Who was Emery Walker and why should you visit his house? Was the question that sprang to my mind when a visit to Emery Walker’s house was suggested. Turns out that he was William Morris’s best friend and a key member of the Arts and Crafts movement AND that his house offers an authentic glimpse inside an Arts and Crafts house.
WHO WAS SIR EMERY WALKER?
Emery Walker was born in Paddington, the son of a coach builder. He left school at 13 and started work as a drapers apprentice and later joined the Typographic Etching Company. The etching company was cutting edge technology, they used photo’s to create line drawings to be used in magazines. So good was young Emery at this that he was able to set up his own company using a technique called, photogravure, that made prints look like photos. Business success followed. He used his knowledge of fonts and type setting to found the Doves Press with T J Cobden-Sanderson, a friendship that soured so badly that Cobden Sanderson tipped the entire font of the typeface that they developed into the Thames.
Outside work he became a key member of the Art Workers’ Guild, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the Arts and Crafts Exhibiton Society which put him at the heart of, what was then, the new Arts and Crafts movement. Politically, he was a committed Socialist and was the secretary of the Hammersmith branch of the Socialist League, which met down the road in Kelmscott House.
INSIDE 7 HAMMERSMITH TERRACE
From the outside 7 Hammersmith Terrace doesn’t look all that different from thousands of other London terraced houses. But step inside and you go back in time. The house remains much as it was when Emery Walker died in 1933. Three floors are open for viewing.
On the ground floor is the telephone room, can you imagine having a room just for a telephone? Look down as you walk from the telephone room to the dining room …. that lino on the floor is very rare William Morris pattern lino. It’s a bit dark for Cultural Wednesday Towers but in light blue colour way it would be perfect in our bathroom.
It is hard to know where to look in the Dining Room. There are least three different layers of rugs, William Morris wall hangings from Kelmscott line the wall, pictures hang everywhere. The whole room is a homage to the Arts and Crafts movement in general, but there is a tiny box devoted to William Morris, it contains a lock of his hair cut on his deathbed and his glasses.
Keep an eye out for what looks to be a humble wooden chair, but is in fact a seventeenth century chair that once belonged to William Morris complete with a seat cover embroidered by his daughter May Morris. Look at the initials MM to EW – May Morris to Emery Walker.
Upstairs is the drawing room with lovely river views. Once again the room is very crowded. The bookshelves were designed and owned by the architect Philip Webb. Emery Walker was the executor of his will and inherited the furniture.
At the top of the house are the bedrooms. The bedcover was designed and embroidered by May Morris for Emery Walker’s wife Grace.
WHO LIVED AT HAMMERSMITH TERRACE
Hammersmith Terrace looks like many other Georgian terraces in London, with the added benefit of direct frontage onto the river Thames. When they were built in 1750 Hammersmith was a rural village. By the time Emery Walker moved in in the 1870’s industry and housing had moved in but those river views made it popular with artists. There may only be 17 houses in Hammersmith Terrace but in the 19th century it was awash with creative types.
Number 3 was home to Edward Johnson, he designed the typeface that was used across the London Underground System. Number 5 housed W H Hooper a leading wood engraver. Number 7 was home to T J Cobden Sanderson before Emery Walker moved in. 7A was used by the sculptor Eric Gill as a workshop. May Morris, daughter of William Morris, lived at number 8 with George Bernard Shaw as her lodger. Pro-Raphaelite Artist F G Stephens lived in number 10. And so it goes on, in all there were ten prominent artists making the most of the river views.
VISITING EMERY WALKER’S HOUSE
7 Hammersmith Terrace, London W6 9TS, nearest tube Ravenscourt Park
Open: Thursday and Saturday March – November, pre booked tours 11am, 1pm and 3pm
7 Hammersmith Terrace is an old terraced house with many stairs and is not suitable for people who have difficulty with stairs. Due to the fragile nature of the contents small children are best left at home. Those tours are limited to 8 people due to the fragile nature of the contents of the house. Don’t let that put you off!
Whilst you are in the area you could stroll down the river bank to William Morris’s house now home to the William Morris Society and pop into The Dove pub for lunch. Whilst you eat look out over the spot where T J Cobden Sanderson tipped the font into Thames.
Emery Walker’s house is one of London’s hidden gems, take a look my post about London Historic Houses to visit.
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