A campaign has been launched to save the former home of William Morris, the inventor of the Morris motorcar.
The National Trust hopes to raise £600,000 to secure the future of his house, Nuffield Place, and the many possessions within.
The Morris Motor Company was started in 1910 when bicycle manufacturer William Morris, later Lord Nuffield, turned his attention to cars.
Richard Henderson, National Trust General Manager, said: “Despite Lord Nuffield’s extraordinary philanthropy and achievements, he remains relatively unknown. His home is a wonderful time capsule without any of the ‘show’ of a multi-millionaire and reveals so much about the man who changed many people’s lives for the better.
Nuffield Place in Oxfordshire was his home from 1933 until his death in 1963.
Lord Nuffield is seen by many to be Britain’s greatest ever philanthropist. He gave away over £30 million (the equivalent of £11 billion in today’s money) to support education, hospitals and medical research. Many projects he funded continue to benefit millions of people around the world.
William Morris – the man
William Morris was born on 10 October 1877 in Worcester and moved to Oxford with his family when he was three.
He left school at 15 and a year later, with £4 capital, he began his own business making and repairing bicycles.
In 1903, he married Elizabeth Anstey, the daughter of an Oxford farrier.
William Morris was one of the first British industrialists to introduce mass production methods, spotting the market for quality-made, small and economical cars.
By 1925 production was booming, 56,000 cars a year were rolling off the production line and Morris cars became famous around the world.
From 1928, sporting versions of the Morris Cowley and the Morris Oxford were sold as ‘MGs’, a marque distinct from the ‘Morris’.
By 1937, Morris Motors Ltd. became the largest motor manufacturer in Europe.
In 1934, a year after moving to Nuffield Place, Morris was made a Baron, and four years later, a Viscount. He took the name of Nuffield, the Oxfordshire village where he had settled and played a major role in organising industry in the Second World War.
Despite his great wealth, Lord Nuffield remained personally frugal. He had no children and, as his fortune grew, he became increasingly aware of the contribution he could make to relieve suffering in a pre-welfare state.
He founded the Nuffield Foundation in 1943 with an endowment of £10 million in order to advance education and social welfare, and also founded Nuffield College, Oxford.
Lord Nuffield died on 22 August 1963, four years after the death of his wife.
Nuffield Place – the history
Nuffield Place is set high in the Chilterns, near Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire.
The house was built in 1914 and was designed by Oswald Partridge Milne, a pupil of architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Originally called Merrow Mount, Lord Nuffield re-named it Nuffield Place.
Over the years a number of alterations have been carried out. The sitting-room and dining-room have both been enlarged and a of a billiard-room has been added. However, the house still retains the discernible style of Lutyens.
Left almost exactly as it was when Lord Nuffield died, the house and its contents are a revealing and intimate glimpse into the character, interests and life of one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and benefactors, yet a man who remains relatively unknown today.
The house is also a rare survival of a complete, upper-middle class home of the 1930s. It retains the majority of the furniture and contents acquired by Lord and Lady Nuffield when they took up residence, as well as having several rooms still decorated in the 1930s style.
Lord Nuffield had a great interest in clocks and there are several long case, wall and mantle clocks around the house.
Hidden behind cupboard doors in his bedroom is a miniature workshop with a collection of hand tools. It was here that he would relieve nights of insomnia by doing delicate metal work.
When Lord Nuffield died he left the house to Nuffield College, Oxford, which has owned it ever since.
Since 1977, the house has been open to the public by volunteers for very limited times between May and September.
The Friends of Nuffield Place, a registered charity, was formed twenty years ago, with the active support of Nuffield College, to promote Nuffield Place as an important piece of 20th century history
Kevin Minns, Chairman of the Friends of Nuffield Place and great great nephew of Lord Nuffield said: “This wonderfully generous offer from Nuffield College has given the National Trust the opportunity to preserve the legacy of William Morris, Lord Nuffield and save Nuffield Place once and for all.”
Nuffield Place – the future
As an academic institution, Nuffield College has decided that it is not equipped to manage the property and maximise its opportunities.
So it has offered it to the nation through the National Trust. However, in order to open to the public, and secure its future, the Trust needs to raise £600,000.
The Trustees of the National Trust have agreed to the funding for an endowment to run Nuffield Place provided the property can begin to pay for itself as a successful attraction within five years.
To make a donation to the appeal and to enable the National Trust to open Nuffield Place to the public, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/savenuffieldplace or telephone 0844 800 1895.