Kelmscott Before Morris

Discovering the history of Kelmscott Manor through community archaeology

Our three-year Community Archaeology Research Programme (CARP) centred on Kelmscott Manor – the retreat of inspirational Victorian craftsman, textile designer, and writer William Morris – will be starting this weekend. Working in partnership with the Society of Antiquaries, we’ll be undertaking test-pit excavations, fieldwalking surveys and geophysics, archival research, and a recording of this internationally important building.

Supported by part of a £4.3 million Heritage Lottery Fund award, granted to ensure the Manor’s survival for future generations, our intention is to find out more about the history of the manor and its surrounding landscape, including the village of Kelmscott.

The beautiful Kelmscott Manor
The beautiful Kelmscott Manor © Society of Antiquaries – Kelmscott Manor

Set on the banks of the River Thames, in the village of Kelmscott in West Oxfordshire, Kelmscott Manor sits in a landscape bearing evidence of human activity from as far back as the prehistoric. Extensive cropmarks have been interpreted as relating to a potential Iron Age and Roman settlement, and we’ll be investigating these with geophysical survey.

Kelmscott Manor, as viewed from the air
Kelmscott Manor, as viewed from the air © Society of Antiquaries – Kelmscott Manor

It’s hoped that our work will determine whether an earlier home or farmstead existed before Kelmscott Manor House was constructed in c. 1570, that utilised the immediate landscape beyond. These results will be combined with our other data to paint the picture of historical Kelmscott and all its previous inhabitants.

The Heritage Lottery Fund award has also supported urgent repair-works to the manor house, renovation of the gardens, and the construction of a new education space and visitor facilities, all of which have already been completed. The manor house was reopened in April 2022 and will continue to welcome visitors throughout our investigations.

Kelmscott's gardens
Kelmscott’s gardens © Society of Antiquaries – Kelmscott Manor

As an educational charity, we’re extremely passionate about community engagement and are committed to ensuring this programme is led by partnership and collaboration. If you’d like to take part, particularly if you live in Kelmscott, please send your name and contact details to Cotswold Archaeology’s Outreach and Community Engagement Officer, Caroline Adams: caroline.adams@cotswoldarchaeology.co.uk

Rosanna Price

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