Where to find lavender fields near London

Mayfield lavender field © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Mayfield is one of several lavender fields on the outskirts of the capital

Scrolling through your social media feeds recently, you may be seeing lovely shots of people running through lavender fields. Obviously, an over-crowded metropolis like London doesn’t have the room for huge fields, but there are several of these floral paradises just outside the capital. Lavender season is usually from late May until September, with July to August the best time to visit. As these tend to be in the countryside, it’s advisable to go via car if you can, however some public transport routes have been detailed below. The fields are all family friendly so it’s a great day out with the children during the summer holidays.

  • Mayfield Lavender Farm

Despite some London guides claiming this is in Croydon, it isn’t. Located in the Surrey Downs, in the London Borough of Sutton, it’s at least a 45 minute commute from Croydon town centre. Mayfield has 25 acres of fields with an Insta-tastic red phonebox and tractor for those perfect poses. It also has a shop selling lavender products and a café, serving drinks and snacks, many featuring lavender flavours. Find out more on their website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post about her visit.

Mayfield Lavender Farm, 1 Carshalton Road, Banstead, Surrey SM7 3JA. Open daily 9am-6pm from 1 June – 16 September. Tickets: Adults £2, Under 16s free.

Getting there by public transport: The nearest train stations are Chipstead (42 mins from London Bridge) or Banstead (56 mins from Victoria), before a short bus ride (166) or a 40-45 minute walk. Alternatively you can get the 166 bus earlier from West Croydon which takes about 45 minutes.

  • Hitchin Lavender

    Mayfield lavender field © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

    Many of the fields have on-site shops so you can buy lavender products

Situated north of the capital in Hertfordshire, Hitchin boasts 25 miles of rows from which you can pick your own lavender. It also features a sunflower field and wildflower area. There’s a 17th century barn on-site selling lunches and cakes, as well as a shop. Find out more on their website.

Hitchin Lavender, Cadwell Farm, Ickleford, Hitchin, Herts SG5 3UA. Open daily 10am-5pm from 19 June until the end of August. Tickets (picking included): Adults £6, Under 14s £3, Under 5s free.

Getting there by public transport: From King’s Cross, you can get a Thameslink train to Arlesey (54 mins). Take the 72 bus to ‘The Green’ stop, a few minutes walk from the field.

  • Kentish Lavender

Castle Farm in Kent is home to the largest lavender farm in the UK with over 95 acres of the purple stuff! Their Hop Shop is open all year round, selling lavender and other farm products. You can only visit the fields on a guided group tour or a sunset pop-up picnic. Check out their website to find out more.

Castle Farm, Redmans Lane, Shoreham, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN14 7UB. The Hop Shop is open Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-5pm. Group tour tickets: Adults £6/£7, Children 5-14ys £3/£3.50.

Getting there by public transport: From Blackfriars, you can get a Thameslink train to Eynsford (55 mins) or Shoreham (59 mins). From either, there are several bus routes (approx. 15 mins) going to the Hop Shop.

  • Lavender Fields @ Hartley Park Farm

This is a lot further afield in Hampshire, but if you’re willing to make the journey, then you may find it quieter than the ones closer to London. There’s an on-site shop open from mid-April under late September, but the lavender fields are only accessible during their open days. Check out their website to find out when their open days are taking place.

Hartley Park Farm, Alton, Hampshire, GU34 3HP. Tickets (open days only): Adults £4, Under 12s free.

Getting there by public transport: From Waterloo, you can get a South Western train to Petersfield (1 hour). Take the 38 bus to the ‘Hartley Park Farm’ stop.

For a guide to what’s on in London in July, click here.

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33-35 Eastcheap: This former Victorian vinegar warehouse is far from sour

33-35 Eastcheap © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

33-35 Eastcheap is a Victorian former vinegar warehouse in the City of London

Despite being extensively rebuilt following the Blitz, the City of London has retained many of its old street names. While some are rather humorous (e.g. Cock lane in Smithfield), others aren’t so flattering such as Eastcheap. Today, the word ‘cheap’ is used as an unattractive way to describe something low in price and quality. ‘Cheap’ actually comes from the Saxon word for ‘market’. In the Middle Ages, Eastcheap was the main meat market in the City. However, by the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution had transformed the area with offices and warehousing replacing the butchers’ stalls.

