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At Emery Walker’s House

June 4, 2023
by the gentle author


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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

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Fran Bulwer permalink
    June 4, 2023

    I recommend Lara Maiklem’s book ‘Mudlarking’ which has a fascinating section on finding pieces of Doves type along the Thames, also a BBC Radio 4 programme made some years ago but still available on Sounds, I think, called ‘An Obsessive Type’, about the search for Doves type in the Thames and the attempts to recreate it.
    Examples of Doves Press books are on the V&A website.

  2. Susan permalink
    June 4, 2023

    Lived round the corner from Emery’s house for nearly 30 years, but only recently visited. Lovely guides showed us around. Interesting place and history. It was pouring the day we visited, but luckily the sunshine came out at the last moment and we were able to go out into the garden.

  3. Cherub permalink
    June 4, 2023

    Some very beautiful things shown here, the fireplace with the Delft tiles is lovely.

    My hometown of Kirkcaldy in Fife was famous for the manufacture of linoleum by Nairn which was sold globally and they made it for the William Morris company. The V and A has some of the carved wooden blocks with the patterns in its archive.

  4. Saba permalink
    June 4, 2023

    I am struck by the subtlety of the yarn colors and wallpaper colors. I also love the gardens with lavender-hued blossoms and fluffy ferns everywhere. All in all, a fantasy — well, outside of the uncomfortable-looking chairs.

    Since the creators held strong political views, I wonder whether they were able to produce their goods at prices affordable to many. Even if not, they upheld the value of hand-hewn, well-designed goods for the home.

    I live in the Hudson Valley where Dard Huntner, a follower of the Arts and Crafts movement, studied in England and made his own paper and type and, then, printed books at the Gomez Mill House near Newburgh, NY. We now have a wonderful printer of handmade books and scholar of the history of books, paper, and type, Luke Pontifell in Newburgh.

  5. Acadarchist permalink
    June 4, 2023

    Oh my word. Myself and my son are huge Morris admirers. A must visit next time we`re in London.

  6. Bill permalink
    June 5, 2023

    Perusing these pictures, and others like them, is nourishment for the soul. Thank you.

  7. Robin s Call permalink
    June 5, 2023

    That embroidered bedcover by May Morris is absolutely stunning. Such fine work.

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