During the 2023 season, Kelmscott Manor has some of the finest tapestries created by Morris & Co. on view, thanks to the generous support of Lord Lloyd-Webber.
The Holy Grail tapestries were designed by Morris with his close friend and associate Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones to illustrate the quest for the Holy Grail by the Knights of the Round Table in 1890.
When ascending the Manor’s staircase, visitors will be flanked by three of King Arthur’s knights: Sir Gawaine, Sir Lancelot and Sir Uwain.
“The noblest of the weaving arts is tapestry”William Morris, 1888
It is hoped that this exceptional loan will encourage more visitors to Kelmscott Manor and support their fundraising efforts to start the conservation of the Kelmscott Manor Samson tapestries and the reinstatement of the Tapestry Room.
One of the Manor’s most important spaces is the Tapestry Room, with its 17th-century Dutch tapestries, a rare survival of its Manor’s pre-Morris interiors. Originally a bedroom, the Tapestry Room acquired an added significance when William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti took on the joint tenancy of Kelmscott Manor in 1871.
Morris loved these rare wall hangings mellowed by age, declaring that they gave the Tapestry Room ‘an air of romance which nothing else would quite do’. He gravitated there, using it as both a workspace and a sitting room. It was tapestries such as these that inspired him to learn the technique himself and set about reinventing it.
The Society of Antiquaries is committed to returning the Tapestry Room to its original arrangement, as it was when Frederick Evans photographed the interiors of Kelmscott Manor in 1896.
They have commissioned a conservation assessment of the tapestries, and their condition is extremely weak, with numerous holes and losses, including distortions and tensions in the woven structure.
The Society plans to reinstate the tapestries in their historical configuration with the partition to the adjoining Bachelor’s Bedroom reinstated so that visitors can experience the room as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries.
They need to raise £300,000 to conserve the tapestries in sequence and re-hang them configured as they were during the Turner and Morris families’ time.
Martin Levy FSA, Chairman of the Kelmscott Campaign Group, said: “The importance of returning the Tapestry Room to its original state cannot be overstated. William Morris used the room as his principal workspace. As did, later, his daughter May. We hope that you will support our campaign.”
You can support the appeal by donating on the Kelmscott Manor website.
Kelmscott Manor’s open season runs from April to the end of October, Thursday to Saturday, with timed entry for the manor house at 15-minute intervals to ensure the experience is enjoyable.
The timed ticket slot is for entrance to the manor house only. You can visit the gardens, meadows, shop and tearoom either before or after your timed ticket entry into the manor house.
The estate opens at 10.30am and closes at 5.00pm, and the manor house at 11.00am with last admission at 4.00pm. Admission tickets are valid for 12 months from the date of your first visit, giving you unlimited free visits for a whole year.