Secreted in the Watts of Westminster showroom in Chelsea Harbour Design Centre is rack upon rack of fabulous fabrics designed by George Frederick Bodley, one of the great architects of the Victorian Gothic Revival. There are also tables loaded with books of handprinted wallpapers. These gorgeous Gothic goodies, with their sumptuous colourings and flashes of gold, are all available to order. They will bring a touch of richness and romance to any London home.
© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections
Watts of Westminster was founded as a firm of house and church decorators by Bodley, Garner and George Gilbert Scott the Younger in 1874. The amusing story goes that this distinguished trio did not know what to call their new firm of house and church decorators. "But what's in a name?" they asked themselves. So Watts it was.
This year is the 100th anniversary of Bodley's death, and to celebrate there is an illuminating exhibition at the V&A. It explores Bodley's career as an architect, from his early powerful Gothic designs to his later style, which is considered more sparse and elegant.
Papers and fabrics get a strong showing. There is also a stunning, very early panel of stained glass by William Morris, who worked closely with Bodley for more than a decade. Learn about Bodley's partnership with architect Thomas Garner through drawings not shown since the 19th century. Also revealed is Bodley's influence on his pupils, such as architects C R Ashbee and Ninian Comper.
© Paul Barker
Savour the gleaming silver plate and glorious textiles, including an embroidered cope from St Paul's Knightsbridge. A large group of exquisite watercolours of Bodley's buildings are by the finest of all Victorian architectural draughtsmen, H W Brewer. Just along the road from the V&A (in Prince Consort Road) is Holy Trinity Church, a virtuoso exercise in Victorian Gothic, both inside and out. The architect, of course, was Bodley.
* The Holiness of Beauty: G F Bodley (1827-1907) and his Circle is at the V&A's RIBA Architecture Gallery, SW7, until 17 February 2008 (www.vam.ac.uk; www.architecture.com).
* Watts of Westminster is at 3/14 Third Floor, Centre Dome, Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, SW10 (020 7376 4486; www.wattsofwestminster.com).