We are justifiably proud in the Bexley/Bexleyheath area about our local hero ...

Team Rector’s Letter                                   September 2019

The Other William Morris!


We are justifiably proud in the Bexley/Bexleyheath area about our local hero William Morris, British textile designer, poet, novelist, and driving force of the Arts and Crafts movement. William Morris was at one time the owner of the beautiful Red House in Bexleyheath. He delighted in traditional methods of furniture and fabric production, examples of which can be seen in the house, now owned by the National Trust.


But I have discovered a man by the same name recently, another William Morris, and I think his story should be told.


The ‘other William Morris’ was born in 1877 in a terraced cottage in Worcester. William’s family moved to Oxford while he was still a small child. Leaving school at the age of 15 Morris was apprenticed to a local bicycle-seller and repairer. Nine months later, after his employer refused him a pay increase, he set up a business repairing bicycles in a shed at the back of his parents' house. This was such a success that he opened his own shop and began to assemble as well as repair bicycles. Soon he expanded his business to motor cycles and cars. In 1912 he designed a car, the famous "bullnose" Morris. He loved his work. His business prospered. His fortune was made!

He was given the title of Viscount Nuffield, yet William lived very simply, with his wife of many years; they had no children. He mended his own shoes and gave much of his money away by founding charitable institutions. In 1937 he gave £50,000 to fund the expansion of the Sea Cadets, and also donated £60,000 to Birmingham University for their Nuffield building. In December 1938 he arranged that hospitals be given mechanical respirators known as an ‘iron lung’ to keep victims of the disease of polio breathing. These were to be made in his car factories; over 1,700 were distributed and they were distinguished by the fact that they were opened with a car handle!


William Morris also founded the Nuffield Foundation in 1943 with an endowment of £10 million in order to advance education and social welfare. He was the founder of Nuffield College, Oxford.


As we consider the ‘conspicuous consumption’ of much of the world today, the generosity of one wealthy man – William Morris – should give us food for thought.


Reverend Ren Harding (Team Rector)

contact me at Joydens Wood Vicarage,

6 Tile Kiln Lane, Joydens Wood, Bexley, DA5 2BB  

01322-528923                         renharding@hotmail.co.uk

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Page last updated: 5th September 2019 7:23 PM