Founded by

 

1834

William Morris is born in Walthamstow to wealthy parents, the eldest son of nine children.

1848

The family move to Water House (now the William Morris Gallery) when William is 14, following the death of his father. Morris is away at boarding school but returns home for idyllic holidays exploring the countryside.

1853

Morris attends Oxford University to study theology where he meets Edward Burne-Jones.

Discovering a shared fascination in mediaeval architecture, art and monastic living the two men are to become life-long friends and colleagues.

Edward Burne-Jones (1833-98)
Image courtesy of NPG

William Morris, aged 23
Image courtesy of William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

1855

Burne-Jones drops out of university and moves into rooms and a studio in Red Lion Square in London.

Morris graduates but agonises about his chosen vocation being drawn to a career in architecture instead.

1856

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82), c.1862
Image courtesy of Corbis

Philip Webb (1831-1915)
Image courtesy of NPG

Morris finds an apprenticeship with the architect G.E. Street in Oxfordshire where he meets Philip Webb.

The firm relocate to London and Morris shares lodgings with Burne-Jones in Red Lion Square.

Morris is introduced to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Burne-Jones's mentor, fellow artist and founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB), and whom he greatly admires.

Whilst still an architecture student Morris makes furniture inspired by medieval designs and construction.

1857

Morris, Burne-Jones and Rossetti decorate the ceiling of the Oxford Union with Arthurian inspired painted murals.

1859

Morris marries Jane Burden, daughter of an Oxfordshire stable-hand, who had become a model for the PRB.

Morris and Philip Webb embark on a project - to build Morris a home in the medieval style where he and Burne-Jones can live in an artistic community.

Jane Morris drawn by William Morris in 1858
Image courtesy of William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

1860

Morris and Jane move into Red House, designed by Philip Webb. They start to decorate and furnish the house with friends.

Stained Glass window from Red House
Image courtesy of NTPL

Red House, designed by Philip Webb
Image courtesy of NTPL

1861

Morris founds Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Company, with Burne-Jones, Rossetti and Webb. The other partners are the painter Ford Madox Brown and Charles Faulkner as book-keeper.

"The Firm" as they become known, opens a showroom at 8 Red Lion Square, London and concentrate on church decoration and ecclesiastical arts such as stained glass, metalwork, embroidery and murals.

Morris and Jane's first daughter 'Jenny' is born.

Charles James Faulkner (1833-92)
Image courtesy of NPG

Ford Madox Brown (1821-93)
Image courtesy of Corbis

Sussex rush-seated chairs as seen in a later Morris & Co. catalogue, c.1880
Image courtesy of William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

Furniture is developed and the refined and elegant rush-seated 'Sussex' chair is launched.

1862

Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. receive awards for stained glass, decorated furniture, and embroideries at the International Exhibition.

Morris begins to design wallpaper.

Morris' second daughter 'May' is born.

'The Firm' produce hand painted tiles featuring popular motifs such as daisies, artichokes and sunflowers, or scenes from mediaeval literature.

Daisy Tile, c.1862
Image courtesy of V&A Picture Library

1864

Morris launches three wallpaper designs 'Daisy', 'Trellis' & 'Fruit', hand-printed by Jeffrey & Co. who block print all the Morris papers by hand, up to 1926.

A sample of each design and colourway is recorded in Jeffrey & Co. log-books with annotations by the printer for future reference, as shown here with the design 'Trellis'.

Samples of 'Trellis' wallpaper from the Jeffrey log-books

Early Morris & Co. wood block

The wood blocks are made by Barretts of East London.

1865

Morris and family move to 26 Queen Square, Bloomsbury. The Firm's studio and showroom also relocate to the same address.

1867

Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. commissioned to decorate the Green Dining Room at the South Kensington Museum (now known as the Victoria and Albert Museum) and the Armoury and Tapestry Rooms at St James'.

The Dining Room at the South Kensington Museum
Image courtesy of V&A Picture Library

Poster advertising the safety of Arsenic Free Wallpapers

Morris & Co. declares it's wallpapers 'Free from Arsenic' in an attempt to reassure the public about safety. Choosing natural pigments over synthetic dyes sometimes meant there were hidden dangers in the early wallpapers.

