Lloyd Park, on Forest Road in the centre of Walthamstow, London, E17, with its neat gardens, moated lake, aviaries and tree trail is home to the William Morris Gallery. Water House, which houses the Gallery, was from 1848-56 the childhood home of William Morris (1834-96), a leader of the Arts and Crafts movement, designer, writer and Socialist. Walthamstow is proud to own its connection with him – taking the phrase ‘Fellowship is Life’ from his novel ‘A dream of John Ball’ as its motto. The house contains a valuable and fascinating collection of works by William Morris and his contemporaries, including Edward Burne-Jones, Walter Crane, Ford Madox Brown, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William de Morgan. Items include the famous wallpapers and their original designs, intricate woodcut printing blocks for Morris’ editions of Chaucer from the Kelmscott Press, ceramic tiles, stained glass, rugs, furniture and paintings, plus the Brangwyn gift, a collection of works by Pre-Raphelite and other Victorian artists, including Frank Brangwyn himself. There is a room in the gallery which regularly shows work by other artists, usually with some connection to Morris and in the grounds of Lloyd Park by the cafe (just before Aveling Park) there is a small exhibition space, The Changing Room Gallery, which has shows of contemporary art from April to November
In recent months there has been much concern in the local community as the local authority, London Borough of Waltham Forest, are threatening severe cutbacks which would lead to closures and limited access to this artistic asset. Also under threat is the Vestry House Museum in Walthamstow Village. Readers, irrespective of where they live, are encouraged to add their signature to the online petition where they can also read the latest information. This internationally renowned gem, much loved by locals and drawing visitors from much farther afield, must continue to be accessible to the public in the same way as it has since it was opened by Clement Attlee, the then Prime Minister and MP for Walthamstow, in 1950.
The Waltham Forest Guardian, the local paper, reported last week on a protest about the threatened closures: headline ‘Morris protestors declare a ‘heritage crime scene’ (3 May 2007).
Update – 11 May 2007
The Waltham Forest Guardian e-newsletter, dated today, gives details of the march held last Saturday in Central Walthamstow to highlight our local heritage under threat. The site gives an interesting link to the 24 Hour Museum, which gives details of over 3,000 museums, galleries and heritage sites across the UK. Typing Walthamstow into the search box gives information on both the Gallery and the Museum.
Update – 28 October 2007
The Londonist site gives more information about the current situation regarding this museum.
Update – July 2010
The William Morris Gallery has been saved. It is open with reduced hours and well worth a visit. More information: www.walthamforest.gov.uk/william-morris