33-35 Eastcheap © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

A sculpture of a Boar’s head can be seen on the façade in a nod to the site’s history

Walking down Eastcheap today, you will see a lot of the Victorian buildings survive and are home to offices, coffee shops and the like. One particular building that stands out from the rest is No. 33-35 Eastcheap, a dramatic Neo-Gothic, double-fronted structure. Prior to No. 33-35’s erection in 1868, the site was home to the famous Boar’s Head Tavern. The pub’s exact origins aren’t known, but it was used as a meeting place by William Shakespeare in several of his historical plays, most notably Henry IV, Part I (abt. 1597). The character Falstaff was a frequent drinker at the Boar’s Head Tavern. The original tavern was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and was rebuilt and became a pilgrimage site for Shakespeare fans. It stood on Eastcheap until 1831 when it was demolished to make way for a road widening scheme leading to the new London Bridge. At the time of demolition, the building hasn’t been used as tavern since the late 18th century and had been sub-divided into shops. The Boar’s Head sign was preserved and went on show at The Globe Theatre at Bankside in 2010.

The current building of No. 33-35 was constructed in 1868 to a design by English architect Robert Lewis Roumieu (1814-1877). Born to a Huguenot family, who had arrived in Britain 100 years before his birth, Roumieu was an original and daring architect for the time. Although many of his designs were Neo-Gothic – which was trendy in Victorian times – he did like to push the boundaries. As well as the Eastcheap building, he also designed Milner Square (Islington), the Almeida Theatre, the French Hospital in Hackney, among others. Roumieu was commissioned to design a vinegar warehouse depot for Hill & Evans at a cost of £8,170. Hill & Evans were founded in Worcester in 1830 and were, at one point, the world’s largest vinegar producers. By the early 20th century, they were selling 2 million gallons of malt vinegar a year. The company ceased trading in 1965 after 135 years of business.

No. 33-35 is a Neo-Gothic, five-storey building with a further attic storey in a slated roof. On the ground floor is a huge arched doorway which would have been used for delivery access and Devonshire marble columns. However, the current iron gates only date back to 1987. The top three-storeys feature Gothic arched bays with projected canopies over the windows. Above the second floor, central window is a sculpture of a wild boar peering through long grass – a nod to the site’s former Boar’s Head Tavern. Meanwhile, the second floor canopies to the left and right feature carved heads of Henry IV and Henry V. The building features a lot of decorative elements, including tiling, cast iron cresting, and plaster badges.

33-35 Eastcheap © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The top storey features a slated roof and cast iron cresting

When the building was completed in 1868, it certainly caused a stir, with Roumieu being labelled a ‘rogue’ architect for some of his daring styles. The British Almanac of 1869 described it as: “The style is French, but some of the details are Venetian. The general effect is novel and striking, though somewhat bizarre.” Twentieth century critics Gavin Stamp and Colin Amery were more positive, proclaiming Roumieu’s creation as “the City’s masterpiece of polychromatic Gothic self-advertisement”. Meanwhile, architectural critic Ian Nairn (1930-1983) gave it a rather dramatic review: “This is truly demoniac, an Edgar Allan Poe of a building. It is the scream that you wake on at the end of a nightmare.” Despite the critics’ mixed reviews to the building, it was Grade II listed by Historic England in 1971. Today, it is home to offices, while part of the ground floor houses a branch of Black Sheep Coffee.

  • 33 – 35 Eastcheap, City of London, EC3M 1DE. Nearest stations: Monument or Fenchurch Street.

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

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Explore the light, reflections and space of Frida Escobedo’s Serpentine Pavilion

Get away from the crowds in beautiful Montenegro

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The stunning scenery of Sveti Stefan on the west coast of Montenegro

Eastern Europe as a travel destination has been rising in popularity over the past decade, with countries such as Croatia and Poland attracting huge numbers from around the world. Of course, the downside of this is overcrowding, sometimes sparking a backlash from local residents. When planning a summer holiday, I was looking for somewhere in Europe a bit more off-the-beaten track with a lot less tourists and I thought about Montenegro. When I mentioned the country to a few friends, hardly anyone had been and many could not even point it out on the map.

