The dust sheets come off at Emery Walker’s House on 2 March when it reopens to the public.
Shutters are opened in time for guided tours
This 18th century terraced house by the Thames near Chiswick Eyot was the home to Emery Walker, a key figure in the Arts and Crafts movement and good friend of William Morris.
Emery was an avid collector, so his home is packed with treasures that need constant care and attention, and each winter it closes for three months to manage conservation work.
The Emery Walker Trust volunteers prevent, as far as possible, an accumulation of dirt on fragile artefacts, by using tissue paper and dust sheets and are conscious that over cleaning can often be as damaging as none at all, as dust can be an abrasive on fragile surfaces.
Experts are also brought in – Janie Lightfoot Textiles, who conserve materials in national and international museums has worked on some of the most important items in the Emery Walker’s House collection.
Jessica Burgess, who led on the project, has worked in grand stately homes, explains why she enjoys working in this relatively modest heritage site:
“It’s a charming house; I do think it’s quite unique. Unlike when you go to a National Trust property where items have been bought to fill out the space, this feels like Emery Walker has just walked out to pick up a paper; you are very much in his home.”
“First we worked on the Bird wall hanging, a classic Morris design and it was nice to reinstate it looking a bit prouder.”
The Bird wall hanging spans the length of the dining room
The team also conserved an embroidered bed cover, made by William Morris’s daughter May for Emery Walker’s wife, Mary Grace. It has a ‘millefleur’, design, meaning ‘a thousand flowers’ and was inspired by spring and summer flowers growing near the Morrises’ home at Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire.
May Morris’s exquisite bedcover is particularly impressive as the embroidery is worked in wool thread on felted wool fabric.
“It’s doing pretty well considering how old it is. We’ve worked on several pieces by May Morris before and it’s always a particular joy; they are lovely pieces. It was interesting as it is a complex pattern and looks like she has changed the design as she went along”.
“What’s really nice is that it’s not just Morris designs, there are textiles from all over the world. For instance, the door hanging in the bedroom we worked on has more Eastern influence. And the carpets are an eclectic mix. The collection has clearly been well loved and looked after. It’s a bit of a treasure trove.”
An eclectic mix of rugs are piled on top of each.
If you would like to see more there’s quite an embarrassing video here.
Emery Walker’s House opens on Thursdays and Saturdays for one hour guided tours limited to just eight people. Please book these and specialist tours via the website: emerywalker.org.uk
Arts & Crafts Hammersmith Textile Tours
There are monthly tours giving visitors with a special interest in textiles an opportunity to get up close to items that are rarely on show to the public. Visitors can see both Emery Walker’s House and the nearby William Morris Society museum exploring the Arts & Crafts designs and textiles in both collections.
Joint textile tours led by Sally Roberson (pictured here with curator, Helen Elletston) start off at The William Morris Society Museum showing his original designs which can then be seen in situ at Emery Walker’s House, a ten minute walk away.
Pictures by Anna Kunst, and Lucinda MacPherson.
Feature Picture – Curator, Helen Elletson revealing the treasures beneath the sheets