Kelmscott Manor

Almost 12 years ago we had a trip up the Upper Thames and moored up at Kelmscott overnight. This was following the summer 2007 floods that devastated the Cotswolds and caused havoc across central England. We had planned to visit the former summer home of William Morris, Kelmscote Manor but, although the floods had subsided, the damage to the house was so bad it was closed to the public. We particularly remembered that even the Plough Inn was out of beer because of the flooding and an unfortunate couple who had travelled from Norfolk in their camper van to visit the manor and had slept overnight outside only to discover it was closed for the rest of the year.

Since then we have not been back along this stretch by boat, so when we found ourselves travelling through the Cotswolds a week ago we decided it was about time that as William Morris enthusiasts we visited Kelmscott. We were not disappointed.   

Kelmscott village does lie a little off the beaten track but it is delightful. A visit to the manor can effectively become a visit to the whole village since there are connections throughout to Morris family (William, Jane and May) and their fellow Pre-RaphaeliteDante Gabriel Rossetti who had a complex relationship with the Morris family . Just look at the map supplied by the manor.

We arrived late morning on a glorious summer's day and parked in the village car park (a field) designated for manor visitors. After "the pub with no beer" episode twelve years ago we visited The Plough and had a great lunch. The inn has several rooms so would make a good centre for walkers since it's not far from the Thames Path. It was busy and one of their outside rooms was set up for a party. I discussed the floods with the staff - it appears that the wooden floor of the pub was destroyed by the floods so they now have one in stone.

A pub with beer - this time

On the gentle walk to the manor we passed the cottage that has a wonderful stone carving of William Morris and I was also taken with some unusual nearby stone fencing.

William Morris contemplating life
Memorial Cottages 1902 - carved by George Jack
 Quite a different field boundary
The manor is not a large property if you are familiar with visiting stately homes, and you will soon become aware that it had a long history before Morris lived there. Visiting this building is all about William Morris and his work, but there are other little gems, notably by his daughter May who lived there for many years following his death.

William Morris's Bed  

Jane Morris's Bed decorated in Willow Boughs 

It is a widely held view that Willow Boughs (which we have decorating Albert) was inspired by the backwater of the Thames that passes through Kelmscott.


Split-stepped staircase installed by the Society of Antiquaries in 1962

Attic bedspread

Jane and William Morris

Cartoon of Morris fishing on the Thames

The gardens and outbuildings shouldn't be forgotten. Maggie and I were particularly taken by the massive mulberry tree in the back garden. It was too early in the season for ripe fruit but maybe in late August?

Kelmscott Manor's magnificent mulberry

A Three-seat Privy

The Manor owned by the Society of Antiquaries of London and is only open Wednesdays and Saturdays in the summer. Also this year it will close for an extended works, mostly associated with the outbuildings and infrastructure so next year they may have quite a short season. I did ask the guides about the damage done in 2007. It appears that none of the artifacts were damaged but they had to have a new floor at the rear of the building.

Morris's Topcoat

The mooring at Kelmscott is a very short walk to the manor and is a delightful setting. Although we moored up there in 2007 and have now visited the manor, we still aspire to do both things at the same time. I suppose that is icing on the cake? - talking of which the manor does cream teas!

Kelmscott moorings