Thursday, October 20, 2011

William Morris

The Red House by Philip Webb

With a bit of time to spare, and after a pleasant lunch - we visited The Red House at Bexleyheath this afternoon. This National Trust Arts & Crafts flagship building has been on my list as a place to visit for some time and sunny October day was perfect.
Bought recently (last ten yrs) for 3million it has been barely touched by The Trust. It is beautifully run down and shabby, without heating, a ramshackle garden and wonderful staff. Alone in an endless conurbation by the A2 the red brick house nestles behind the original garden wall looking totally at odds with the surroundings - but once inside the wall you step back in time.
Following the eccentricities of Morris the orientation of the house is to the north, and 'pilgrim way' facing - on the one hand, very cold and unworkable and on the other hand it bows to Chaucer and his world. This duality continues throughout the house. Beautiful ideas and dropped arches, novel fitted furniture and a heavy brick oriel window, delightful 'pricked' and painted ceilings with recent white gloss panelling and so on. I am in two minds, although it has survived intact, it is in a bad way, If 'The Trust' sort the problems out, much of its homely personality, its honest failures and its integrity may be smothered in the worship of the A&C movement.
Go and see it now, it is intruiging as it is.