Anyone who is familiar with Waltham Forest probably knows that one of the things it is synonymous with is being the birthplace of one the leading faces of the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris.
The original Georgian home of the Morris family in Walthamstow is the only museum dedicated to the man himself and his role in the Arts and Crafts Movement. Originally opened in 1950, The William Morris Gallery reopened in 2013 after redevelopment and is now host to history and examples of Morris’ life, work, contribution to design, and is also host to temporary exhibits, family events, and hands on activities for kids. The gallery still sits in the former grounds of what is now Lloyd Park.
Right, so with the introduction to this post over, on to our visit. We have lived in East London for almost all of our lives but we have never been to the William Morris Gallery before despite it being close by so me and my sister (Auntie) decided we’d head over to check it out with The Toddler and The Baby in tow. The gallery is a short bus ride or reasonably manageable walk from Walthamstow Central so it is well connected by public transport but unluckily for us, it was not the easiest place to get to from where we live. We normally would be able to hop on the London overground line towards Gospel Oak but this is currently out of service until next year so it was the rail replacement bus for us which was no mean feat in itself: hot, muggy, slow, roadworks, The Baby, The Toddler…
Anyways, after reassuring The Toddler mid tantrum that we will be going on another bus later after not wanting to get off the bus, we arrived at the gallery. First things first, we headed to the baby change. It was a disabled toilet-cum-baby change but it was very stylish and clean with its steel drop down changing table and Morris wallpaper print on the door. Hey, I am easily impressed, as a mum of two who are in nappies, any place that is clean, functional, and doesn’t smell of old nappies gets my vote -extra jazzy bits on the side is a bonus. The Toddler was less than impressed. It was a gallery and not a park therefore it was the worst thing ever and made sure we all knew he wasn’t happy but he was soon placated by cake in the cafe before exploring.
The cafe in the gallery is one of a few sites run by The Larder who first opened their doors on Wanstead high street but have since permeated into other areas of East London. I didn’t get any pictures of the cafe due The Toddler tantruming but it was clean, bright, and modern with chairs that gave a cheerful nod the the leafy patterns of Morris’ designs and views over Lloyd Park. Unfortunately, whilst the tea and cake was nice enough I thought it was a bit pricey for what it was with a pot of tea for two coming just under a fiver alone. You could justify the expense by offsetting it against the fact the gallery is free but it would still make for an expensive lunch if you had a few to feed. It seemed popular with the trendy parents though.
Onwards at breakneck speed and refuelled by cake, we hurriedly made our way around the gallery. It’s small enough that you can get around it quickly but emmersive enough that you could spend a good few hours there. There is a lift so it accessible to most but it is tiny so you may struggle with bigger prams. There was surprisingly plenty for The Toddler to do at the gallery and some things The Baby could get involved with as well.
On the ground floor of the gallery is a room which had activities based around Arts and Crafts including a stained glass window puzzle, making your own wallpaper design and seeing its effect with mirrors, magnifying glass to take a closer look at patterns, and you can try your hand at weaving too. The Toddler was very happy that there was plenty of stuff he could get his hands on and play with. Upstairs on the 1st floor there is a little dress up and storytelling area for children to play in and put on their own shows with the puppet theatre. The Baby enjoyed playing with the wooden blocks and puppets whilst The Toddler decided he would practice training for the 100m which lead poor Auntie to constantly having to chase him down. We agreed we should probably come back sans children and have a proper look around as The Toddler had had enough by now.
(I can hear you asking ‘why on earth would you bother taking a toddler to museums especially when they are in tantrum mode etc etc?’ Well, I really do believe that children of all ages can benefit from museums and so many are accessible and cater for young children. It’s not easy getting out with children especially with tantrums, general logistics of getting somewhere, and all the paraphernalia that comes with kids but I think you should do things for you as much as for the children you are with. It’s a nice change from softplay and playgroups and if it’s child friendly all the more reason to do something different.)
After we had seen as much as we could at the gallery, we went to check out Lloyd Park. It is December in London so apologies for typically grey snaps. The park itself on the whole is lovely with the cafe/gallery/event hub but the under 5s play area left a little to be desired. A small slide (not pictured), a seesaw, and a strange infant swing set up which consisted of two infant swings joined together by a long, flat swing bench so the whole thing swung in unison. A good idea if you have more than one child with you who want to be pushed on the swing but a bit weird when you’re paired up with a stranger. The larger slide across the playground appealed to The Toddler much more, that and the damp out-of-season sand pit which looks like it has water play in the summer.
After much wrestling to persuade The Toddler it’s probably time to go, we headed off in hope we could get back home before rush hour and that The Toddler would have a nap by the time we got home and be less grumpy.