A New Domestic Gothic: William Butterfield

William Butterfield,Portrait by Jane Fortescue Coleridge, 1874

William Butterfield was an architect and designer born in London on September 7 1814. Though the details of his early life are not fully clear, it is known that he came from a family of modest financial means. Butterfield's architectural path began two years after an apprenticeship with a builder in Pimlico named Thomas Arber, when he began apprenticing under E.L. Blackburne, an antiquarian architect. In 1838 he found employment with a practice in Worcester. In that year he studied extensively if not exclusively medieval architecture. He recalls 'laboriously visiting old buildings […] especially churches'. Butterfield completed his first major commission in 1843, building the Highbury Congregational Chapel for his uncle, a Bristol tobacco manufacturer. His successful use of rubble stone and irregular quoins demonstrate the speed with which he was able to integrate the ideas of Pugin's 'True Principles of Gothic architecture' (1841) into his own practice.

From 1855 to 1857, Butterfield designed an estate village at Baldersby in Yorkshire for Lord Downe. Here he showed in full his profound grasp of architecture, 'from the dignity of the country church to cottages of distinguished simplicity'. Alongside the parsonages he designed, Butterfield established the forms subsequent domestic Gothic architecture would draw from heavily. This is seen in the work of W.E. Nesfield, Norman Shaw, and Philip Webb in particular. Butterfield knew Webb well though not directly. William Butterfield died on 23 February 1900, 5 years after his last known work in 1895.

"Houses in the model village of Baldersby St. James in Yorkshire designed by William Butterfield (1814-1910). Webb admired Butterfield's work and adopted several features including Butterfield's use of red brick and half-hipped gables.
 quote and image from William Morris & Red House by Jan Marsh, National Trust, 2005.


Marsh, Jan. William Morris & Red House. London: National Trust, 2005. Print.

The Well

Philip Webb's architectural
drawings when designing the well
The well in the courtyard of the Red House is one of the building's signature components. This well with the the steep conical roof was designed s to be the social center of the courtyard. Not surprisingly, the appearance of the well was also developed upon medieval style architecture. When the Red House was first constructed, there used to be a trellis, full of blooms, standing over the well.

"Red House." AboutBritain. Accessed December 10, 2012.

Marsh, Jan. William Morris & Red House. London: National Trust, 2005. Print.

"Red House." Flickriver. Accessed December 10, 2012.

Red House Entrance

William Morris never intended to make the Red House into a "show home", on the contrary, he wanted to create a private house for his growing family. This is why the front entrance to the Red House is rather concealed and visually modest. Dense vegetation grow around the entrance, there are no grand stairs leading up to the door, and the entrance is likely to be missed at first glance because it is so concealed in shadow.


"Red House by d0gwalker." Flickriver. Accessed December 10, 2012.

Historical Houses. "Red House." Episode 1. Accessed December 10, 2012.


This image shows the exterior of the alcove space.
One of the unique things about the Red House is
precisely the way how the exterior of the space
complimentsthe interior functionality. 
The left side of the image shows the interior space of the alcove. It was designed to be an alcove for the women of the Red House to knit. The surrounded windows ensured maximum natural lighting on evenings.

A section of the alcove shows how the space
extends with the exterior of the building.

Drawing Room "Hidden" Painting

The above is a interpretational drawing of the original painting
done by Morris under the Wedding Ceremony pieces. This painting
is suspected to be probably one of the earliest decoration in the Red House,
and for many years, it was hidden behind a later added wood panel. Morris'
painting is characterized by the bold bands strips of colour painted as the
background to stylized flowers. This painting runs along the whole length
of the drawing room wall. The romantic quote on the
painting translates as: "who love longest loves best".  
Referencing image and information from:,28 , around 4:20 

Drawing Room Fireplace

The drawing room of the Re house features
a great oxblood coloured brick fireplace. The
style of the fireplace is medieval inspired but
it is not in the exact style of medieval fireplaces.
The phrase on the top of the artifact translates as:
"art is long, life is short".
Reference photo  for above found on:

Red House Windows

The Red House is the first domestic building that incorporated
a whole new type of architecture style (at the time) called the
Modern Gothic. The concept of Modern Gothic was transformed
from the original medieval architecture.
Above is an interior drawing of a window in the Red House
Reference material for window drawing found on:,28

Craft Revealed

Internal brick arches would normally be plastered so as to conceal them, as their appearance was not valued. Along connecting a key element of the exterior to the interior, the internal brick arches at Red House bring to the forefront the underlying craft building. The brick arrangement is not entirely symmetrical, an intended feature in Webb's design, making the building appear as though it were built in an earlier era.
The arch pictured here leads to the upper gallery. The upper gallery leads to Morris' studio.


Staircase Tower

Philip Webb drew the first image of the red house for William Morris on the 21st of August 1858. On the back of a map they had brought with them on a river trip in France, Webb drew a preliminary sketch of the Red House Staircase. In the final designs for the Red House, completed by Webb in May of 1859, the L-shaped plan of the house wraps around the staircase tower, making it a central point.

The staircase tower, as viewed from the-inner court, where Red House's iconic well is situated

At the top of the stairs, the ceiling opens up to exposed rafters and woodwork, with hand-painted patterned decoration by William Morris and probably his wife Jane. 

Detail of Stair Newel

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