Letter: William Morris, rest in peace

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The Independent Online
Sir: Dorothy Biltcliffe's letter (28 August) calling for the restoration of William Morris's grave at Kelmscott displays ignorance of Morris's own strongly held views on the subject.

Along with Phillip Webb Morris founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, which was fundamentally opposed to the damaging "repairs" carried out on our ancient monuments (Morris nicknamed the SPAB "Anti-Scrape"). Morris was a disciple of John Ruskin who, in The Seven Lamps of Architecture argued that the restoration of old buildings was nothing more than organised vandalism: although well-intentioned the restorer's work irreparably damages the original building materials. The result is a lie: it is an attempt to misrepresent the past by displaying it with a falsely youthful and "tidy" face.

Morris wrote: "It seems to me not so much a question of whether we are to have old buildings or not, as whether they are to be old or sham old."

His grave at Kelmscott, like the churchyard, is beautiful because it is unspoilt and unrestored. The most fitting way to mark the centenary of Morris's death this year is to leave his grave as it is - open to the quiet dignity that time and the English climate bestow.

DAVID JAMES

Oxford

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