News & Insights

William Morris: The Sussex Settee

14th October 2022. By Diane Sinnott

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” – William Morris

The Arts and Crafts Movement, led by William Morris, strove to make beautiful, well-made products for everyday life, whilst elevating the status of the craftsman and reinvigorating traditional materials and skills. Fighting against the negative effects of increasing industrialisation, Morris created a vast range of furniture and furnishings, one of the most iconic lines being his Sussex range of seated furniture. Inspired by a traditional vernacular chair made in Sussex for generations, the Sussex range was designed by Morris’ long-term friend and collaborator Philip Webb and would go on to be one of the most successful products made by Morris & Co.


Morris & Co., A Sussex Settee, Estimate: £300-500 plus buyer’s premium. To be sold in the 20th Century Design Sale on 25th February.

The range was designed circa 1860 and was put into production from 1865. Initially comprising chairs and armchairs, the Sussex range exemplified the simplicity and beauty of the Arts and Crafts ideal, matching of form and function with simple turned frames, stained black, and rush seats. Morris himself had numerous pieces from the Sussex range in his home, the Red House, which had been designed by Webb, as did his friends such as Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Proving a great commercial success, the range was expanded to incorporate children’s chairs, a corner chair, and a settee, and influential retailers such as Liberty’s and Heals would produce their own versions.

The Sussex range is still enormously popular at auction today, the timeless design fitting easily into both modern and traditional furnishing schemes. Whilst the chairs appear at auction fairly often, the settees and corner chairs are much scarcer and are eagerly fought over. However, they remain relatively affordable, and offer the chance to own a piece of Arts and Crafts history for only a few hundred pounds.

Diane Sinnott

Diane Sinnott


20th Century Design Specialist, General Valuer

+ 44 (0) 1969 623780

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