Montenegro shares the same Adriatic coastline as Croatia, Albania… and if you go even further south, Greece. By European standards, it’s a relatively small country and takes a few hours to drive from the Albanian border to the Croatian. When it comes to flights from the UK, some of the budget airlines fly direct to Tivat (Bay of Kotor) and the capital Podgorica. However, these flights aren’t daily (at time of writing) and were quite expensive, so we opted to fly to Dubrovnik and rent a car from there, which is only 17km north of the border. As this piece is about Montenegro, I won’t linger too long on Dubrovnik. We decided to spend a total of two nights in the Croatian resort at the beginning and end of our holiday, staying at this cute little B&B Guesthouse Rustico in the Old Town. Daytime in the old town was pretty overwhelming thanks to the huge crowds of cruise ship travellers, but once they headed back to the boats in the evening, it’s was a lot more enjoyable and less frantic.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Weaving through the alleys of Kotor Old Town

When it comes to renting a car for our trip to Montenegro, we looked at a variety of options, but decided renting a car from Dubrovnik would be easier. We had seen a few horror stories online regarding so-called ‘damage’ and high insurance excess from some local car companies so stuck to Hertz. Whatever car you rent, you must make sure you are insured to drive it in Montenegro (some companies may charge extra for leaving Croatia) and you must have the right car documentation to show at the border. When we drove into Montenegro, they didn’t ask for it, but on the way back to Croatia, they did request the vehicle paperwork. Overall, it was pretty straightforward process. The queue at the border was about 45 minutes, although it was a lot quicker returning to Croatia a week later.

After crossing the border, within 15 minutes we reached the stunning Bay of Kotor – one of Montenegro’s most popular tourist destinations. It is a stunning span of water surrounded by mountains with Venetian settlements dotted along the bay. If you want to cross to the southern part of the Bay, you have two options – drive all the way around or get the short car ferry connecting Kamenari and Lepetane. For our first trip around the Bay, we wanted to drive the whole way so took the scenic route past the various villages and towns, such as Herceg Novi, Lipci and Perast. Kotor town is one of the main hubs in the Bay and is often a stop-off for cruise ships during the day. As we were seeking a bit more tranquillity, we rented a self-catering apartment in Muo – a waterside fishing village 1.5 miles away from Kotor. We had a huge apartment with two double beds and a seaview balcony, with free parking and bike rental available. Within a couple of minutes walk, there were plenty of small, empty pebbly beaches or piers so you could easily go swimming in the clear blue waters.
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Sculpture In The City 2018/2019: Contemporary art lights up the Square Mile

A wall of colour amongst the green: The London Mastaba on the Serpentine

Fiesta time! Feel the Latin fever at the Casa Bonita pop-up bar in Carnaby

© Casa Bonita

Casa Bonita is a new Latin American themed pop-up bar in Soho

The capital is hot, hot, hot! Although these sizzling temperatures won’t last forever, it will always be summer in London’s newest pop-up. Casa Bonita is bringing a taste of Latin America to Carnaby. Soho’s newest venue opened in Kingly Street in June and aims to refresh thirsty Londoners until Christmas.

Situated in the heart of Carnaby, Casa Bonita is a flamboyant Latin hybrid bar, celebrating the best of Central and South America. This boozy hideout will be serving fabulous rum, tequila and cachaça cocktails to the strains of Reggaeton, Cuban Hip Hop, Brazilian beats and other Latin beats.

Margarita © Casa Bonita

Fiesta time! Sip on a Patron Margarita

If you’re a fan of the classic Latin cocktails, you won’t be disappointed with an extensive menu featuring Mojitos and Old Cubans made with the finest Barcardi Carta Blanca, Caipirinha made with Leblon cachaça or a Margarita made with Patrón Silver tequila. There will also be frozen Pina Coladas and ice cold Cervezas if you’re feeling hot.

Casa bonita can also keep you fed as well as watered with a menu of Mexican-style street food, such as chicken & chorizo empanadas or cheese & jalapeno quesadillas. Sports fans will be pleased to hear Casa Bonita will be screening Wimbledon and World Cup matches.

As well as two bars inside (with the basement available for private hire), there is also some alfresco space on Kingly Street if you want to enjoy the fresh air with your tipple.

  • Casa Bonita, 5 Kingly Street, Soho, W1B 5PF. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. Opening hours: (Ground Floor) Mon-Sat 2pm-1am, Sun 2pm-11pm. (Basement) Mon-Sat 5pm-1am, Sun 5pm-11pm. Also available for private hire. Tel: 0203 696 0070. For more information, visit the Casa Bonita website.

For a guide to what else is on in London in July, click here.

