Lost Treasure of Kelmscott Manor
Some of Morris’s greatest designs and ideas were inspired by living in this rural retreat, which he referred to as his ‘heaven on earth’.
We are excited to announce that a ‘Lost Treasure’ from Kelmscott Manor’s fascinating past has recently come to light. For over a century, this exquisite children’s cot quilt, with finely embroidered representations of Kelmscott Manor and the River Thames has been in private hands.
Kelmscott Manor is the former Cotswolds home of William Morris, designer, poet, writer and pioneer of the Arts & Crafts Movement. Morris took up a joint lease on the house in 1871 with Pre-Raphaelite artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Some of Morris’s greatest designs and ideas were inspired by living in this rural retreat, which he referred to as his ‘heaven on earth’.
This beautiful silk on silk textile depicts a charming array of animals from a porcupine to a crocodile.
It was designed by May Morris, William Morris’s talented daughter, and embroidered by her mother, Jane, circa 1900.
May Morris was both an outstanding embroideress and talented designer; in 1885, aged only 23, she was appointed Director of Morris & Co.’s embroidery department. Under her leadership it executed some of the finest embroidered work of the day.
The cot quilt was acquired by May Morris’s friend May Elliot Hobbs (1887-1957) and has remained in the Hobbs family ever since passing down the generations until the present day. The two women were together the leading lights of Kelmscott village life and social activities.
When William Morris leased the Manor in 1871, it was from farmer Charles Hobbs, who in 1873 was succeeded by RW Hobbs, May Elliot’s husband. Over the years the Morris and Hobbs families became good friends, and May Morris mused: "How much common interest and common understanding the two Kelmscott neighbours had, the owner of a famous herd of cattle and the poet". It was from Robert Hobbs that Jane Morris was able to purchase the Manor in 1913.
Kelmscott Manor needs your help to reach the £40,000 target in order to purchase the cot cover to keep it on public display.
Kelmscott Manor Property Manager, Sarah Parker, commented: "We are so excited to have this wonderful opportunity for the cot cover to finally be on public display after being in private hands for so many years. It’s lovely to see our younger visitors point out all the various fascinating creatures depicted. It really is a case that the more you look, the more tiny animals and intricate insects you can spot. My personal favourites are the tiger and peacock. We very much hope we can raise the funds needed to acquire it, especially as it was designed and made at Kelmscott Manor and incorporates the manor and River Thames in the design. We hope that now it is back at the manor, it will be kept on permanent display for all to see."
The embroidery is currently on display at Kelmscott Manor to the public every Wednesday and Saturday until the end of October. The manor currently attracts 21,000 visitors annually. The cot quilt would add a new dimension to our existing collections; its playful animal designs have great visual appeal and would provide an ideal ‘way in’ to the collections at the Manor for our younger visitors. We also hope to use them for our exhibitions, education and outreach sessions, and trails.
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