Westerwald Stoneware at Kelmscott Manor: Morris, pottery and the politics of production

Gillian Shirley Chitty, David Stocker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Kelmscott Manor, the country home of William Morris, houses a remarkable collection of ceramics bearing a singular relationship to one of the most influential figures in Victorian cultural history. This study of Kelmscott’s collection of German stoneware reveals new interpretations of its production history and fascinating insights into its significance for the cultural context of Morris’s work. Based on a complete catalogue, the paper examines the ensemble of c30 pieces of 18th–19th-century Westerwald stoneware, or grès de Flandres , as it was known to Morris and his contemporaries. The Kelmscott group is the largest collection of this material known from an English historic house and has a composite and well-documented provenance. Supplementary material provided as an online appendix contains a fully illustrated, descriptive catalogue.Westerwald pottery of the 17th century and earlier has been extensively studied, but its ceramics of the late 18th–19th centuries have received little attention. Most accounts stress the simplification of vessel forms and ‘degeneration’ of decorative designs during this period, leading towards mass production c1900. This paper re-assesses later Westerwald output, drawing attention to a vernacular pottery tradition of significant interest in its own right. This paper suggests it was this continuing tradition of vernacular production and its naturalistic, decorative schemes that attracted the interest of Morris throughout his adult life, from the Red House experiment to the heyday of Morris & Co. Examining his writing on creativity, the minor arts and labour, the paper interprets grès de Flandres as an expression of Morris' idealisation of the relationship between labour and craft production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-397
Number of pages35
JournalThe Antiquaries Journal
Early online date30 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

Cite this