Emery Walker’s House, Hammersmith Terrace

Please note: tickets for my tour of Emery Walker’s House were complimentary. All opinions expressed are my own.

Emery Walker’s House at 7 Hammersmith Terrace makes claim to being the most authentic Arts and Crafts home in Britain, and certainly it is an extraordinary example of the Arts and Crafts era. Situated in a cluster of seventeen Georgian terrace houses huddled on the banks of the Thames, Emery Walker’s House looks almost exactly as it did in Walker’s lifetime.

Sir Emery Walker lived at 7 Hammersmith Terrace from 1903 to his death in 1933, and the house was then occupied by his daughter, Dorothy Walker, and later too by her live-in companion, Elizabeth de Haas, who bequeathed the house and its incredible contents to the Emery Walker Trust. The house is now a museum and has offered guided tours to the public since 2005. After a recent renovation, during which crucial conservation work was completed, the house is once again open to the public, and I was delighted to be invited to join a guided tour one sunny Saturday morning at the start of March.

The Drawing Room

Many visitors are interested in Emery Walker’s House because of Walker’s connection to William Morris and the impressive collection of Morris wallpaper, furnishings and textiles that adorn every room. Walker, although quite a bit younger than Morris, was a close friend to the great designer. Morris lived in Kelmscott House, a very short walk from 7 Hammersmith Terrace. It was not, however, their close proximity that introduced the two men, but their similar political interests: Walker and Morris first met on a train coming back from a Socialist meeting in Bethnal Green. They discovered they had similar interests; not only in politics but also in typography. Walker was a talented printer, engraver and photographer, and he collaborated with Morris in developing Kelmscott Press, advising his friend on technical details regarding type design and typography, as well as suitable paper and ink.

William Morris’s Chair

Emery Walker’s House is a touching testament to the two men’s friendship. In the Dining Room is a 17th Century chair from Morris’s library at his countryside dwelling, Kelmscott Manor (you can read about my trip to that house in the Cotswolds here), which was given to Walker after Morris’s death. The cushion on the chair was embroidered by William Morris’s daughter, May Morris, who lived for a time next door to the Walkers at number 8 Hammersmith Terrace. May Morris was a highly skilful designer, embroider and jeweller, and it was a treat for me to see some exquisite examples of her designs at Emery Walker’s House. In Dorothy Walker’s bedroom, a bedcover originally belonging to her mother, designed by May Morris and embroidered by Dorothy, is laid out on the bed. I loved the delicate floral design and beautiful colours of the threads.

Bedcover designed by May Morris. Photo credit: Anna Kunst

After Morris’s death, in 1900 Walker established the Doves Press (named after the nearby pub, The Dove) with the bookbinder T. J. Cobden-Sanderson (who is said to have coined the term ‘Arts and Crafts’). Walker was instrumental in designing the lovely Doves Type for the books printed under Doves Press. Unfortunately, he and Cobden-Sanderson did not agree on the future of the Press, which led to Cobden-Sanderson destroying the type by throwing it into the Thames. Astonishingly, some of the original type was recovered from the bottom of the Thames in 2014 and reproduced digitally (it’s even available to purchase here).

I must admit that it was the Morris connection that sparked my initial interest in 7 Hammersmith Terrace, but I soon discovered that the house is a treasure trove of curiosities and stories that are unconnected to Morris. Emery Walker was a great traveller, and he enjoyed bringing back souvenirs of his trips, which add a great deal of interest and appeal to each room.

Pottery collection from travel abroad

Although Emery Walker House is now a museum, it has a charmingly lived-in, comfortable air to it that makes it feel as though its famous tenants have simply popped out for a walk and will be back any moment. Looking around, you wouldn’t be surprised to catch the lingering whiff of tobacco from a pipe, or see a teacup left standing, its dregs still slightly warm. The fact that the house has changed so little over time makes such remarkable figures from history more alive; it is easy to look out the window and picture Cobden-Sanderson surreptitiously throwing the Doves Type into the Thames from Hammersmith Bridge, or to envisage Walker and Morris bent over designs for Kelmscott Press at the Drawing Room table.

Teapot originally owned by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

If you are keen to experience a unique slice of London history and learn more about the Arts and Crafts movement, then you can do no better than booking a tour of Emery Walker’s House. The house is open for guided tours on Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am, 1pm and 3pm until the end of November. Due to the delicate nature of the furnishings and the small rooms, a maximum of eight people may join the tours, and it’s essential to book tickets in advance of your visit. See more information on booking here.

Dorothy Walker’s bedroom

I recommend making a day of it and exploring a little further afield as well. The museum of the William Morris Society is small, but still worth a visit. A good lunch may be had at The Dove (I recommend the fish & chips), and do note the plaque commemorating The Dove Press at Cobden-Sanderson’s former home next to the pub. Finally, a walk along the Thames and through some pretty backroads to Chiswick House and Gardens would make a lovely end to your outing.