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William Morris and the Arts & Crafts Movement

July 5, 2013

As you wind your way along the corridors and through the rooms at Cragside, you can’t fail to notice the very particular designs of William Morris. Morris is widely regarded as the father of the Arts & Crafts movement, the style in which Cragside is decorated.

The Arts & Crafts movement was a British design phenomenon begun as a response to the increasing industrialisation happening at the time. It was felt that the true hand craftsmanship involved with interior design was being lost amid new mass production techniques.

Mass production meant the cost of each item could be lower. In effect, traditional craftsmen where being undercut and fears were that if the British public did not recognise the superior skills of these artists their crafts could die out completely.

'Brid and Trellis' by William Morris

Morris’s first commercial wallpaper designs were drawn in the 1860’s. In fact, the wall paper designs Fruit (in the Yellow Bedroom) and Bird and Trellis, see above (in the White Bedroom) were among these first commercial designs. The rooms here are decorated with reproduction wallpaper which was printed from the original wooden blocks; after samples of paper dated 1863 were found in the House.

'Spring' by William Morris Company

Cragside also has a sizeable collection of Morris Co. stained glass. Beginning in the Dining Room with Four Seasons, a set of four designs representing spring (see above), summer, autumn and winter. In the Library are designs by Dante, Rossetti and Burne-Jones, all supplied by Morris Co. More Morris glass can be seen on the stairs to the Gallery, as well as on the Gallery itself.

Sunflower - emblem of Arts & Crafts

Many elements of the House were designed and made by Arts & Crafts makers. In many items you will find a stylised sunflower, which became something of an emblem for the movement. For example, in the Dining Room there is carved wood panelling to dado-height, which features the sunflower in about half of all the carved panels in the room. You will even see it carved into the stone on chimneys here at Cragside.

The Arts & Crafts movement was perhaps an unusual choice for Armstrong, given that he was a leading industrialist of his day and the movement was essentially anti-industry!

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