Kelmscott Manor is a limestone manor house in the Cotswold village of Kelmscott, Oxfordshire. It dates from around 1570, with a late 17th-century wing, and is a Grade I listed building. It is situated close to the River Thames, and it is frequently flooded. The nearest town is Faringdon in the Vale of the White Horse. The house was built by local farmer Thomas Turner and remained in the family for many generations. After George Turner died in 1734, the house was rented out. The house was originally called Lower House, but became Kelmscott Manor when James Turner (d.1870) purchased 53½ acres of manorial land together with the lordship in 1864. After James died the manor passed to his nephew, Charles Hobbs, who let out the property.
Kelmscott Manor was the country home of the writer, designer and socialist William Morris from 1871 until his death in 1896. Today it is owned by the Society of Antiquaries of London, and is open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the summer. Morris drew great inspiration from the unspoilt authenticity of the house's architecture and craftsmanship, and its organic relationship with its setting, especially its garden. The Manor is featured in Morris' work News from Nowhere. It also appears in the background of Water Willow, a portrait of his wife, Jane Morris, painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1871.
After William Morris's death in 1896, the Manor continued to be occupied by his widow, Jane Morris (who purchased it in 1913) and later, his daughters. May Morris died in 1938 and bequeathed the house to Oxford University, on the basis the contents were preserved and the public were granted access. The University were unwilling to preserve the house as 'a museum piece' and passed the house and land to the Society of Antiquaries in 1962. The internal decor today is substantially that of Morris, and includes many of his famous textile patterns as well as much of his furniture. There is a display of his textile designs in the converted loft, which would originally have been used for farm labourers. His bedroom contains many of his original books, and a collection of Dürer prints. The state of the house is much as it was left by Morris after his death.
When Morris found Kelmscott Manor in 1871 the garden delighted him as much as the house. Enclosed by high walls and divided by hedges, it conformed to his ideal of a garden ‘fenced from the outside world’ and he therefore altered it little. As well as the Manor, the site comprises its beautiful garden and important group of historic barns, dovecot and former stabling (for ‘Mouse’ the Icelandic pony, brought back from Iceland by Morris for his daughters). It is situated in a beautiful village, totally unspoilt, reflecting the vigilance and energy of Morris and his family to preserve the site and area for the future. From 1871-1896 Kelmscott Manor was Morris’s summer retreat from the pressures and smog of London. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the Pre-Raphaelite artist, was a co-tenant with Morris 1871-'74. The architecture, history landscape, flora and fauna of Kelmscott had a profound effect on Morris, his designs and his thinking. As you wander through the gardens, you can begin to see how he was inspired to create so many of his now internationally famous and much-loved designs from plants, trees and shrubs grown in the Manor gardens, such as Willow Bough (1887); Strawberry Thief (1883) and Kennet (1883). These designs are all reflected in his textiles once you enter the Manor. William Morris named his London residence "Kelmscott House" and the private press that he founded "the Kelmscott Press" after Kelmscott. He was buried in the village churchyard in a tomb designed by his friend and colleague Philip Webb.
If you have a carer to help you there is no admission charge for them. Assistance dogs are welcome at the Manor. Water is available for them around the site; please ask a member of staff for assistance. There is plenty of free parking for the Manor. Kelmscott Manor is a Grade I listed Tudor Manor house with displays in former farm buildings and as such can be a challenging site with a variety of gradients, steps and paths, some of which may be uneven. The visitor route takes in three floors of the house, including a split-level staircase to ascend to the attic rooms and a spiral staircase to descend again to the ground floor. Wheel-chair access is possible for the whole of the ground floor of the house; the Tearoom is also accessible. Throughout the garden runs the ‘Cut’, a small stream, which runs at the bottom of the tea lawn. Although very picturesque, it has very deep, muddy water and is not railed off. Please keep children and other vulnerable people supervised and safe. There are seats alongside the length of the stream for you to sit, relax and enjoy. The accessible toilet is located to the rear of the Tearoom, please ask a member of staff or volunteer for directions upon arrival. Baby-changing facilities are available in the disabled toilet in the Tearoom. Enjoy freshly prepared delicious food in the licensed Tearoom, open Wednesdays and Saturdays for morning coffee, light lunches and afternoon tea. Kelmscott Manor has plenty of sheltered and indoor spaces as well as in the grounds. There are also plenty of places to take a rest, on a seat or on some grass. Many of the picnic benches are wheelchair accessible. Visitors are welcome to sit in any of the window seats once inside the Manor.
Location : Kelmscott Manor, Kelmscott, Lechlade GL7 3HJ
Transport : Oxford OR Swindon (National Rail) then taxi. Bus Routes : No bus service.
Opening Times : Wednesday and Saturday 11:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Adults £9.50; Children £5.00
Tel. : 01367 252486