1868

The Firm release their first hand block-printed fabrics which are three adaptations of 1830s chintzes.

Printed by Thomas Clarkson at the Bannister Hall Print Works, one of these fabrics, 'Large Stem', appears here.

'Large Stem' fabric

1871

Morris takes out a joint lease on Kelmscott Manor, Oxfordshire, with Rossetti.

1873

Morris begins designing his own fabrics starting with 'Jasmine', but he preferred his second design 'Tulip & Willow'.

Still printed by Bannister Hall however Morris is dissatisfied by the results.

'Tulip & Willow' fabric

1874

Morris designs 'Lily' wallpaper which is trialled by Jeffrey & Co. under the supervision of Managing Director Metford Warner. A sample is sent to Morris for approval which he returned with exact instructions on colour changes and shading to leaves, flowers and seeds in the design. This is typical of the way Warner and Morris worked together on every wallpaper produced.

'Lily' wallpaper sample

1875

Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. are dissolved and 'Morris & Co.' is established with William Morris as sole proprietor.

Morris and Burne-Jones, photographed in 1874
Image courtesy of William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

'Acanthus' Wallpaper

'Vine' wallpaper

Morris designs 'Acanthus', 'Light Larkspur' and 'Marigold' wallpapers marking the beginning of a ten year period when Morris the designer was at his most prolific.

Morris releases 'Vine' wallpaper in a metallic and embossed version.

1876

Morris designs Artichoke Tile panel which is made by William de Morgan who produces all Morris & Co. ceramics.

 

Morris' eldest daughter Jenny develops epilepsy.

The Artichoke Tile panel
Image courtesy of William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

1877

A new showroom and business premises open at 449 Oxford Street, London, bringing together the full range of wallpapers, fabric, ceramics, glassware, metalwork, embroidery and furniture.

The Morris & Co. showroom at 449 Oxford Street
Image courtesy of William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

One of two remaining ‘standbooks’ in the Morris & Co. Archive.

Front cover of Morris & Co. Wallpapers price list, c.1885

A full interior design service and mail order business is offered. Customers can view and select wallpapers from 'standbooks' at the Oxford Street showroom, and after 1917 in the George Street showroom.

John Henry Dearle joins the company as a showroom assistant.

Morris designs 'The Bird' and 'Peacock and Dragon' two of the earliest woven textiles produced from a rented workshop in Great Ormond Square.

William Morris and Philip Webb found the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

Morris & Co. start producing printed velvets.

Morris teaches himself tapestry weaving.

'Bird' woven tapestry cloth
Image courtesy of William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

1878

All fabric printing is out-sourced to Thomas Wardle of Staffordshire who works closely with Morris to develop vegetable and mineral dyes.

The Morris family move to Kelmscott House in Hammersmith, now the headquarters of the William Morris Society, and Morris starts teaching himself tapestry weaving.

1879

Morris installs looms in the coach-house and stables of Kelmscott House reviving the craft of hand knotted carpets which he referred to as 'Hammersmith' Rugs.

1880

Morris designs 'The St. James' wallpaper to decorate the entrance and banqueting rooms of St James's Palace.

Requiring two widths of wallpaper for the horizontal pattern repeat of 112cm, and using 68 wood blocks, this was to be the largest of all his wallpaper patterns.

The design is illustrated here on a 'matchpiece' to show the introduction of each colour as it was printed.

'The St. James' wallpaper matchpieces

1881

Morris & Co. acquires Merton Abbey Mills in South London for the production of vat dyeing and block printing fabrics, hand knotting and weaving carpets and tapestries, embroidery, weaving damasks, and all production of stained glass.

Morris joins the Social Democratic Federation.

Fabric dyeing at Merton Abbey Mills
Image courtesy of Getty

Tapestry weaving at Merton Abbey Mills
Image courtesy of Getty

Some early printed cotton samples including indigo discharge printed fabric

1882

Dante Gabriel Rossetti dies, aged 54.

1884

'Granada' Velvet
Image courtesy of William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

Morris designs 'Granada' a woven silk velvet, over-printed and embellished with gilt thread.

