A remarkable English manor house that was home to William Morris & dates back to the 16th century

Verica Sitnik

Historical Kelmscott Manor has many stories behind its walls. This beautiful English manor house dates from the late 16th century (around 1570) and is located in the Cotswolds village of Kelmscott, West Oxfordshire. The house is adjacent to the River Thames, near the town Faringdon. A local farmer by the name of Thomas Turner built the manor, which has been owned by his family for a long time.


The front side of the manor house with its garden. By Rictor Norton & David Allen, CC BY 2.0


The Kelmscott Manor was built in the 16th century. By Rictor Norton & David Allen, CC BY 2.0


Thomas Turner was the local farmer who built this house. By nick macneill, CC BY-SA 2.0

Many Turner generations haved lived in Kelmscott Manor, which was called Lower House. When the house fell under the ownership of George Turner, it underwent a series of renovations. After George Turner’s death in 1734, the house was owned by James Turner.

Together with the title, he purchased 53½ acres of manorial land in 1864, and the house was divided into two apartments. After this, the name of the house was changed from Lower House to Kelmscott Manor. Later, Kelmscott Manor passed to Charles Hobbs after the death of his uncle, James Turner. Charles let out the property, and the house was rented for the next two hundred years.

Garden view


Rossetti’s painting Water Willow with the Manor in the background.


It is best-known as the summer house of William Morris. By Edward and Caroline – CC BY-SA 2.0

Kelmscott Manor is perhaps most famous as the summer of home of iconic artist and designer William Morris. In addition to his work as an artist and craftsman, he was an influential writer, socialist thinker, political reformer, and activist. Morris found a great deal of inspiration from Kelmscott. The house also featured in a painting by Morris’ friend Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1871.

The Rossetti painting Water Willow is of William Morris’ wife Jane, a famous pre-Raphaelite artist’s model. Kelmscott Manor can be seen in the background. Morris mentions the house in his work News from Nowhere, a book about Morris’ utopian socialist ideal. Morris lived in the house from 1871 until his death in 1896, when ownership of the house passed to Jane, who secured the rights ot the property for their daughter May Morris who died in 1938.


A carving at the manor house (detail). By Rictor Norton & David Allen, CC BY 2.0


The original name of the manor was Lower House. By Stefan Czapski, CC BY-SA 2.0


The house has changed very little since William Morris lived in it.

Kelmscott Manor was then bequeathed to Oxford University, but the house has belonged to the Society of Antiquaries since 1962, as Oxford was not prepared to maintain the house’s upkeep as a museum. The designs and artwork, textiles, wall hangings, and tapestries have not changed at all, and both the house and garden look the same as when William Morris lived there. Today, Kelmscott Manor is open to the public.