1834 (24th March)
William Morris was born to William Morris and Emma Shelton Morris at Elm House, Walthamstow, Essex. His parents were fairly wealthy middle class people and father worked as a financier in London. He had two older sisters, Emma born 29th October 1829 and Henrietta born 17th July 1833. His elder brother Charles had been born in 1827 but had only lived four days.
1834 (25th July)
William was christened at St Mary’s Church, Walthamstow.
1837 (2nd August)
William’s brother, Hugh Stanley Morris, known as Stanley was born to William and Emma Shelton Morris.
The family moved to Woodford Hall, Woodford, Essex. They rented the property at a cost of £600 per month. William was homeschooled and enjoyed reading the novels of Walter Scott. He was fascinated by the Medieval period and also enjoyed fishing and gardening
1840 (30th August)
William’s brother, Arthur was born.
William was taken, by his father, to visit Canterbury Cathedral and other churches in Kent and Essex. He was impressed by the architecture.
1842 (17th July)
William’s sister Isabella was born.
William attended the ‘Misses Arundale’s Academy for Young Gentlemen’ in Woodford as a day pupil.
1844 (6th June)
William’s brother Edgar Llewellyn was born.
1846 (5th May)
William’s sister Alice was born.
1847 (8th September)
William’s father died unexpectedly. Without his income the family began to suffer financially.
William Morris was sent to Marlborough College as a boarder.
The Morris family sold Woodford Hall and moved to a smaller property, Water House, Walthamstow, Essex.
1849 (17th March)
William was confirmed by the Bishop of Salisbury in Marlborough College Chapel.
William visited Avebury where he spent much time looking at church architecture.
After coming fifth out of nine in his end of year exams, William was removed from Marlborough College and was taught by a private tutor, Reverand F B Guy.
1852 (2nd June)
William sat and passed an entrance exam for Exeter College, Oxford.
Morris began studying theology at Exeter College, Oxford University. His interest in the Medieval period was furthered by the architecture of Oxford, much of which dated from the Middle Ages.
William became friends with Edward Burne-Jones. Having a mutual interest in the architecture of the Middle Ages the pair spent much time visiting Medieval buildings and churches.
William wrote ‘The Dedication of the Temple’ which is thought to be his first poem.
William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones began to meet regularly with Charles Faulkner, William Fulford, Richard Watson Dixon and Cormell Price who all came from Brimingham and were studying at Pembroke College. The poetry of Tennyson and the plays of Shakespeare were among the topics they regularly discussed.
William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones became aware of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement following the publication of John Ruskin’s Edinburgh Lectures.
Morris visited Belgium where he spent time looking at Medieval paintings.
William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones took a tour of Northern France looking at paintings and architecture. Their itinerary included The Louvre Art Gallery in Paris as well as a visit to see the Bayeux Tapestry.
1855 (late Summer)
Morris decided that he would dedicate his life to art. The decision shocked his family and soured his relationship with them.
Oxford and Cambridge Magazine
The Birmingham Set began publishing a magazine full of poetry, reviews and articles. It was largely funded by Morris who was the wealthiest member of the group. A total of 12 magazines were published.
Morris began work as an apprentice architect to George Edmund Street. His mentor was Philip Webb who became a good friend.
William moved into a flat with Edward Burne-Jones in the centre of London.
William was introduced to the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti who was a mentor to Burne-Jones.
William Morris gave up his apprenticeship as an architect and decided to concentrate on painting instead.
Morris published a book of poems called ‘The Defence of Guenevere’. However, the book did not do well and reviews were mediocre.
William met Jane Burden, a working class woman and asked her to model for him. Rosetti also asked her to be his model. Both men fell in love with her.
William Morris painted ‘La Belle Iseult’ for which Burden was the model.
Morris became engaged to Jane Burden.
1859 (26th April)
William Morris married Jane Burden at St Michael at the Northgate, Oxford. It was a low key wedding attended by just a few close friends. None of William’s family attended. After the wedding they left for a honeymoon in Bruges.
William Morris and Philip Webb designed The Red House which would become a home for himself and his wife. Web designed the exterior of the building while Morris focused on the interior.
A daughter Jane Alice Morris was born to William and Jane Morris at the Red House, Bexleyheath, Kent. She was known as Jenny.
1861 (11th April)
Morris, Ford Madox Brown, Edward Burne-Jones, Charles Faulkner, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, P. P. Marshall, and Philip Webb founded Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co a home furnishings company that would provide Medieval inspired carving, stained glass, metal-work, paper-hangings, chintzes (printed fabrics), and carpets.
A second daughter, Mary “May” Morris was born to Morris and his wife at the Red House, Bexleyheath, Kent.
1862 (May to November)
Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co exhibited at the Great London Exposition – an international exhibition of arts, technology and industry. Their work was very well received and became fashionable.
Morris began designing wallpaper.
William Morris was finding it difficult having to travel to London to work each day. He decided to sell the Red House and move to London.
William Morris had become increasingly isolated from his wife who was spending more and more time with Rossetti.
The poem ‘The Life and Death of Jason’ was published. The work was well-received and his publishers requested another poem.
Morris published the poem ‘The Earthly Paradise’. It was published in four parts and made Morris’s name as a poet.
Morris moved his family to Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire. He wanted to raise his children in the countryside away from London. The property was jointly leased with Rossetti.
William Morris went on a trip to Iceland, having become deeply interested in the Icelandic sagas.
Morris published the poem ‘Love is Enough’.
Morris made a tour of northern Italy with Burne-Jones before making a second trip to Iceland. During the second Icelandic trip Morris became interested in Socialism.
William Morris decided to dissolve Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. He set up Morris & Co a new company which focused on textiles – design and print.
Morris’s daughter Jenny was diagnosed with epilepsy. Morris was adamant that she would be cared for by the family rather than institutionalised as was the norm in the Victorian period.
Morris & Co opened its first store in Oxford Street, London.
William published two works inspired by his visits to Iceland:’Sigurd the Volsung’ and ‘The Fall of the Niblungs’.
William Morris founded the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings.
William Morris moved his family back to London having purchased Kelmscott House in Hammersmith
Morris & Co were commissioned to work on the Throne Room of St James’s Palace.
‘Hopes and Fears of Art’, a collection of poetry, fiction and essays was published.
1883 (13th January)
Morris was made a Fellow of Exeter University.
Morris published two political socialist works ‘Art and Socialism’ and ‘A Summary of the Principles of Socialism’. He had become increasingly concerned by the lives of the working classes and often felt conflicted by his own successes.
Morris founded the Socialist League.
Morris wrote two political pieces ‘Useful Work versus Useless Toil’ and ‘Chants for Socialists’.
Socialism was taking up increasing amounts of Morris’s time and he began giving a collection of lectures entitled ‘Signs of Change’.
Morris attended the International Socialist Congress in Paris and on his return founded the Hammersmith Socialist League.
The Kelmscott Press was founded by Morris. It was a printing establishment where he could print books that he considered the epitome of beauty.
1892 (13th October)
The poet Alfred Lord Tennyson died. Morris was offered the position as Poet Laureate but declined the position.
Morris’s health began to fail. He was often ill and suffered from gout.
‘The Wood Beyond the World’ a collection of poetry, essays and fiction was published.
William’s mother died. She had reached the age of 90 years.
Morris went on a cruise of Norway visiting Vadso and Trondheim. His health began to deteriorate on the trip and upon his return worsened further.
1896 (3rd October)
William Morris died at Kelmscott House, Hammersmith, Middlesex.