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Discover the man behind the maps at James Cook: The Voyages at the British Library

© Sam Lane Photography © British Library

James Cook’s account of his first landing in Australia is on display at the British Library exhibition
© Sam Lane Photography © British Library

This August will mark 250 years since Captain James Cook’s ship Endeavour set sail from Plymouth. It was the first of three important voyages that changed the world. Although the figure of Cook can be somewhat controversial at times, there’s no arguing that he and his crew were responsible for some amazing exploration of the planet in challenging conditions.

To mark the anniversary, the British Library have curated a special exhibition following the story of Cook’s three voyages from 1768 to his death in Hawaii in 1779. This fascinating collection features many of the original maps, logbooks, sketches, and artefacts collected during the three expeditions. While many of Cook’s predecessors sought solely to claim new lands for their empires, his voyages were more intellectually minded as well with a goal to study the life and culture of the lands they visited. Joining him on the various vessels used over the decade were artists, botanists and astronomers.

The exhibition is split into sections covering how the world was before Cook and how he changed the world’s map. It was amazing to see a copy of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman’s journal of his discovery of Tasmania and New Zealand. Following a brief introduction to world maps at that time, the exhibition begins chronically with Cook’s first voyage (1768-1771), taking in Tahiti, several Pacific islands, New Zealand and Australia’s east coast. During this trip, the botanist Joseph Banks (1743-1820) and his team collected thousands of animal and plant specimens. The exhibition features a sea urchin and squid captured and preserved by Banks from the Pacific Ocean. There are also drawings of the various native people they came into contact with upon arrival in each country or island, such as the Tahitians and Maoris, and their culture. What is particularly amazing about this collection were the various maps of New Zealand drawn by Cook himself. Tasman before him only saw a small section of NZ, whereas Cook’s voyage managed to circumnavigate both the north and south island. If you consider he didn’t have satellite or drones like we would have today, to map an entire country’s coastline as near-accurate as he is did in the 18th century is pretty impressive. It was also on this voyage, Cook’s men caught their first sight of the Kangaroo, which is featured in a sketch by Sydney Parkinson, the first European drawing of the marsupial.

© Sam Lane Photography © British Library

William Hodges’ sketch of War Canoes in Tahiti (1774-75)
© Sam Lane Photography © British Library

The remainder of the exhibition continues in the same vein, with areas dedicated to the second voyage (1772-1775), which he crossed the Antarctic Circle and proved the so-called huge land mass named ‘Terra Australia’ was actually a myth. The third and Cook’s final voyage (1776-1779) resulted in the Captain’s death in Hawaii after clashing with the Hawaiians. Admittedly, Cook and his men made some mistakes along the way, although some of those you could blame the European colonialist attitude of the time. The pros and cons of Cook’s voyages, in terms of colonization and mapping is addressed by experts from both sides in a series of videos. In our world right now, we are so used to globalisation, it’s hard to imagine when the other side of the world was completely unknown and so dramatically different to our own way of life. Looking through Cook and his colleagues’ logbooks and diaries and seeing the images of the ships, you really get a sense of how treacherous and challenging these voyages were. It’s no wonder so many men never returned, dying from diseases or following violent clashes with the people they met along the way. Seeing these historic men’s handwriting was amazing and, admittedly, difficult to read at time with their small Georgian scrawls. It was particularly poignant to see Cook’s last ever logbook entry on 6 January 1779 – a week before he was killed in a skirmish over a stolen smaller boat.

Before this exhibition, I didn’t know much of Cook, a man I’d seen in various statues in New Zealand and Australia and had never really thought of him as a three-dimensional character. This fascinating exhibition has really provided a vivid and human picture of this famous figure together with the men who sailed with him and how they changed the world with these epic voyages.

  • James Cook: The Voyages is on from now until 28 August 2018. At the PACCAR Gallery, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras or Euston. Opening hours vary. Tickets: Adults £14, Senior £11, Students: £7 (free for members). For more information and tickets, visit the British Library website.

Metro Girl likes: While you’re in the British Library, head to the free exhibition Treasures of the British Library. You can look at genuine manuscripts, books and letters from some of Britain’s most iconic figures. Among the collection on display includes the original 1215 Magna Carta; Jane Austen’s writing desk and a 1809 letter to her brother Frank; Beatles’ handwritten lyrics; a 1603 letter from Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Christopher Wren’s designs for The Monument. Currently, the Treasures room also features a small exhibition (until 5 August 2018) on Karl Marx and his daughter Eleanor. It includes a first edition of the Communist Manifesto, letters from Eleanor after her father’s death, and a chair from the original British Library Reading Room which Marx is likely to have sat in. After you’ve had a good read, head to the nearby Gilbert Scott bar in the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel for a cocktail.

