Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Westminster and Red House

Today was “Design Your Own Day” and we broke into small groups to explore on our own. I went with Darrin, Kelsea, Deann, Una and Marty to Westminster Abbey and William Morris’s Red House.

Westminster Abbey is remarkable. It’s official name is The Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster.

Westminster Abbey

The Abbey is the home of St. Edward’s Chair, also known as the Coronation Chair. It is on this chair that almost every king and queen of England has been coronated since King Harold and William the Conqueror (whom I am descended from) in 1066. This is also the burial place of much of the English royal family, including the Plantagenets (whom I am also descended from). Poet’s Corner began when Geoffrey Chaucer was buried here, and now includes Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, George Fredrick Handel, Thomas Hardy, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling, Laurence Olivier, Dante Rossetti, and Alfred Tennyson. Elizabeth I established Westminster as a Royal Peculiar, reporting directly to the monarch rather than the bishop of the diocese. It represents the mistrustful relationship many kings had with the church, and is the reason why Westminster is an abbey and not a cathedral.

Several monarchs added to the abbey and each section features a different architectural style, from Romanesque to Gothic. The vaulting in the nave and the beauty of the rose windows are inspiring.

Westminster Abbey

Next we decided to track down Red House, the home of William Morris designed by Phillip Web. On the way to the Victoria rail station (the very same Victoria station one Jack Worthing was left at as a baby in The Importance of Being Earnest) we passed this building. I don’t know what it is but I love it. It looks like it could jump up at any moment.

Red House is located in a suburb of London called Bexley Heath and due to a missing sign, it proved to be quite elusive. We got to know the back streets of Bexley as we searched for the house that none of the locals knew existed.

Bexley Heath

At last, thanks to Deanne’s determination, we found Red House.

It was worth the search. We were first greeted by a very happy cat. Do you think it’s name is Morris?


Red House is incredibly charming. It was Morris and Web’s response to the Industrial Revolution and an attempt to recreate a fairy tale. It was also the gathering spot for the artist’s commune that Morris tried to create. The home is a reflection of Morris’ ideals, and still holds fixed furniture designed by Webb and painted by Morris, and stained glass by Edward Burne-Jones.

red house panorama

Red House was acquired by the National Trust in 2003. Previous to that it was a family farm for 150 years. Murals, letters, and other treasures are still being uncovered as the home is restored.

The garden, also designed by Morris, is as charming as the house. It is a relaxed cottage garden filled only with plants that Morris considered both beautiful and useful. The artichokes are in full bloom.



spider web


It’s charm and accessibility make this house warm and comfortable, and one of my favorite places so far.

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