Morris & Co. expands into international markets in Europe, the United States and Australia.

William Morris forms The Socialist League aiming to end the class divide and bring equality through a fairer distribution of wealth.

Photo of The Socialist League circa 1884
Image courtesy of Corbis

1885

Jeffrey & Co. perfects a way of imitating the expensive 'leather' papers being imported from Japan.

'Chrysanthemum' designed by Morris in 1877 was reproduced in 1885 in a new 'leather' look paper.

'Sunflower' wallpaper, in a crepe embossed and foiled version, c. 1881

May Morris embroidering
Image courtesy of NPG

Embroidery production at Merton Abbey Mills
Image courtesy of Getty

May Morris takes over the Embroidery production at Merton Abbey aged 23.

1887

Queen Victoria commissions Morris to design a wallpaper for Balmoral Castle, incorporating the VRI cipher.

Morris also designs 'Willow Boughs'.

Wallpaper for Balmoral Castle featuring the royal cipher

1888

Morris & Co. exhibit the 'The Forest' tapestry at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition which is later bought by Alexander Ionides.

The Forest Tapestry
Image courtesy of V&A Picture Library

1890

Drawing of John Henry Dearle (1860-1932)
Image courtesy of William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

All Morris furniture production moves to Pimlico.

Frank & Robert Smith become business partners and responsible for retail.

Dearle becomes Head Designer at Morris & Co. and takes over management of Merton Abbey Mills.

1891

Morris establishes The Kelmscott Press, producing hand-printed and bound books, with illustrations by Burne-Jones.

The Kelmscott Press typeface
Permission by Marica McEwan

Morris first published his utopian novel 'News From Nowhere' in 1890 in a series printed in the Socialist magazine 'Commonweal'. Here it is seen in a beautiful volume published by the Kelmscott Press.

'News From Nowhere' published by The Kelmscott Press
Image courtesy of William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

1896

William Morris dies at the age of 62 and is buried in a churchyard near Kelmscott Manor.

Dearle continues to manage Merton Abbey and becomes art director of Morris & Co. Overall control of the company goes to W.A.S. Benson with Frank and Robert Smith in deputy roles.

William Morris, painted by Cosmo Rowe, c. 1895, from Wightwick Manor
Image courtesy of NTPL

1898

Edward Burne-Jones dies, aged 65.

1899

John Henry Dearle designs 'Golden Lily' and 'Artichoke'.

'Golden Lily' circa 1899

1905

The company is sold to Henry Currie Marillier who changes the name to Morris & Co. Decorators Ltd.

The board launches 5 wallpaper designs, including 'Oaktree' printed by surface roller machines - it is a huge departure from the Morris vision.

'Oaktree' wallpaper designed for surface roller and printed in 1905

1911

The business is commissioned to provide furnishings and Coronation thrones for King George V and Queen Mary. The Royal Warrant is granted to Morris & Co. Decorators Ltd.

1914

Jane Morris dies, aged 75. Having purchased Kelmscott Manor before her death, Jane leaves the house to her daughter May.

1917

The Oxford Street showroom moves to 17 George Street near Hanover Square.

During the First World War Merton Abbey is partially shut down (the fabric printing is later outsourced to Stead McAlpin in Carlisle).

Morris & Co. Decorators Ltd release a few 19th century fabric designs during the First World War at Merton Abbey, including 'Tangley' and 'Holkham'.

'Tangley' and 'Holkham' fabrics

Plain Wallpapers pattern book with the George Street address on front cover

The first book of Plain Wallpapers is released but were too expensive to be commercially viable.

1925

The company changes its name to Morris & Co. Art-workers Ltd. In the post-war years the business struggles, but offers a complete interior decorating service including carpet cleaning and tapestry repair.

1926

Jeffrey and Co., who printed all Morris & Co. wallpapers, is acquired by the monopoly Wallpaper Manufacturers Ltd (WPM) to which Arthur Sanderson and Sons belong.

