Hammersmith Terrace is a pretty, quiet street of handsome Georgian properties. It’s so pretty and so quiet, you’d imagine that behind each and every glossy front door there was an oligarch not living there. Not so for number seven – or at least the last occupier was no oligarch, and won’t be returning, even for the occasional weekend.
With this in mind, it’s odd how, when stepping inside the house, it seems particularly lived in, to the point of feeling as though you’re intruding into someone’s private home. The decor is harmonious but not obsessively matchy-matchy, it’s clean and tidy but trinkets and everyday objects lie on tables and mantlepieces, and on the walls, photos and pictures seem like old neighbours, leaning against their frames as they exchange gossip.
As you might have guessed, Seven Hammersmith Terrace is a museum, albeit an unusual, little-known one. Formerly owned by Emery Walker (1851 – 1933), printmaker and friend of William Morris (1834 – 1896), its Arts & Crafts decor and contents were passed down to and preserved first by Walker’s daughter, Dorothy (1878 – 1933), then her friend Elizabeth de Haas (? – 1999), and finally the Emery Walker Trust, set up in 1999.
Many are of little value and seem insignificant until combined with other objects or documents – such as the mended jug bought by Walker on holiday in Rome, and the photo capturing him in the act.
Some introduced me to a side of the Arts & Crafts movement I’d never known before – for example, the patterned lino flooring in the front hallway printed by Morris & Co. Initially called ‘Kampticon’, lino was first manufactured in 1864 (not the 1940s as I’d assumed), eleven years before Morris designed his flooring. Despite his tendency towards the archaic and traditional, it shows that Morris was clearly interested in new materials too.
Others are even more precious and unique, such as the sturdy seventeenth century chair used by William Morris in his study down the road at Kelmscott House and passed on to Walker when he died, and the wool and camel hair bedspread embroidered by May Morris (1862 – 1938, William’s daughter) for Emery’s frail wife Mary Grace. On Mary Grace’s death in 1920, it was used as a shroud to cover her coffin, then in 1933 it was used to cover Emery’s. Thirty years after that, it was used for Dorothy’s, then 36 years on for Elizabeth de Haas in 1999.
In the life of this one object, much of the history of the house and its owners is encompassed. If it hadn’t been saved from the flames of the crematorium in time, an important Arts & Crafts object and piece of history would be lost forever. If separated from the house and the rest of its contents, the full value and meaning of both would be lost. The same goes for the entire house and its contents, described by John Betjeman as “a kingdom that can never be created again”. I highly recommend visiting at least once.
7 Hammersmith Terrace is viewable by appointment only, Saturdays (and some Sundays) from April to October. Bookings can be made via their website, £10 full price and some concessions available.
For a better look at Morris’s lino, there’s a piece on the V&A’s collections website here.
Photos with kind permission from the Emery Walker Trust.