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The Garden of William Morris at Kelmscott House

19/06/2015
by Fiona Rose

William wrote about the house and garden to his wife Jane, "the situation is certainly the prettiest in London...the house could easily be done up at a cost of money.The large drawing room, with a touch of my art, could be made one of the prettiest in London.The garden is really most beautiful". The garden was long and rambling, stretching back almost to Hammersmith High Street, 3 times the length it is in 2015.There was an orchard, a kitchen garden, a greenhouse and lawns.The garden backed onto Hog Lane, the inspiration for Morris to name his compost heap Pig End.

Close to the house was a wide lawn shaded by mature trees including a giant tulip tree.The lawn doubled as a bowling green and a place for William to lay out his Morris & Co handmade rugs in order to check the vibrant colours in daylight.A row of huge Italian terracotta jars were planted with flowers to divide up the next section of garden. Past the Ali Baba jars was an orchard with borders filled with traditional cottage perennials. Lastly a productive kitchen garden with greenhouse marked the end of the garden. Kelmscott House could never compete in William's affections with the other Kelmscott, his Cotswold Manor, but it did provide an oasis in the hustle and bustle of the city.William enjoyed observing the flora and fauna in his oasis, writing, "not so many slugs and snails by a long way and the newly planted things are growing now: the sweat peas promising well, the peonies in bud as well as scarlet poppies".

William's plans for developing the garden advanced at a sedate pace because the gardener he inherited with the house was advanced in years and very slow, "poor old Matthews is very slow; but I don't like sacking him; even on selfish grounds, a new system of horticulture will be more than the garden or I can stand".William Morris enjoyed the pleasures of his London garden for nearly twenty years until he died (at the house) in 1896.

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In 1875 William Morris was looking for a house to lease in London. Kelmscott House, on the Upper Mall, Hammersmith, fulfilled his requirements of being close to water and having a large unspoiled garden.