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C.F.A. Voysey

Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857–1941) was born in Hessle, Yorkshire on 28th May 1857 and was educated by his father, a former vicar and then schoolmaster, before briefly attending Dulwich College. In 1874 Voysey was articled to the architectural practice of J.P. Seddon, a prominent country house architect, before establishing his own practice in 1882.

Whilst waiting for architectural commissions to come in, Voysey began designing wallpapers in 1883 under contract for Jeffrey & Co (the company who originally produced wallpapers for Morris & Co before William Morris took production in-house). He joined the Art-Workers' Guild in 1884 and displayed both printed textiles and wallpapers at the inaugural Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society show at the New Gallery in 1888. Voysey’s earliest textile and wallpaper works, through the late 1880s, have historically-influenced traditional repeats. By the mid-1890s, he was creating his most characteristic and original designs, flowing patterns in pastel colour ways with flattened silhouettes of birds, florals, and hearts.

His success as an architect finally occurred in 1891 by the construction of the tower house at 14 South Parade in Bedford Park. Broad Leys, a substantial house overlooking Lake Windermere, is generally considered to be one of Voysey’s finest works. Throughout his career, Voysey rejected stylistic revival, basing his designs and use of materials close to the Arts and Crafts vernacular, yet distinctive and instantly recognizable as his work. He married Mary Maria Evans in 1885 and eventually built a family home, The Orchard at Chorleywood, in 1900. His practice flourished, and for twenty years he became one of the most sought after architects for progressive middle class clients in England.

However, a combination of his style going “out of fashion” and his uncompromising attitude may have lost him commissions and work dried up by the 1 st World War although he continued with furniture, wallpaper and competition designs. Despite his early success he did not receive recognition from the establishment until an exhibition of his work in 1931, the Royal Society of Arts award of ‘Designer for Industry’ in 1936, and finally the RIBA Gold Medal in 1940, only a year before his death.

The Voysey Society: www.voseysociety.com

Broad Leys: www.wmbrc.co.uk