William Morris Gallery



The Gallery, formerly known as Water House and home to William Morris from 1848-1856, is a grade II* listed Georgian villa set in extensive gardens (now Lloyd Park). It opened as a gallery in 1950 and provides an important cultural offer to residents and visitors to Walthamstow. However over the space of the last 60 years the displays have become very tired, visitor numbers have dwindled and few local residents visited. As a result, a major improvement scheme was embarked upon incorporating both the Park and the Gallery, funded by Waltham Forest Council, Heritage Lottery Funding and a range of other trusts, foundations and individuals. The scheme was completed in August 2012 and has had a very positive impact on the area.


Aims and Objectives

The overarching aim of the project was to open up the Grade II* listed Georgian building and the collection to the widest possible audience, now and for the future. This was achieved through a comprehensive refurbishment and extension project informed by extensive research and consultation with visitors and non-visitors. The Gallery sits within its original landscape which has also been restored with funding from the Council and the HLF; this has complemented the setting of the house and now encourages many park users to visit. 


The aims of The William Morris Gallery Development Project were to:

           Conserve and enhance the Grade II* listed building and thus preserve a vital part of the local and national heritage for present and future generations to enjoy.

           Ensure this nationally and internationally important collection achieves its full long-term potential through effective display, interpretation, storage and conservation.

           Create an improved and fully accessible visitor attraction for Waltham Forest and London and fulfil our potential to attract a worldwide audience.

           Make the Gallery more accessible, engaging and attractive to a wider and more diverse audience.

           Re-present the Gallery and enhance its location within the Park, as part of the historic core based upon the life of William Morris and Water House.

           Develop new and effective partnerships in order to attract new and retain existing audiences and to develop new programmes.


The resulting scheme is a completely refurbished and regenerated museum and gallery for the local community as well as visitors from beyond the Borough.



November 2008: 1st HLF bid submitted for development phase funding

April 2009: Development phase funding awarded

June 2010: Development plans defined and 2nd HLF bid submitted

Sept 2010: Lottery award announced

April 2011: Gallery closed for refurbishment

August 2012: Gallery re-opened


Services offered

           12 permanent galleries  containing new and engaging displays in the main galleries.

           Special exhibitions gallery

           Improved visitor facilities, including more toilets, an improved shop and a new tearoom with direct access to the park

           Learning centre to accommodate schools and other groups

           Basement object store and collection storeroom

           Lift to all floors


           Library and archives (by appointment)

           Rooms for hire

           Events and activity programme

           Improved facilities and offices for staff and researchers.

           The building is fully accessible and has a welcoming visitor entrance.


Area Challenges

Growth pressures and cultural infrastructure needs

The Waltham Forest Core Strategy sets out enough land to develop 11,400 new homes by 2026. The people moving into these new homes will generate need for increased social infrastructure, including leisure and community facilities.  High quality developments such as the newly refurbished William Morris Gallery will contribute towards the provision of essential community facilities for new as well as existing communities. The Gallery is now a high quality, internationally renowned feature located in Walthamstow, meaning many new and existing residents now feel proud to have a connection with Walthamstow and Waltham Forest, which may not have been the case in past years. This, in turn, contributes to a wider feeling of well-being within the community.


The cultural agenda and its priorities



           Generate wealth in the borough through culture

           Retain wealth in the borough by providing attractive and high quality sport and  culture opportunities

           Build capacity to make possible the implementation of this ambitious strategy


One focus of the gallery development project was to attract a wide and diverse audience from across Waltham Forest in terms of cultural background, age and deprivation / income levels. This programme has achieved a range of successes, in terms of popularity and target audiences.


Business / operational model

Key partners / stakeholders


Working arrangement among stakeholders to plan for and deliver culture in the area


The William Morris Gallery and the planning system


Negotiating planning and delivery for cultural infrastructure needs

          The strength of the project was that the historic house (the William Morris Gallery) and the park (with the historic gardens) were being developed together holistically. At the planning stage, this joined-up offer was crucial in achieving heritage lottery funding. It also means the impacts of the project are more defined and the Gallery and gardens attract a wider audience.



Financing and funding arrangement


Success factors and outcomes

Buy-in at the highest level in the council was extremely important in achieving the goals for the William Morris Gallery. Both the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive of the Council are strong supporters of the Gallery and Park project and have been key drivers in realizing the vision, ensuring timely decision making and resolution of issues as they arose. There is on-going political support for the Gallery - initially in response to the ambitious plans and the external funding support, but also due to the strength of feeling and support from local residents.


Further opportunities


Key outcomes

The project has achieved all of its aims (listed above under Aims and Objectives):

         The historic building has been restored sensitively and has been extended to enable it to reach its full potential as a regional cultural attraction. 

         It was estimated that visitor numbers would rise from a low point in 2008 of less than 20,000, to around 37,500. In the first 9 months it has welcomed over 100,000 visitors, which provides evidence that the project has achieved its aim of increasing the accessibility of the gallery and its internationally significant collections. 

         On-site surveys demonstrate that more local people are visiting, whilst traditional visitors from further afield are also coming in increased numbers. 

         Visitors are also now including the park in their visit, which was not the case for the majority of gallery visits prior to refurbishment of the gallery and restoration of Lloyd Park. 

         The redevelopment of the Gallery has been used by the funders and other stakeholders as a case study for good practice.

         The Gallery offers a thriving activity programme, attracting diverse families, adults and younger people, and many local schools make use of the learning spaces to enhance their classroom learning.

         Visitor feedback has been very positive which visitors reporting that they are enjoying their time at the gallery as well as finding out new aspects to William Morris including his life, his influences and his legacy.


Risk factors

Due to unforeseen roof repairs, the budget was higher than originally planned. However, the majority of issues which arose during the project were resolved effectively. 


Measurement and Monitoring



Sustainable Community Strategy, Waltham Forest Council, 2008 


Waltham Forest Local Plan: Core Strategy and Walthamstow Action Plan


Contact Details for Further Information

Lorna Lee, Head of Cultural and Community Services, London Borough of Waltham Forest

[email protected]