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Britain's museum of the year

— October 2013

Associated media

Display at the William Morris Gallery. © Oliver Dixon / Imagewise

One of London’s hidden gems has well deserved a prestigious Art Fund Prize, says Karen Bromley

The William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow has won the £100,000 Art Fund Prize of for Museum of the Year.

William Morris was born in Walthamstow in 1834 and lived in Water House  (now the William Morris Gallery) from 1848 to 1856.   Owned and run by Waltham Forest Council, the Gallery reopened in August 2012 after the completion of a £5m redevelopment plan.  The refurbishment of the Gallery reflected the Council’s intention of promoting art and revitalizing the borough.

The building, itself a spectacular Georgian house, provides  three new galleries on  the first two  floors, including a temporary exhibition space.  Earlier this year, David Mabb’s exhibition ‘Regime Change Begins at Home’ – political posters  with witty and apt political slogans on them – had been framed in William Morris pattern designs. The attention to detail is such that that the floor of the exhibition space was also painted in a William Morris pattern. On the top floor is a library, and education centre. There is also tearoom downstairs overlooking the gardens and Lloyds Park.

The collection at the Gallery is the only one in the world to represent all aspects of the work of William Morris.  There are 10,000 objects in the collection, 10 per cent of which are on display at any one time. Items are rotated every two to three years.  The collection is in the process of being made available online, to be accessed via the galleries website.  It is anticipated that it will take another two to three years for this to be completed.

In the last year the Gallery has focused on its collection, developing it and using it for educational purposes and to increase its level of community involvement.   In addition to offering a wide range of monthly family events, it’s learning centre focuses on craft-based activities.  There are special activities for the under fives. Pupils from over 3,000 schools have visited the centre since last September. The Gallery also offers late-night, meet-the-artist events. 

With a gift shop and a café, and in a lovely location overlooking the park, the Gallery provides a wonderful space to wander in and enjoy. 


Karen Hasin Bromley
Independent art historian

Background info

A new book, William Morris in 50 Objects, by Carien Kremer and Anna Mason, gives insights into the most important items in the Gallery's  collection.

Editor's notes

The redevelopment works at the William Morris Gallery were carried out by Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects and made possible by funding from Waltham Forest Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as well as many notable trusts, foundations, sponsors and The Friends of The William Morris Gallery.

The William Morris Gallery (Forest Road, Walthamstow E17 4PP) is open from 10a.m. to 5p.m., Wednesday–Sunday and is open for pre-booked group visits on Tuesdays.

The Gallery is closed on Mondays. Entry is free.

For more information visit

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