The Influence of William Morris and the Pre Raphaelite Movement in Harden, Bingley and Silsden
In this article local historian Alan Cattell traces the links between a national phenomenon, The Pre Raphaelite Movement, and local art and craft commissions in the Aire Valley in the 1860’s and 1870’s
Background to Morris and the Pre Raphaelites.
What, you may ask, had the industrial areas of the Aire Valley to do with the Pre-Raphaelites? The district was in fact a pioneer in recognising the merits of William Morris and his ideas and as such a number of local benefactors were at the forefront of being early supporters of the firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co which was founded in 1861. Leach and Pevsner (2009) The Buildings of England – West Yorkshire state “During the 1860’s Bingley was for a short time an example of the artistically innovative with work by Norman Shaw, Morris and Co and William Burges amongst others”.
A National Perspective
William Morris was one of the most significant voices in Victorian art and architecture, and his influence also helped shape the Arts and Crafts Movement of the 20th Century
In 1859 Morris commissioned a friend Philip Webb, to design a new home for him called The, Red House in Bexley Heath. The house was to be built in a simple style using traditional materials. Morris found it difficult to find good internal decoration, textiles and furniture to suit this philosophy, so he decided to design them himself. With the help of friends including Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Ford Maddox Brown and Webb he did so, later forming a small firm, eventually called Morris and Company, to sell the products they designed. William Burges was an early visitor to Morris’s Red House in the summer of 1861.
Behind Morris’ designing there was a profound social philosophy. He was a committed socialist and medievalist who was horrified by increasing mechanisation and mass-production in the arts. His dream was to re-establish the values of traditional craftsmanship and simplicity of design.
Under Morris’ leadership the company soon made a name for itself as a high quality producer of stained glass, furniture, wallpaper and textiles. The firm’s medieval inspired ethic and respect for hand crafts and traditional textile arts had a major influence on the decoration of houses and churches which carried over into the 20th Century.
So where does the Aire Valley fit in?
A Local Perspective
The mid 1800’s and effects of industrialisation saw a move away from control by a local “Squirearchy” based on land ownership and inheritance, to a “network of influence” formed by new money and created by the expansion of the local manufacturing base and industrialisation.
Local manufacturers became involved in church and local business and political affairs as well as seeing themselves as patrons of the arts as regards building, furnishing or decorating their new or refurbished large houses. To an extent evidence suggests that a philosophy of “keeping up with the Jones’s also existed amongst these “benefactors”.
In researching this article I became aware that many of the sources used made mention of one individual Pre Raphaelite application locally rather than seeking to make links with others. In the article I will highlight in bold those names and places which are common denominators potentially linking with each other.
I have identified religious buildings in Bingley and Bradford and houses in Harden, Bingley and Silsden. For the purposes of this article I will concentrate on those buildings which had Pre Raphaelite connections between 1860 and the early 1870’s
Woodbank – Harden
John Aldam Heaton a manufacturer at Beehive Mill in Bradford moved to Woodbank an ancient farm near Harden in May 1860 (Speight 1898 Old Bingley). He followed an interest in designing furniture, stained glass and wallpaper and was strongly influenced by the Pre Raphaelite movement. He was one of the first in this district to recognise the merits of the work of Morris and his friends. The Holy Trinity Church Centenary Brochure 1868 – 1968 establishes “Amongst Aldam Heatons friends were Rossetti, Burne-Jones, William Morris, and Norman Shaw. It is significant that examples of work by all these men are found in Bingley”.
Heaton invited Rossetti to stay at Woodbank to paint a portrait of Mrs Heaton which was eventually commissioned as a stained glass window for the house. In a letter to Heaton, in October 1861, Rossetti says” I could spare a fortnight which, with hard work on my part and kind abundance on Mrs Heaton’s, would suffice to do the portrait if not finish the picture” In the event Rossetti stayed for a month between November and December 1861. Lawson (1985) The Bradford Antiquary Volume 1, Third Series; records that this must have been amongst the first products of the Morris studio.
In 1862 Heaton had a hand in recommending the Bradford Architects Knowles and Wilcock and the Morris Company to a textile manufacturer, Walter Dunlop who leased Harden Grange in that year.
Heaton in making recommendations was extremely confident of the quality of Morris’s work. This matches a statement by Rossetti in January 1862 “Our stained glass may challenge any other firm to approach it” In 1863 Heaton suggested that the commission for glass at Bradford Cathedral and the design of a memorial window dedicated to a friend of his should be awarded to the company, even though this was said to be only their third commission” This was carried out as was subsequent work for the Cathedral.
Aldam Heaton is attributed by The Stained Glass Museum, Ely as probably having designed a Star of David window for Holy Trinity Church Bingley in the early 1870’s
Heaton left Harden to set up his own business in London as an artistic decorator. As his business developed he worked in collaborative partnership with Richard Norman Shaw an architect who besides having a national profile, carried out commissions at Bingley Holy Trinity Church and at Silsden House. Amongst work which Heaton did during his later career was the design and decoration of the State Rooms of the Titanic.
In 1862 Walter Dunlop made a number of additions to Harden Grange including building a music room and an entrance hall and staircase to showcase Morris glass. Morris provided Dunlop with a programme for the work entitled “Short abstract of the romance of Tristram”
The theme of the 13 small stained glass windows was built around the story of Sir Tristram and la Belle Isoude. Morris commissioned four of the artists who had previously worked with him on another Arthurian legend project, to design the cartoons and drawings for the 13 panels. Morris himself designed four of the panels with others being designed by Burne –Jones, Rossetti, Madox Brown and Val Prinsep.
Dunlop worshipped at Bingley All Saints Church and paid for the purchase of two bells which made a new peal of eight bells at the church.