1927

Block printing wallpaper at the Sanderson Perivale factory

Production of all Jeffrey and Co. papers moves to Sanderson's own factory in Chiswick, including block prints. After a fire the following year all stock was moved to a new factory in Perivale. These were still distributed by Morris & Co.

1932

John Henry Dearle dies - the last remaining member of Morris' original team, Dearle had worked for the company for 54 years.

1938

May Morris dies, aged 76, and leaves Kelmscott Manor to Oxford University in her will.

1940

Morris & Co. Art-workers Ltd. enters voluntary liquidation. Arthur Sanderson and Sons Ltd. buys the entire company for £400 including the George Street showroom and contents, all the wallpaper printing blocks, records, logbooks, stock and original samples.

 

Letter pertaining to Sanderson buying Morris & Co. Art-workers Ltd on 24th May 1940 for £400

The Sanderson Perivale factory is given over to the war effort and all capital expenditure ceased.

1945

Front cover of the 1945 wallpaper exhibition catalogue

'Acanthus' wallpaper is advertised in the Sanderson exhibition catalogue of 1945

The wallpaper industry instigates an exhibition with over 200 contributors, including Sanderson, to boost UK production and stimulate growth.

1951

At the Festival of Britain Sanderson exhibit their first post-war pattern book, a huge range of machine-printed fabric and wallpapers along with Morris' five surface printed papers, which appeared unfashionable amid the graphic, modern styles of the 1950s.

Front cover of the Festival of Britain catalogue of 1951

1960's

Sanderson launches hand-block printed Morris wallpapers re-coloured in psychedelic hues and a new range of screen printed fabrics which includes five designs previously only available as wallpaper, instigated by new Fabric Design Manager George Lowe, incluing 'Chrysanthemum' and 'Golden Lily'.

Hand printed 'Chrysanthemum' wallpaper in 1960s colour palette

Hand printed 'Indian' wallpaper as seen in a Morris & Co. patternbook c.1960

The front cover of the Sanderson house magazine 'Vista' features one of the new colourways of 'Bachelor's Button'.

 

Furnishing fabric outsells wallpaper for the first time.

1962

Sanderson launches the revolutionary 'Triad' co-ordinated range, now called 'Options'.

1965

Sanderson re-launches the successful 'Our Man' advertising campaign to boost wallpaper sales. Different advertisements are run in The William Morris Society Journal.

1970

To offset high costs in hand block printing Morris wallpapers the Sanderson Perivale factory undertake profitable commissions and transfer some designs onto screen prints.

1975

A new trend in Victoriana inspires a second fabric collection which included hugely popular 'Golden Lily' in a brown colourway, which at its peak sold 5,000 metres per month.

'Golden Lily' designed for wallpaper by J.H. Dearle c.1899, reproduced in fabric in the 1960s by Sanderson and recoloured in 1975 including a hugely popular brown colourway

Sanderson's own successful 'Triad' range of co-ordinated fabrics and wallpaper started to included Morris designs, such as 'Blackthorn', 'Rose' and 'Myrtle'.

'Blackthorn' in the Sanderson Triad co-ordinated pattern book

Sanderson's Triad Collection range of 1975

'Myrtle' designed by Morris in 1875 for embroidery, reproduced as a block print wallpaper in 1899 and released by Sanderson in 1975 in their Triad Collection

1979

Sanderson launch the Heritage Collection wallpaper book, including designs by Morris, C.F.A. Voysey and Owen Jones, but it didn't rejuvenate sales of wallpaper.

1980's

The Perivale factory shuts, although keeps a small unit for block printing Morris papers.

1982

A new Chief Executive A.L. Taylor is appointed and Design Manager Michael Parry replaces George Lowe.

Parry extricates Morris & Co. from under the Sanderson name, re-instating its own brand identity after 45 years. Parry releases a new collection of authentic Morris & Co. block printed wallpapers and arranges to have some long-established block-print designs are transferred onto surface rollers.

Printed in Denmark the machines are slowed down to give the appearance of a block printed paper but at a more affordable price.

The first Morris & Co. pattern book to be released by Sanderson without the Sanderson name

1988

Sanderson launches the first Coordinated Morris & Co. fabric and wallpaper book, quickly followed by subsequent volumes.

