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William Morris was one of the greatest designers of the 19th Century. He was famous as a poet, as an artist, and as a reviver of handcrafts. In his later life he also took an active part in politic...s on behalf of the industrial working class, and developed original ideas about the reform of industry. The programme examines both these aspects of Morris's life and work: his own designing and craftsmanship, and his mature ideas about work, machinery, cities and social revolution. The designs illustrated include his wallpapers, illuminated manuscripts, fabrics, tapestries and carpets. The ideas examined include a contrast between the Victorian 'gospel of work' and Morris's own discrimination of 'useful work' from 'useless toil'. His involvement in active politics is illustrated at the start of the programme by a short piece of drama, a reproduction of Morris' trial in the Thames Magistrates Court in 1885. The programme is woven around a biographical account of Morris' development and there is a brief filmed exploration of his country home, Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire. The part of William Morris is played in the drama by Philip Madoc, Richard Beale plays a policeman and Leonard Trolley the Magistrate. The programme was written and presented by Alasdair Clayre, the author of study of the history of ideas about work and leisure (Work and Play, Weidenfeld 1974) and produced for the Open University by Nancy Thomas and Alasdair Clayre.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: A100, Humanities: a foundation course
Item code: A100; 34; 1974
Series: Industrialisation and culture
First transmission date: 09-10-1974
Published: 1974
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:24:25
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Producer: Nancy Thomas
Contributors: Richard Beale; Alasdair Clayre; Philip Madoc
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Bexley Heath; Design; Kelmscott Manor; Morris; Painting
Footage description: The programme opens with a dramatised reconstruction of a court case in which William Morris was accused of causing a disturbance at a previous trial. Alasdair Clayre introduces the programme. Most of the remainder of the programme is illustrated with stills, fully detailed in the script. Clayre describes Morris's life up to 1871; the influence of Ruskin, and his meeting with Burne-Jones and Rosetti. Description of some of his early decorative work and of Red House at Bexley Heath. Setting up of the firm of decorators which became Morris & Co. Shots of stained glass, wallpaper designs, chintzes and calligraphy. Film of Kelmscott Manor. Clayre discusses Morris's reactions to industrialisation. He became involved with Icelandic literature, ceased to believe in God and became a socialist in 1883. He recognised that Carlyle's 'all work is noble' was far from the truth in many factories, and used machinery in his own workshops only for the heaviest and most monotonous tasks. He detested the alteration and expansion of old cities, especially Oxford, and came to be passionately opposed to the restoration of old buildings. Clayre shows some of the designs of Morris's last period: tapestries, fabrics, carpets. He mentions the founding of the Kelmscott Press, the continuing friendship with Burne-Jones, and his continued political activity. Summing up, he stresses the influence of Morris's artistic theory.
Master spool number: 6LT/71517
Production number: 00520_3197
Videofinder number: 2447
Available to public: no