De Morgan in situ

William De Morgan’s works can be seen far and wide, from vibrant ceramics in other museums and galleries to tiles and fireplaces in private homes. The staff of the De Morgan Foundation recently took a trip to see some De Morgan tiles in situ in other London locations. 

Our first stop was Leighton House. Located in the Holland Park district of Kensington and Chelsea, this wonderful building is the former home of Lord Frederic Leighton, a painter and sculptor who associated with the Pre-Raphaelites. It was designed by architect George Aitchison and the original home was built in the 1860s, with several extensions added later. In 1929 Leighton House was opened to the public as a museum, and its permanent collection includes paintings by Burne-Jones, Watts and Millais, as well as dozens of works by Lord Leighton himself.

Of particular interest to us De Morgan fanatics is the Arab Hall. The Arab Hall extension was completed in 1879, and Lord Leighton employed William De Morgan to install the Turkish, Persian and Syrian tiles he had acquired on his travels. De Morgan was at this time at the beginning of his career and still experimenting with ceramic making. He was able to make up deficiencies in many of the tile panels and completely tiled the entrance hall and staircase with tiles of an intense Turkish turquoise. This early experience with Middle Eastern patterns and design undoubtedly influenced De Morgan’s later designs.

Leighton House is visually stunning, and a must-see if you have an interest in Victorian art, though its unique interior has wide appeal.

Once we had taken in the treasures of Leighton House, we headed to the Tabard Inn in Bedford Park. Bedford Park is described as the world’s first garden suburb, and was developed by Jonathan Carr in the 1870s. Scottish architect Richmond Norman Shaw was commissioned as the estate architect and in the late 19th Century, living in Bedford Park became the height of fashion. A number of famous faces lived there, including W. B. Yeats, Arthur Wing Pinero and Camille Pissarro.

The Tabard Inn is one of the original buildings designed by Shaw and still boasts the swing sign painted by T. M. Rooke, a studio assistant of Burne-Jones. Venture further than the attractive exterior and you’ll find some real treats inside – a good pie and a pint of ale, yes, but more importantly, some wonderful De Morgan tiles.

These attractive leaf and bird tiles are installed through the entrance and the right bar. As an added bonus, there are also original Walter Crane tiles on display. It’s a real pleasure to experience De Morgan tiles in situ like this, and if you’re a De Morgan enthusiast we heartily recommend a visit.

Leighton House is open daily except Tuesdays, and is accessible from High Street Kensington, Olympia and Holland Park tube stations.

The Tabard Inn is just minutes from Turnham Green station and is accessible on the District or Piccadilly line.

Emma Coleman, Museum Officer