For a guide to what else is on in London in July, click here.

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Guide to what’s on in London in July 2018

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Live music at the Lambeth Country Show in Brockwell Park

Summer is in full swing and so is tourist season. London has one of its busiest months of the year as hordes of visitors descend on the capital and the school holidays kick off at the end of the month. It’s also a big month for sports fans with the World Cup and Wimbledon taking place.

For a guide to London’s urban beaches, click here.

Find out where London’s nearest lavender fields are.

  • Now until 1 July : Merge Festival

The annual arts, music and performance festival returns to Bankside, drawing upon the area’s heritage and contemporary culture. Events include the Emily Peasgood’s sound installation Requiem for Crossebones, and many more. For more information, visit the Merge Festival website.

  • Now until 1 July : Carters Steam Fair @ Hornsey

The vintage travelling funfair sets up camp in Hornsey, featuring rides from the late 19th century to the 1960s. Open Frid 3pm-8pm, Sat 11am-8pm and Sun 11am-8pm. Free admission. Priory Park, Hornsey, N8 8QR. Nearest station: Hornsey. For more information, visit the Carters Steam Fair website.

  • Now until 1 July : Hampstead Summer Festival

The festival takes place in and around Hampstead, including the Big Fair on Heath Street (1 July), open art competitions, poetry, art and literacy events, pub quizzes and more. Many activities are free. For more information, visit the HampsteadSummer Festival website.

  • 3 – 5 July : FoundHER Festival

A festival for working women bringing together inspiring women giving talks, workshops, entertainment and more. Times vary. The AllBright, 11 Rathbone Place, Soho, W1T 1HR. Nearest station: Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Circus or Goodge Street. For more information, visit the FoundHER festival website.

  • 3 – 8 July : RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Flower show in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace. Celebrity and expert speakers include Pippa Greenwood, Julia Bradbury, David Domoney, Bill Oddie, Chris Beardshaw, Carol Klein, Joe Swift and Ben Faulks. Open to RHS members only Tues-Wed, Public entry Mon and Thu-Sun. Advance tickets range from £19.50 to £37 depending on full/half-day and RHS membership. Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AU. Nearest station: Hampton Court (from Waterloo). For more information and tickets, visit the RHS website.

  • 3 July – 30 September : Scoop – The Wonderful World Of Ice Cream

A sensory immersive celebration of ice cream from food wizards Bompas & Parr. Featuring the history of ice cream, ice cream weather, glow-in-the-dark ice cream, the neuroscience of ice cream and the dark side of desserts. Open: Mon-Fri 12pm-8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-6pm. Tickets: Adults: £12, Conc £10, Under 16s £6 (+ booking fee). Unit 2, Gasholders Building, 1 Lewis Cubitt Square, Kings Cross, N1C 4BY. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras. For more information and booking, visit the BMOF website.

  • 4 – 8 July : Sail Royal Greenwich presents Tall Ships

Ten tall ships will be cruising up and down the River Thames. Visitors can enjoy a quite unique opportunity to cruise aboard one of the ships. Setting off from Woolwich Royal Arsenal Pier, there’ll be a range of cruise options available throughout the event with the route taking visitors past Canary Wharf and The O2 Arena as far as the Cutty Sark, Greenwich Royal Naval College and even the Thames Barrier or Tower Bridge depending on the chosen departure. There will also be firework displays each evening. Cruises packages and departure times vary. For more information, check out the Sail Royal Greenwich website.

  • 5 July : A Walk Through Time @ Connaught Village

Connaught Village celebrates 150 years of history with a special event. Featuring live music, theatre, jelly art from Bompas & Parr, workshops, freebies and more. 3pm-7pm. Free to attend. Connaught Village, W2 2AA. Nearest station: Marble Arch, Paddington or Lancaster Gate. For more information, visit the Connaught Village website. Read Metro Girl’s blog post on the event.

  • 5 July : City Beerfest

One day beer festival comes to the City of London. Featuring 14 breweries, live music from City Music Foundation artists and food stalls. 12.30pm-9.30pm. Free entry or Beer packages from £12 (incl 4 beer tokens and 1 City Beerfest glass per person). Guildhall Yard, City of London, EC2V 5AE. Nearest station: St Paul’s. For tickets (save at least 10%), visit the City Beerfest website.

