   

The development includes carrying out urgent repairs to the listed Manor House, the renovation of its famous gardens and the construction of a new education centre and visitor facilities. The project aims to enhance visitors’ understanding of the house and its setting and attract new audiences, particularly young people. Visitors will explore the inspirational impact that Kelmscott and its long history and archaeology had on William Morris and how this manifested itself in his work and helped to create his enduring worldwide legacy.

William Morris is renowned today as the designer of patterns such as 'Willow Bough' and 'Strawberry Thief'. The architecture, history, landscape, flora and fauna of Kelmscott inspired many of his most important designs and writings and influenced his ideas on conservation for both the built and natural environments. 

The house contains an outstanding collection of works by Morris as well as his family and associates including Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and Philip Webb that includes furniture, original textiles, pictures and paintings, carpets, ceramics and metalwork. 

In August the Society secured planning permission and Listed Building Consent for our proposals. I am now delighted to inform Fellows that the Society has been successful in securing an award of £4.3 million from Heritage Lottery Fund to support the delivery of our Kelmscott and Morris: Past, Present & Future project. The project was described in detail earlier this year (Fellowship News issues 47 &48) The grant, together with over £700,000 raised through donations by Fellows, supporters and funders will secure Kelmscott Manor its internationally important collections for future generations.  This represents the largest single injection of funding into the Society in its history.

In brief, the project will enable:

  • urgent repairs to the fabric of the Manor itself and our barns and outbuildings
  • Improvements to visitor parking and facilities such as ticketing, café and toilets
  • The use of the South Road Barn as the new visitor welcome building where people can purchase their tickets and be introduced to the deeper history of the Manor
  • The construction of a new thatched learning building which will provide us with, for the first time, the facilities to reach out to school and community groups and engage them with the Society’s mission to conserve and explore the remains of the past
  • Improved display and interpretation around the estate and in the house, including an expanded exhibition room and archive storage and research room
  • Improved environmental conditions for our displays and collections in the Manor
  • A three-year community archaeology programme to explore the ancient history of our estate and the landscape around Kelmscott
  • Support for three key new staff for three years to deliver the activities, manage visitors and volunteers and develop financial sustainability.

We will shortly embark on a three-year programme of works and activities, starting in January 2019 with improvements to our car park. The repairs to the outbuildings, visitor facilities and the construction of the learning centre will be completed in 2020 and works to the Manor House itself will be finished in May 2021; an auspicious date as it marks the 150th anniversary of William Morris first arriving at Kelmscott Manor. During the period of the works we intend to continue to welcome visitors during our open seasons so that they can learn about the history of the buildings, the way they are constructed, and the techniques used in modern conservation and repair.

The project has been a true collaboration of many staff, Fellows, volunteers, supporters and specialist consultant over the last eight years. In particular I would like to thank the efforts of our staff at Kelmscott, particularly our Property Manager Gavin Williams and Heritage Manager Kathy Haslam. Our Head of Development, Dominic Wallis, has worked tirelessly to raise the funding for the project and without his efforts none of this would have been possible.

John Maddison FSA and Merlin Waterson FSA produced a ground-breaking conservation plan which moved the project forward and our Honorary Curator Peter Cormack FSA has been integral to the development of our thinking about Kelmscott. Our Project Board, consisting of Fellows and staff steered the project through the Design phase of the project with great skill. The project has now spanned the terms of three Presidents. Maurice Howard was a tower of strength and support in the early days of planning the project and in improving the normal operation of the Manor. Gill Andrews contribution to developing the project and our successful application to HLF can not be overstated and it is doubtful if we would have been successful without her contribution. Our current President, Paul Drury will officiate over the challenges of implementing the main phase of the project, and I, as chair of the Project Board, will continue to oversee the work of our excellent specialist team of consultants, architects and designers.

The Society is extremely grateful to all the many Fellows and Supporters who have helped us begin this journey, from the fundraising Auction for Kelsmcott Manor in 2014 to ongoing the fundraising Campaign which began in May 2017.

Our special thanks goes to the Kelmscott Manor Campaign Group: Geoffrey Bond OBE DL FSA, Peter Cormack MBE FSA, Claire Donovan FRSA FSA, Philippa Glanville OBE FSA, Jack Hanbury-Tenison DL FSA, Martin Levy (Chariman) FSA, Alan Lovell DL FSA, Janie Money, Sandy Nairne CBE FSA, Cherry Peurifoy, Heather Sebire FSA and Jeremy Warren FSA for their continued support in helping us raise funds for Kelmscott Manor’s future. The Campaign Group and Dominic Wallis will be continuing their efforts in order to raise the last £800,000 we need to meet our target.

Looking forward, the project provides the Society with a unique opportunity to showcase the disciplines which are at the core of our Society and to be able to engage the public with a love of the past in all its forms; a love that is central to the Society of Antiquaries and which was pivotal to William Morris as one of our Fellows

John S.C. Lewis FSA

General Secretary