17 May 1996

William Morriss house

– a haven of such peace

WHEN writer, socialist, artist and craftsman William Morris was looking for a house "for the wife and kids," as he put it, he found Kelmscott Manor, an old stone Elizabethan house close to the upper reaches of the Thames. A hundred years later the place is still a haven, such a peaceful spot, the only sounds to be heard are the lapping of the water and the squawking of rooks high up in the trees.

The house is now owned by the Society of Antiquaries who are at present busy restocking the garden to include some of the old-fashioned plants that were used in his famous fabric designs and embroidery. William Morris believed that a garden should look as if it were part of a house. At Kelmscott it must be an absolute delight to sit on one of the window seats and admire the view.

I met the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire group there and we had a most enjoyable tour around the house and garden, which was a welcome afternoon out for many members. In the garden I met Jill Price who is very knowledgeable on plants and her friend Pam Webb, both relatively new members of the club. Jill and her husband, John farm about 40ha (100 acres) at Tetbury, and Jill had just left her last ewe to lamb under the watchful eye of her 80-year-old mother who lives on the farm with them. She was hoping that all would be well on her return because, to supplement their income, John drives an articulated lorry around the country. They have 100 breeding ewes, a small suckler herd and some store cattle – a far cry from her previous life as a police sergeant.

Pam lives at Malmesbury where her husband Roy and his brother Allen farm 101ha (250 acres) and have a 150-strong dairy herd of pedigree Friesians. They also have a camping and caravan site.

Jean Howells

Kelmscott Manor and Pam Webb (left) and Jill Price, two of the new friends Jean Howells made when she visited the manor with Wilts and Glos members.