Forest School is proud of its historical links with William Morris, champion of fine craftwork in furniture, fabrics, wallpaper and stained glass, writer, poet and pioneer of socialism.
William Morris was born on 24 March 1834, the same year that Forest School was established, and grew up at the family house, now home to the William Morris Gallery, in Walthamstow. Morris’ father was a founding shareholder in the School and his brothers were all pupils here.
Morris was a boarder at Marlborough College when an organised rebellion there in November 1851 led to the decision that he leave the School that Christmas and study for his matriculation with a private tutor: the Reverend Canon Doctor Frederick Barlow Guy, who was then Assistant Master at Forest before going on to become its Headmaster.
F. B. Guy’s influence over his talented pupil was great and a cordial friendship developed between them that lasted throughout their lives.
After F. B. Guy’s wife died in 1875, the School commissioned the firm of Morris & Co. to install a memorial window in the south transept of the School Chapel, which was designed by Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris’ lifelong friend and partner. Burne-Jones also designed a window for the eastern end of the north transept; both of these windows were destroyed by the blast of a flying-bomb in 1944. A fragment from one, depicting Rebecca, has been set in a Quatrefoil window in the North wall. A third window made by Morris & Co. still remains in the north transept behind the organ; it shows Samuel and Timothy and incorporates the distinctive grapes and flowers that are so typical of Morris’ designs.
Although Morris was never a pupil at Forest, his influence on the School remains strong. In 1868, he submitted a poem for the Christmas Term edition of the Forest School Magazine titled ‘Captiva Regina’, and a banner made at the request of F. B. Guy, depicting an oak tree with the arms of the diocese of St Albans and the School motto ‘In Pectore Robur’, hangs in the Victorian Dining Hall today.