Philip Speakmann Webb
Red brick and tiling
Morris's Red House
Bexleyheath, Greater London
Photograph, caption, and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee, 2009. With special thanks to Sally Roberson of the National Trust at Red House. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL.]
The front elevation looks somewhat more formal than the west and east fronts, with their picturesque variety of levels and angles. The design here seems closer to that of old parsonages and schoolhouses than such other vernacular buildings as cottages and barns (see Red House 7). Behind the great recessed door with its small mosaic-glass panels (not the original glass, but very attractive) is the all-important, welcoming "living hall," of the kind that A. W. N. Pugin had introduced at The Grange in Ramsgate. Here, not only would people always be meeting each other in the central area of the house, but a table could be put up, and vistors entertained. On one side is a large built-in cupboard with a settle and drawers, designed specially for the house by Webb himself. Over this room, on the floor above, is the master bedroom. The stout oak staircase leading up is a major feature, with a stripped-Gothic look: newel posts taper up gently into simplified pinnacles, while there are peep-holes in the solid wood sides of the staircase for the children to look down through. It is all beautifully solid, smooth and unfussy. Every detail has been thought of, and seems (and was) integral to the design, using the material of the actual construction, and developing out of it.
Next to the hall on the left is the dining-room proper, with an enormous Webb table and dresser, built to withstand the effects of Morris's quick temper, and painted dragon's-blood red like much else in this truly red house. The fireplace in this room has a Gothic arch and pretty blue and white Delft tiling, very similar to that seen in other Victorian houses of this and slightly later periods (like the fireplace surround in the house in Norham Gardens, for instance). One tile shows a child being pushed on a little sledge.
- Red House from the Well Courtyard
- Tall narrow window on the eastern front, with sloping sill
- The end of the L-shaped part, where Morris's studio was (on the upper floor)
- Tiling in the garden porch near the well, with Morris's initial and motto ("Si Je Puis")
- Detail of decorated window at front
- Detail of window hoods on front elevation
- West front
- Oriel window, west front
- Close-up of oriel window, with catches for sunblind
- Close-up of dormer
- Side gate, leading from east to west front
- The stables
- Morris's weathervane
- Blue plaque on the garden wall
- Architectural Drawings for the Red House
- Details of the roof over the well
- "Red House: Spatial Enclave of the Later Pre-Raphaelites."
- "Morris's Red House as a Palace of Art"
- Robert Furneaux Jordan on the historical importance of the Red House
Reference and Further Reading
Red House: Bexleyheath. Swindon: The National Trust, 2003.
Last modified 8 March 2009