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William Morris and Astley Castle


Built in the Tudor period by the family of Lady Jane Grey, Astley Castle in Warwickshire has been a ruin since 1978 when a mysterious fire occurred. Image: Bolstridge

A story about Astley Castle reminded me of William Morris.

You know that William Morris brought ancient crafts back to life in the 19th century, designing tapestries, wallpapers, stained glass, furniture, and carpets, books and book type, helping to found the Arts and Crafts movement, and writing poetry. I didn't realize that he also wrote fantasy novels (by some accounts he invented the fantasy genre). He must have had phenomenal energy.

Ellis Woodman says that two of Morris's recommendations for conserving buildings have had considerable impact.

First, Morris thought that "all new work should be designed in a contemporary style; second, that it should be possible to remove any intervention without leaving a trace".

The Landmark Trust took these recommendations to heart when developing a plan to preserve the ruins of Astley Castle by inserting a modern structure inside its fabric. The plan is surprising. You can read about it here.

The project will become a holiday rental for the Trust, and bring in money to keep the old castle from crumbling away.


Pink and Rose, a Morris wallpaper design.
Morris wanted to remind us of a deep, beautiful, little seen world. . .