'Acorn' fabric and wallpaper from the first volume of Morris & Co. co-ordinated range

The first co-ordinated Morris & Co. collection, showing Larkspur on the front cover

1990

A new collection of hand block printed wallpapers were launched, produced in the new Lancashire wallpaper factory.

Volume III of the Morris & Co.fabric and wallpaper collection, c.1990

1991

The Sanderson name is removed from all Morris & Co. merchandise and advertising.

Lucrative international licensing opportunities become a major part of the business with 'Willow Boughs' now available as bedlinen, tableware, block printed wallpaper, printed textile, printed sheer, upholstery jacquard, tapestry and as a surface printed wallpaper, and consequently becomes the best selling design in the company.

Within a few years the Sanderson and Morris brands were both strengthened by their independence from each other and ranked high in a public survey of the leading companies in UK furnishings industry, Sanderson coming first.

The Classic Master Bedroom Ensemble, 'Willow Bough' was licensed by Sanderson to WestPoint Pepperell in 1987, the second largest bedlinen company in the United States. The range brought them a design award.

1995

Sanderson ceases to include any Morris patterns in its own collections.

2003

Standfast & Barracks fabric printing mill in Lancaster

Anstey Wallpaper factory in Lancaster

Sanderson and Morris & Co. are purchased by Walker Greenbank PLC, headed by John Sach.

Production is moved to the Group's own mills in the UK; wallpaper manufacture to Anstey in Loughborough and fabric printing to Standfast in Lancashire.

The purpose built Archive at Walker Greenbank offices in Denham, where the Morris & Co. and Sanderson archives are re-located to

The Walker Greenbank offices in Denham, Middlesex

2004

Morris & Co. release the Morris IV Co-ordinated Collection of Fabrics and Wallpapers.

'Trellis' fabric and wallpaper from the Morris IV Collection

2007

The Pimpernel and Embroideries Collections are released.

The Jeffrey logbooks continue to inspire the Morris & Co. studio. Here showing 'Daisy' and 'Fruit', 'Pimpernel' and 'Acanthus' designs which featured in the Pimpernel and Embroideries Collections

'Tulip Embroidery' from the Embroideries Collection

'Larkspur' from the Pimpernel Collection

'Fruit' on 100% silk from the Embroideries Collection

2008

'Tangley', from the 2008 Morris V Collection, was one of Morris's earliest fabrics printed by Bannister Hall in the 1860s, originally named 'Large Stem'

'Granada' and 'Indian' from the Morris V Collection

The Morris V Collection of co-ordinatng fabrics and wallpapers is launched.

2011

Morris & Co. celebrate their 150th Anniversary with the launch of the Archive Collections, the release of 'A Revolution in Decoration' book by Michael Parry, and mounting a number of historical exhibitions in National Trust houses including Wightwick Manor, Red House and Standen.

'Peacock & Dragon' from the Archive Weaves Collection

'Pimpernel' from the Archive Wallpaper Collection

A selection of weaves including 'Fruit' tapestry, 'Willow Bough' jacquard, 'Branch' velvet and 'Garden Craft' damask from the Archive Weaves Collection

2012

Morris & Co. team up with Barbour to produce a range of handbags and jackets featuring 'Marigold' and 'Strawberry Thief' designs.

Barbour jacket featuring 'Strawberry Thief' lining, the design was licensed by Morris & Co.

Barbour Handbag featuring 'Marigold' design, sold under Morris & Co.

Morris & Co. offer a more modern look with an advertising campaign which reflects current trends in the artisanal and craft revival, with the slogan '19th century Modern'.

2013

Morris & Co. release the Archive II Collection which includes designs inspired by Morris' poetry, The Kelmscott Press and his 'Forest' Tapestry from 1888.

Alison Gee working on the 'Forest' design for Archive II

'Forest' digitally printed velvet from the Archive II Collection

Alison Gee working on 'Love Is Enough' for the Archive II Collection

'Strawberry Thief' in the Pimpernel range of placemats and china

Morris & Co. launch a range of tableware and china through licensing partner Pimpernel.

 

 

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