The bold splendour of Walthamstow’s most elegant Georgian pile was, therefore, welcome respite from the wind. Built in the 1740s, the grade II-listed building is in fact the only public gallery devoted to William Morris in the UK: opened back in 1950 by Prime Minister Clement Attlee, it was overhauled in 2012 with an extension built on the site of the old east wing.
This now houses a cafe, special exhibition space and a collection store with some tempting design classics. All are, of course, worth your time.
But first, the gallery itself. Rewind five centuries and there’s been a house on the site as far back as the fifteenth century. The previous one was variously known as The Winns or Water House, the latter name deriving from the ornamental moat in the gardens behind.
Most famously, from 1848 to 1856, the current structure was the family home of William Morris (1834-1896), the designer, craftsman, writer, conservationist and socialist whose designs are still more than current over 150 years later. He lived here with his widowed mother and eight brothers and sisters from the formative age of fourteen.
The perfectly sized gallery now consists of ten small rooms, which each tell the story of Morris’ ascendance in interior design and what happened next, a tale that feels refreshingly relevant today.
You can observe how modern his designs were compared to typical examples of the time, and learn about his smash hit Oxford Street store – and why he became more and more interested in what you might think of as retail’s polar opposite: socialism.
Once you’ve gorged on all things Morrisian, if it’s a Saturday morning the rather excellent farmers’ market will be in full swing, with an abundance of suitably wonky seasonal veg as well as a clutch of well-curated streetfood stalls. Peckish? We can recommend the juicy wraps at 2 Lads Street Food Kitchen (above), whose barbecued chicken thighs are marinated for 24 hours, and come in a naan with salad, yoghurt and secret spicy sauce.
Gobble it, perhaps, as you wander the extensive park behind, with its ornamental gardens, moat and – well, this is E17, after all – free kids’ play area. As for Will? He’d be chuffed with the democratic nature of it all, for sure.
Main image: Stephen Emms