Heritage, Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 1990 Page: 11
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Arlington Row, Bibury. Referred to by Morris as "the most beautiful village in England" (Works,
Vol. 18, p. xxv.). Photo c. 1898.
aristocratic affinities, Morris began a period of social activism in
late the 1870s that was prompted by personal events and a
changing social climate. Ruskin's views formed the greatest part of
this new social vision. Ruskin, for example, had continued to
influence Morris, and Ruskin's views were cited with increasing
frequency in Morris' writings and correspondence.25 Ruskin's
refusal to accept the Gold Medal obviously prompted a reaction
from Morris, who perhaps by this point felt he owed it to Ruskin to
make a stand of his own.
On a more personal side, Morris had gone through a period of
great emotional difficulty. His wife had attached herself to his
friend Rossetti, while Morris, perhaps a liberal in all senses, left
discreetly for Iceland to research his later sagas.26 The firm was
reorganized, following a long-delayed break with Rossetti, and
Morris was forced to deal more realistically with a now depleted
inheritance and growing business responsibilities. In 1876 Morris
became involved politically as Secretary to the Eastern Question
Association-a group opposing British policy toward the Turks in
Bulgaria-and worked on behalf of the Liberal Party in the 1880
elections. These, of course, were the first steps toward the more
active political involvement and the beginnings of a commitment
to socialism that would characterize Morris' work after 1882. The
founding of the Society for the Protection of Ancient buildings,
then, was a first effort by Morris to redefine his own ambitions and
put his world on a more moral footing.
Beginning in 1871, Morris, together with Rossetti, had leased a
country property, called Kelmscott, in order to spend time away
from London and provide a rural setting for Morris' wife and family.
Described by Morris as a typical yeoman's house, Kelmscott House
indirectly inspired a fictional Elizabethan house in one of Morris'
tales, The Dream of John Ball, "with its scrap of earlier fourteenthcentury
building, and its later degradations of Queen Anne and
silly Billy and Victorian marring but not destroying it." In essence,
the house was the product of the same kind of evolution
represented by the rural parish churches so subject to restoration
efforts. While in residence at Kelmscott he and his long-time friend
Webb took up the repairs and maintenance at Kelmscott almost as
a series of experiments on preservation techniques. Morris' own
practical experience provided another impetus for him to take a
stronger stand on restoration practices, providing him with
But while such circumstances helped lead to Morris' own
decision, the final formation of the Anti-Scrape Society was not his
act alone, nor was it simply the product of fully conscious efforts
on behalf of Morris and his friends. The Anti-Scrape Society, the
architectural historian Mark Girouard and others have noted,28
was in many ways representative of a new understanding of what
was good in architecture, and in some ways can be interpreted as a
facet of the broader social and artistic orientation known as the
Queen Anne movement.29 Long dominated by the Gothic
Revival, first derived from English examples, and later the French
and Italian, English architectural practice by the 1870s was
increasingly questioned by a new generation of architects who were
more involved in domestic work than church commissions and
were more appreciative of a greater range of architectural styles.
Perhaps most important for the anti-restorationist cause, both
the clientele and aesthetic preferences of architects had changed.
Architects were dependent almost entirely on public institutions,
and to a significant degree, churches, for their work. But by the
1870s industrial wealth had created a large middle class, and many
HERITAGE * SUMMER 1990 1 1
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 1990, periodical, Summer 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45427/m1/11/: accessed August 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.