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At Emery Walker’s House

August 2, 2020
by the gentle author

Kelmscott Press & Doves Press editions at Emery Walker’s House

Typographer and Printer, Emery Walker and Designer and Poet, William Morris both lived in houses on the Thames in Hammersmith, but they first met at a Socialist meeting in Bethnal Green and travelled home together on the train to West London.

Both houses are adorned with plaques commemorating their illustrious former residents, and remarkably Emery Walker’s House in Hammersmith Terrace has survived almost as he left it, thanks to the benign auspices of his daughter, Dorothy, and her companion Elizabeth de Haas. Today it boasts one of London’s best preserved Arts & Crafts interiors and stepping through the threshold is to step back in time and encounter the dramas that were played out here over a century ago.

After their first meeting, Emery Walker and William Morris met each other regularly walking on the riverside path and soon became firm friends. Morris once commented that his day was not complete without a sight of Walker and the outcome of their friendship was that Emery Walker took responsibility for the technical side of Morris’ printing endeavours at the Kelmscott Press – designing the Kelmscott typeface – and then subsequently nursing Morris through his final illness.

The previous resident of Emery Walker’s house was Thomas Cobden-Sanderson, who is credited with coining the phrase ‘arts and crafts.’ After Morris’ death, he and Emery Walker established the Doves Press in 1900, for which Walker designed the celebrated Doves typeface. Although this highly successful creative partnership set the precedent for the private press movement of the twentieth century and they employed typographer Edward Johnston, who also lived in Hammersmith Terrace, it came to grief due to Cobden-Sanderson’s volatile emotional behaviour. The nadir arrived when Cobden-Sanderson dumped more than a ton of Doves type off Hammersmith Bridge to prevent Emery Walker having any further use of it. Only in own time have specimens been retrieved from the Thames and the font recreated digitally.

Meanwhile, William Morris’ daughter May and her husband, Henry Halliday Sparling, who was Secretary of the Socialist League moved in next door to Emery Walker – until May’s lover, George Bernard Shaw, moved in with them too and Henry Halliday Sparling moved out.

As with many old houses, you wish the walls could speak to you of the former residents and at Emery Walker’s house they do, because they are all papered with designs by William Morris. Within these richly patterned walls are rare pieces of furniture by Philip Webb, hangings and carpets by Morris & Co, photographs of William Morris by Emery Walker, a drawing of May Morris by Edward Burne Jones, needlework by May Morris and more. Most of the clutter and paraphernalia gathered by Emery Walker remains, including a lock of William Morris’ hair and several pairs of his spectacles.

Yet in spite of these treasures, it is the unselfconsciously shabby, lived-in quality of the house which is most appealing, mixing as many as five different William Morris textile and wallpaper designs in one room. Elsewhere, a Philip Webb linen press has been moved, revealing an earlier Morris wallpaper behind it and a more recent Morris paper applied only on the walls surrounding it.

Thus, the ghosts of the long-gone linger in this shadowy old riverside house in Hammersmith.

Click here to enjoy a virtual tour of Emery Walker’s House

Looking upriver

This seventeenth century chair belonged to William Morris and was given to Emery Walker by May Morris after her father’s death with addition of the tapestry cushion designed and worked by May

Portraits of William Morris taken by Emery Walker

Four different designs by William Morris for Morris & Co combined in the same room

Emory Walker looks down from the chimney breast in his drawing room. The teapot and salts once belonged to Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Fireplace with tiles by William de Morgan

Traditional English rush-seated ladder back chair by Ernest Barnsley and Morris & Co carpet bearing the tulip and lily design which is believed to have belonged to Morris, acquired from the sale at Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire

William Morris’ daisy wallpaper and Sussex chairs in the bedroom overlooking the river

Woollen bedcover embroidered by May Morris

Looking downstream

A yellow flag iris at Hammersmith Bridge where Emery Walker’s Doves typeface was dumped in to the Thames by Thomas Cobden-Sanderson

You may also like to take a look at

William Morris in the East End

At Kelmscott House

11 Responses leave one →
  1. August 2, 2020

    A wonderful Sight into an Ancient World of Design. Thanks very much indeed!

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  2. Charlotte Browne permalink
    August 2, 2020

    Fascinating house; I had no idea it existed despite having been interested in the Arts and Crafts movement for many years! By coincidence, I’ve just finished reading Lara Maiklem’s ‘Mudlarking’ in which she describes the fate of the Doves type and attempts to recover it in some detail.

  3. August 2, 2020

    Dear GA,

    Thank you: I read this piece with huge interest! You may already know the biography of Sydney Cockerell by Wilfrid Blunt (brother of Christopher the numismatist and Anthony the spy)? Cockerell’s role in the Doves Press affair gives another interesting account …

  4. August 2, 2020

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, what a lovely place with layers of charm. Really like those drapes in the bedroom with the Sussex chairs. I always enjoy your pieces about William Morris – genius.

    I plan to visit his home in Walthamstow when I next visit London, hopefully next summer.

  5. August 2, 2020

    Thanks for the juicy tidbit about George Bernard Shaw. As we say here in New York:
    “Who knew?”. I had always heard/read about the cross-pollination that happened in the
    Morris/Burne-Jones/Rossetti group, but never knew that Shaw was part of the rotation.
    Fascinating. ///// I enjoy the jumbled cozy look of these rooms; almost like the occupants have just stepped away. Mixing Morris prints in one room does not seem like a bad idea to
    me. The more, the many-er, I say. I looked up images of the Doves typography, and sighed with enjoyment and admiration. And saw some crusty bits of type that were rescued from the Thames.
    I wonder if any of the mud larks ever came upon any of these elegant letter forms? Alert the V&A !?

  6. paul loften permalink
    August 2, 2020

    “Thus, the ghosts of the long-gone linger in this shadowy old riverside house in Hammersmith.”
    The ghosts of the Victorian middle class socialists are very much welcome in my house. They make much better company than the ghosts of todays rich.

  7. Bill permalink
    August 2, 2020

    Very beautiful. As is your website, which I found through the Bible of British Taste.

  8. Mary permalink
    August 2, 2020

    Thank you GA for another gem, and I have just spent a happy half hour with my laptop finding out more about this house and its residents.
    Like Charlotte, I too had never heard of this house despite an interest in the Arts and Crafts era, so this will be another place to visit when I am feeling confident enough to return to London.
    I love that this house appears as if the residents had just stepped out for a stroll by the Thames and will be returning soon for afternoon tea.
    The ghostly image of William Morris peering through the reflections in image 5 is beautiful.

  9. August 2, 2020

    A wonderful blog today, (and every day!) thank you for the photographs and virtual tour of this amazing and fascinating place.
    Enchanting.

  10. August 2, 2020

    the Pictures of the Vintage Home was Beautiful!! So Lovely!!🥰😊😘💖🌼🌹🌻👏

  11. Peter Holford permalink
    August 2, 2020

    Thank you for this GA. I am constantly amazed at what historical riches were under my nose at school almost next door to Morris’s House and now I learn about this one from your blog. But not many 18 year old schoolboys would have been interested in this type of history, even if they had known about it. And now I live 200 miles away it will need a Covid-free world to be able to go and see it for myself.

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