Historians and critics of architecture long believed the Red House a seminal work, and then for a time opinions changed. As Robert Furneaux Jordan pointed out in 1966,

It is now fashionable to assert that the Red House which Philip Webb built for William Morris as early as 1859, was not such a significant landmark as has been supposed. True, it was not recognized as such in 1859. (That is the usual fate of any piece of progressive architecture.) But if we take everything into account — the social as well as the architectural implications of the Red House, its significance was profound. Until then the architecture of the great Victorian houses had consisted mainly of th�e imposition of new stylistic variations upon basically eighteenth-century themes. With the Red House, with Philip Webb, with the emergence of the young Norman Shaw and with Morrisian ideals of craftsmanship hovering, as it were, in the wings, the change is obvious. Far off we can sniff the twentieth century upon the wind. [224]

Part of the importance of buildings by Webb and architects like Norman Shaw, Eden Nesfield, C. F. A. Voysey, Baillie Scott, and Edwin Lutyens, Jordan argues, lies in the fact that, unlike earlier Victorian architects, "these men were concerned not primarily with the imitation or even interpretation of a style — whether Gothic or Italian — about the nature of architecture — but rather with certain basic questions about the nature of architecture — function, materials, craftsmanship, plan and beauty. The change was not, perhaps, after all so very subtle; it was fundamental" (219, 224). The second great importance of these architects, Jordan points out, lies more in social than aesthetic history: they mark the transition away from members of the nobility to industrialists as major patrons of architecture.

Related Material


Jordan, Robert Furneaux. Victorian Architecture. Harmondsworth: Pelican Books, 1966.

Morris and Company. London: The Fine Art Society, 1979.

William Morris. Ed. Linda Parry. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996.

Last modified 8 March 2009