In 1917 the Tristram and Isoude windows and the short abstract were acquired by Bradford Art Gallery.
Records at the Stained Glass Museum show that in 1863 Rossetti designed a series of stained-glass panels for Charles Hastings a Bradford Worsted Spinning Manufacturer, for his house in Silsden.
They depicted the twelve Labours of the Months and were part of the décor of the house, designed by the architect Norman Shaw.
Whilst a sketch design (March – A Woodcutter) and two of the panels (August – Threshing and December – Killing a Hog) still exist in the William Morris Gallery at Walthamstow the others remain untraced. It is however known that the glass was removed before the house was demolished in 1903.
Evidence that there was a Pre Raphaelite connection with the house is shown in the notice of sale of the house in the Leeds Mercury of March 6th 1888:
Mr William Lawson, Auctioneer, Bradford Begs to announce that he has received instructions to sell by auction the residence of Mr Charles Hastings, Silsden House, Silsden.
“The Choice and elegant contents of the above Country Mansion are all of fine quality, style and design and in excellent condition. The lots include the tastefully designed appointments of dining room and drawing room suites from the designs of R Norman Shaw, William Morris and others.
Omnibuses meet every train from Bradford and will take passengers up to the house”.
In 1864 a recently married Thomas Garnett co-founder of Gillies Garnett Stuff Merchants, commissioned architects Knowles and Wilcox to design a new gothic villa for him in Bingley, called Oakwood Hall…
Taylor and Symondson (Architectural Review July 1968) Burges and Morris at Bingley – A Discovery identify that for advice on the interior decoration for his new home, Garnett turned to his cousin Charles Beanlands (born in Bingley) who was founder vicar of St Michael’s Church, Brighton. Beanlands had also been the presiding vicar at Garnett’s wedding in Scarborough. He also had experience of the work of Burges and Morris who had designed a series of windows and furnishings for his new church at Brighton and was consequently happy to recommend them and their fellow artists to Garnett.
On receiving the commission William Burges contacted the architects and prepared Detail Drawings of Furniture etc for Thomas Garnett, Oakwood, Bingley, Designed by William Burges, Architect.. This showed architects plans of the building, furniture, layout, ceilings, wall panels and fireplaces in the lounge and dining room and is now held in the RIBA Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Having viewed it as part of my research, it captures the Pre Raphaelite style of Burges in terms of the colour, style and flair which he is suggesting to Garnett.
Notable amongst the watercolour drawings are two fireplaces. Whilst one no longer exists, the other carved by Thomas Nicholls with letters TG in a shield signifying the owners name, and surmounted by a Lincoln Imp, is still resplendent in what is now the bar of the Oakwood Hotel. The ceiling in this room is also the original designed by Knowles and Wilcox.
Morris and Burne- Jones are attributed with the design of the stained glass windows at the top of the stairs on the first floor landing above the entrance. These show St George flanked by female figures of the Four Seasons as well as depicting Chaucer flanked by the heads of four female Chaucerian Heroines. A white rose and red rose are also included on two upper lights indicating that the Garnett family lived in both Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Garnett and his wife died within a few days of each other in 1916. His eldest son Harold sold Oakwood and moved presumably with any Burges furniture into White Lodge the former vicarage of Holy Trinity Church, Bingley. I have managed to trace a card table described in Burges’ Detail Drawings to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts but apart from this it has not been possible to trace any further Burges furniture.
Whilst Garnett and his family were initially regular worshippers at Bingley All Saints Church, records show that from the 1870’s they transferred to Holy Trinity Church. An article in the Keighley News in May 1912 states
“Mr and Mrs Garnett have always been amongst the best supporters of Holy Trinity Church and the interests of the church and school have always held a warm place in their hearts”.
Bingley All Saints Church
In 1870 Norman Shaw carried out restoration of the north chapel. In 1873 a memorial window to four children who died in infancy was designed by Burne-Jones and erected as the north chancel chapel window of the church. The three panels illustrated Angels playing long trumpets.
Holy Trinity Church
In 1874 a twenty two feet six inches by four feet six stained glass window attributed to Burne- Jones and Morris was installed in the east window of the church. The upper part depicted a large crucifix and the lower, the Crucifixion and Sacrifice of Isaac. The church was demolished in 1974 and glass from the windows was acquired by Bradford Museums and Galleries. Design of the church, school and vicars residence is attributed to Norman Shaw.
My research has highlighted the possible direct and indirect links between the Pre Raphaelite sponsors in the local area, mainly through church contacts. Advertisements in the Leeds Mercury of the time also show that Dunlop, Garnett, Hastings and Aldam Heaton were all General Committee members of the Bradford arm of the British Association for the Advancement of Science who would have come into contact with each other on a regular basis in business terms.
Morris and the Pre Raphaelites Networks
The members of Morris’s artistic and architectural network obviously exchanged information on commissions with each other. What is also apparent is the link to architects such as Norman Shaw and sculptors like Thomas Nicholls and the use of local architects Knowles and Wilcox.
In later life Morris became a founder of the Socialist League and visited Keighley and Bingley to espouse his socialist beliefs.
Whilst politically he was a committed socialist, artistically it seems ironic that his ideal of “by the people, for the people” was at odds with the fact that initially only those with considerable wealth or sponsorship could afford the fruits of his and his colleagues artistic endeavours!
Between 1870 and 1873 work began on building perhaps the most Gothic of all the large houses in the local area. Milner Field designed by architect Thomas Harris and built for Titus Salt Junior as a home for his family also had Pre Raphaelite connections….. but more of Milner Field here…
The right of Alan Cattell to be identified as the Author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988.All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by an electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. It has not been possible to trace all the original photographers but acknowledgement has been made where known. If any copyright has been infringed it was done unintentionally and sincere apologies are offered. If advised future prints can be amended.