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Morris & Co.

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This important firm, closely associated with William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement, was established in Red Lion Square, London, in 1861, moving to larger premises in 1865. Originally founded as Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, & Co., its partners also included the Pre‐Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, painter‐designer Ford Madox Brown, architect‐designer Philip Webb, and artist‐designer Edward Burne‐Jones. The company was involved with the production of a wide range of ecclesiastical and domestic designs, including stained glass, mural decoration, metalwork, jewellery, and furniture, and was closely associated with the outlook of the Arts and Crafts. After winning two awards for designs for textiles, stained glass, and furniture shown in the Medieval Court at the London International Exhibition of 1862, the firm was busy with orders for Gothic Revival churches, as well as commissions for public and private interiors. The former included St Michael and All Angels in Brighton, the latter the Green Dining Room at the Victoria and Albert (then South Kensington) Museum (1866) and the Armoury Rooms at St James's Palace (1866–7). Later interior commissions included decorations at Alecco Ionides' house at 1, Holland Park, London (1881–8) and Standen Manor (mid‐1890s). Designs for wallpapers commenced from the mid‐1860s, including William Morris's Daisy and Trellis patterns, furniture, embroideries, stained glass, and tiles from 1862 (see also De Morgan, William), printed textiles from the late 1860s, woven textiles, linoleums, and carpets from the mid‐1870s and tapestries from 1881. Many of the firm's products looked to traditional precedents that embodied high levels of craftsmanship together with a respect for materials and honesty of construction. This was evidenced in the famous rush‐seated Sussex Settle introduced in the 1860s, drawing inspiration from rural Vernacular models. However, although many of the earlier products were made by the partners, close associates, or the company's workmen, a number of the company's designs were produced by Morris, who was a wealthy man and did much to ensure the financial viability of the firm, of which he took sole charge after it became Morris & Co. in 1875. A central London, Oxford Street showroom was opened in 1877, drawing the firm's products to the attention of a wider, more fashionable audience, an initiative that was echoed in Manchester in the following decade. The firm's designs were also seen abroad at overseas exhibitions and reviewed in architecture and design journals in Britain and overseas. However, after Morris's death in 1896 and the renaming of the firm as Morris & Co., Decorators Limited in 1905, the company's output looked increasingly to historical revivals, marking the beginning of a decline which eventually led to its closure in 1940.

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