  • 5 July : Whisky 101 for American Independence Day

Celebrate the US holiday with a banquet of Southern American style food, beer and bourbon. Learn all things bourbon and beer with ambassadors for Heaven Hill and FourPure, while DJs will be spinning American classics on the decks. Tickets: £15 (inc food with 1 cocktail/beer). The Gallery, 190 Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead, NW6 3AY. Nearest station: West Hampstead. For more information, visit the Gallery website.

  • Now until 5 July : Masterpiece London

An imaginative art and antiques fair for traditional and contemporary. Featuring a week of cultural, culinary and social experiences. Tickets from £35. Royal Hospital, Chelsea, SW3 4SL. Nearest station: Sloane Square. For more information, visit the Masterpiece London website.

  • 6 – 8 July : Just V Show

Lifestyle festival for vegans, vegetarians or those who want to live a more plant-based diet. Open 10am-5pm. Tickets: £10 (also include entry to the Love Natural Love You and The Allergy & Free From Show). Olympia, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For tickets, visit the Just V Show website.

  • 7 July : Stockwell Festival

A celebration of the unique creativity and diversity of Stockwell. This year’s theme is ‘Stockwellbeing’. 12pm-6pm. Free entry. Larkhall Park, Stockwell, SW8 2PX. Nearest station: Stockwell or Wandsworth Road. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.

  • 7 July : Art Night

A free contemporary arts festival takes over spaces, venues and landmarks in the capital for one night only, featuring art, architecture, dance and music. Every year, a cultural institution is invited to focus on a different part of London. This year, the event will take place in south of the Thames across Southbank, Vauxhall and Nine Elms. 6pm-6am. Free. For more information, visit the Art Night website.

  • 7 July : Rainbow Festival Pride Party @ Chotto Matte

Peruvian-Japanese restaurant Chotto Matte are hosting a party to celebrate Pride, featuring multi-coloured cocktails, rainbow menu, DJs and more. From 12pm-1pm, guests will be served free multi-coloured food and drink on the house. Chotto Matte, 11-13 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4RB. Nearest station: Tottenham Court Road or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Chotto Matte website.
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Delve into the history of the arts and crafts movement at the William Morris Society

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Kelmscott House is the former London home of William Morris and the current base for the William Morris Society

The name William Morris is often associated with home interiors, with some of his iconic patterns still available to buy today. However, the man himself was so much more, with poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist among the many hats he wore. Born to a middle-class family in Walthamstow in 1834, William Morris became influenced by the Medieval world while studying the Classics at Oxford University. The Medieval period appealed to Morris because of its chivalric values and a more organic manufacturing process. He disliked what the Industrial Revolution had done to British people and their homes. He saw people were moving away from nature into the cities and were doing repetitive tasks, while their houses were full of identical, lower quality factory-made products. Morris grew to dislike capitalism and became enamoured with socialism. When he was at Oxford, Morris found a kindred spirit in artist and designer Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), who went on to become a lifelong friend and collaborator. Following graduation, Morris became an apprentice to Neo-Gothic architect George Edmund Street (1824-1881), where he met fellow apprentice Philip Webb (1831-1915). However, Morris soon tired of architecture and wanted to focus on art. Around this period, he was spending a lot of time with Burne-Jones, who had become an apprentice to Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). Morris and Burne-Jones ended up living together in a flat at 17 Red Lion Square in Bloomsbury.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Original William Morris strawberry thief textiles

By the mid 1850s, Morris was writing poetry and designing furniture, manuscripts and hangings in a medieval style. While he hadn’t established a successful career at this point, his personal life appeared to be going well as he married Jane Burden (1839-1914) in 1859. Following his marriage, Morris teamed up with architect Webb to design a family home, The Red House, in Bexleyheath, south-east London. The house was very different from the Victorian and Georgian designs and exists today as a unique example of arts and crafts architecture. After furnishing The Red House in a Medieval style, Morris founded a decorative arts company, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co in 1861. They aimed to bring the craftmanship and beauty of the Middle Ages back to British homes. It sold furniture, murals, architectural carvings, metalwork and stained glass windows. With Victorians going nuts for Neo-Gothic architecture, the company’s stained glass in particular was a big hit. It didn’t take long before the wealthy became fans of MMF&Co’s aesthetic. Despite Morris’s socialist values, his products did have higher labour costs, so weren’t as accessible to the lower classes. A year after establishing the company, Morris abandoned painting and started designing wallpaper. Read the rest of this entry