Red House
Red House
Red House was the home of Arts and Crafts Movement founder William Morris and his wife Jane. Not only did Morris live in Red House, it was built by architect Philip Webb to his exact specifications. Red House features lovely Arts and Crafts furnishings, including wall paintings and stained glass windows by Morris's friend Edward Burne-Jones.
The initial design for Red House was sketched out by Webb on the back of a map during a boat trip, and the finished building is a superb example of Arts and Crafts style. Morris saw a garden as an extension of a house, and he designed the gardens here at Red House to complement the interiors, or, as he put it, to "clothe" the house.

Morris asked Philip Webb, himself a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement, to build a new house in Bexleyheath beginning in 1859, and he and Jane moved in the following year. He only lived at Red House for 5 years, but in that time he made the house a reflection of his philosophy in architecture and art, and a meeting place for the leading artistic figures of the day, including Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Edward Burne-Jones, and Ford Madox Brown.

Morris wanted Red House to be a 'Palace of Art', where he and his circle of artist friends could decorate the walls with scenes of medieval myth and legend.

Morris's friends did far more than just enjoy his hospitality and paint the walls; they added their own touches to the house, painting ceilings and furniture, and adding artistic touches based on an idealised version of medieval style.

Morris found it difficult to find furnishings for Red House so he decided to create them himself. To do this he founded 'the Firm', which became Morris and Company, to create wallpaper, stained glass, furniture, and textiles to his own designs. Morris and Company is still active today, producing goods modelled on Morris's original designs.

After Morris sold Red House in 1865 it passed through generations of private owners, and gradually the Pre-Raphaelite decoration became lost under layers of wallpaper, paint, and wooden panels. One of the lost pieces of decor was a wall painting in the bedroom.

A Secret Revealed
Red House became a hot news item in 2013 when a previously unknown wall Pre-Raphaelite wall painting was discovered in the bedroom. Conservation work has begun to reveal a painting probably executed by Morris and his artist friends, measuring 6ft by 8ft and covering an entire wall. The painting shows Biblical figures including Adam and Eve with the serpent, Noah, and Jacob and Rachel. Beneath the images is a line of text from Genesis. It seems likely that each figure was painted by a different artist, though the theme was almost certainly by Morris himself.

Red House can be visited via guided tour in the morning (pre-booking advised) or by free-flow entry in the afternoon (no booking necessary).