It was on a late summer day that Dr. Sylvia Pinches and myself were invited to 7 Hammersmith Terrace, which is only a little way down river from Morris’ Kelmscott House, to visit this Georgian property not that dissimilar in size to 78.

Its real importance is its association with the Arts and Crafts Movement. Number 7 became a fine example of an Arts and Crafts interior when it was the home of typographer and antiquary Emery Walker in 1903 and subsequently his daughter Dorothy until her death in 1963 when the house and contents were bequeathed to her companion, Elizabeth De Haas, who lived there until her death in 1999. The Emery Walker Trust then took on the management of the property.

The object of the Trust is the ‘advancement of the education of the public in arts and crafts design and architecture … by promoting … the study and appreciation of artists, craftsmen, designers and architects of the 19c and early 20c … conserving, maintaining and displaying 7 Hammersmith Terrace and its contents’. Hence Dr. Pinches’ invitation to give advice on how this might be managed and my representation from The Friends to suggest how such an organisation may help to promote and facilitate opening the house to the public.

Unlike 78 with its associated houses 80/82, the Emery Walker house has no other access other than its own front door so public entry, however limited, would be problematic. The Trust also saw as its first priority the need to safeguard the actual structure of the building and to record and conserve the contents. Fortunately the house was essentially sound but the services were in a poor state of repair and remedial work was carried out by architects Martin Ashley in 2002 and house curator, Dr. Aileen Reid, catalogued the entire contents. Not an easy task given that the house was stuffed full of Arts and Crafts artefacts and the eclectic detritus of three peoples’ lives from 1903 to 1999.

The dining room alone is a treasure trove of original William Morris wallpaper and the Morris ‘Bird hangings’ from Kelmscott House, as well as Morris personal memorabilia and also some Philip Webb furniture. Stashed in a desk drawer and hand corrected is the typescript of G.B. Shaw’s first play Widowers’ Houses – Walker being a close friend of the playwright.  Other rooms in the house have jewels such as Burne-Jones’ work and proof prints from the Kelmscott Press.

The Trust has yet to decide how best they can open the house, however restricted, to the public. Perhaps its value and importance as a house may be summed up by this extract from a letter by John Betjeman to Lord Euston after he saw the house in 1964. “There is no other Morris interior in London to equal it, nor was there ever a Morris interior to retain so many relics of the Morris movement. .. the twinkling light from the Thames at the bottom of the garden shines on the blues and greens of Morris papers and fabrics and old brown hand made furniture, leads one into a kingdom that can never be created again”.

 

First published in December 2004 in The Friends of 78 Derngate Newsletter Issue 32.
Author: Rob Kendall
Transcribed 2018: Barbara Floyer

 

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