An Earthly Paradise: William Morris & The Thames

1 Feb 2019 – 14 Jul 2019

Event times

Sunday-Monday: 10am-5pm

Cost of entry

£12.50 for an annual pass

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An Earthly Paradise: William Morris & The Thames will feature
original printed textiles and sketches by the 19th century’s most celebrated designer, and cast new light on Morris’ lifelong passion for the river.


In an exhibition first, The River & Rowing Museum will explore one of William Morris’ most important and little-known influences: the River Thames. 

Telling this story for the very first time, the exhibition will explore how a lifetime spent boating and fishing infused Morris’ designs, inspired his poetry, fuelled his manufacturing, and filled his leisure time.

From 1879 the river even connected his two homes: Kelmscott House in London and Kelmscott Manor, upstream in rural Oxfordshire. Morris’ instantly recognisable textile designs including Wandle and Windrush are inspired directly from his days exploring and fishing in the upper reaches, and passages from his celebrated 1867 epic poem The Earthly Paradise are directly drawn from pleasurable afternoons spent on the river.

Highlights from the exhibition include:

  • Morris’ original hand-drawn designs for his famous printed textiles named after

    Thames tributaries including Evenlode and Windrush

  • The British Library’s handwritten daily journal of Morris’ seven-day boat trip with

    family and friends that inspired his socialist novel News from Nowhere and

    passed through Henley

  • Hand-carved wooden printing blocks and a 19th century furnishing fabric

    showcasing Morris’ celebrated indigo discharge printing method

  • Morris’ socialist utopia novel, News from Nowhere, bound in vellum and signed

    by William Morris to his daughter May

  • A 2.7m long embroidery, June, featuring poetry from William Morris’ The Earthly

    Paradise by his daughter, and Arts and Crafts pioneer, May Morris

  • William Morris’ own spectacles, pipe and fishing kit

Director of The River & Rowing Museum, Dr Sarah Posey commented:

The River & Rowing Museum brings the River Thames to life a window on its cultural, social and natural history. As one of our most celebrated designers, it’s fascinating to understand how the river flowed through William Morris’ work, inspiring his creative practice and core beliefs, based on his lifelong love of angling. Morris’ designs are instantly recognised around the world as quintessentially British. This one-of-a-kind exhibition explores what shaped his vision

Set against the idyllic riverside backdrop of Henley on Thames, the exhibition offers an exciting new insight into one of Britain’s most influential designers. 

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