William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was an English textile designer, artist, writer, and socialist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts Movement. He founded a design firm in partnership with the artist Edward Burne-Jones, and the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti which profoundly influenced the decoration of churches and houses into the early 20th century. He was also a major contributor to reviving traditional textile arts and methods of production, and one of the founders of the SPAB, now a statutory element in the preservation of historic buildings in the UK. Morris wrote and published poetry, fiction, and translations of ancient and medieval texts throughout his life. His best-known works include The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems (1858), The Earthly Paradise (1868–1870), A Dream of John Ball (1888) and the utopian News from Nowhere (1890). He was an important figure in the emergence of socialism in Britain, founding the Socialist League in 1884, but breaking with that organization over goals and methods by the end of the decade. He devoted much of the rest of his life to the Kelmscott Press, which he founded in 1891. The 1896 Kelmscott edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer is considered a masterpiece of book design.
William Morris was born in Walthamstow on 24 March 1834, the third child and the eldest son of William Morris, a partner in the firm of Sanderson & Co., bill brokers in the City of London. His mother was Emma Morris née Shelton, daughter of Joseph Shelton, a teacher of music in Worcester. As a child Morris was delicate but studious. He learned to read early, and by the time he was four years old he was familiar with most of the Waverley novels. When he was six the family moved to Woodford Hall, where new opportunities for an out-of-door life brought the boy health and vigour. He rode about Epping Forest, sometimes in a toy suit of armour, where he became a close observer of animal nature and was able to recognize any bird upon the wing.
At the same time he continued to read whatever came in his way and was particularly attracted by the stories in the Arabian Nights and by the designs in Gerard's Herbal. He studied with his sisters' governess until he was nine, when he was sent to a school at Walthamstow. In 1842, his sister Isabella was born. She grew to be the churchwoman who oversaw the revival of the Deaconess Order in the Anglican Communion. In his thirteenth year their father died, leaving the family well-to-do. The home at Woodford was broken up, as being unnecessarily large, and in 1848 the family relocated to Water House and William Morris entered Marlborough School, where his father had bought him a nomination. Morris was at the school for three years, but gained little from attending it beyond a taste for architecture, fostered by the school library, and an attraction towards the Anglo-Catholic movement. He made but slow progress in school work and at Christmas 1851 was removed and sent to live as a private pupil with the Rev. F. B. Guy, Assistant Master at Forest School and later Canon of St. Alban's, for a year to prepare him for University. The Forest School archives still contain many items of correspondence from Morris, and the School boasts a Morris stained glass window in the Chapel.