Morris, who as a young man lived near the River Lea, dedicates a design to its memory

The William Morris Gallery is housed in a grade II listed building that was the family home of William Morris (1834-1896) from the age of 14 to 22. Being close to both the River Lea and Epping Forest, the surrounding wildlife had a great influence on Morris, though the Lea would have been incredibly polluted at that time.

Morris would later base a series of textile designs on the rivers of England, celebrating their natural beauty. This series included the Lea, the design of which you can see here. The Lea design shows acanthus leaves curling round the heads of different flowers and what are possibly rose hips (which do grow wildly along the river). Coloured with the natural dye of indigo, the design is freshly bright and celebratory of nature. The River Lea would have been incredibly polluted in Morris’s time and so his design can be seen as a positive symbol of the nature that gave way to industry, which, as we know now, would return with time.


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