This ‘money spinner’ on the side was a little too grubby for gentleman-architects unwilling to be directly associated with trade, and so the company was born as Watts and Co. While some have suggested that the name may have come from a pun ‘Watts in a name?’, the firm may also have been named after Scott’s landlord, R.R. Watts.
All three architects had been pupils of the grand old man of Victorian architecture, Sir George Gilbert Scott, and were initially steeped in his Gothic Revival aesthetic. By the 1870s, however, they had developed a new style, an eclectic mélange of Tudor, Elizabethan and 17th century neo-classical architecture, which came to be known as the ‘Queen Anne’ style.
The breadth of influences that underpinned the ‘Queen Anne’ movement also lay behind Watt’s early fabric and wallpaper designs. These drew inspiration from a variety of sources, including the geometric neo-Gothic wallpapers of Augustus Pugin, the sumptuous fabrics depicted in fifteenth-century paintings, the naturalism of William Morris, and grand late seventeenth-century damasks. Watts offered a full decoration service, including the option of a specialist painter, Mr Mole, and customers were able to buy ‘Embroidery and Textile Fabrics, such as Damasks, Silks, Velvets, Woollen and other Hangings…Wall Papers and Stained Glass, together with all the usual Articles of Household Furniture.’
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With the secular side of the business flourishing, Tufton Street becomes too cramped for both the secular and ecclesiastical sides of the business and Watts of Westminster move into a showroom in the Chelsea Design Centre.
With demand for Watts’ secular products growing, Watts of Westminster is founded, under the direction of Fiona Flint, to solely concentrate on this expanding demand. As part of this, many designs from Watts’ extensive archive are re-introduced.
Watts is presented with a royal warrant appointing them ecclesiastical furnishers to H.M. the Queen
Six domestic designs of Pugin, originally part of a larger series produced by Scott, Cuthbertson and Co., are rediscovered and added to the Watts wallpaper collections.
Watts produces the altar frontal for the coronation of Elizabeth II and the Coronation robes. In the same year Watts sees the arrival of Elizabeth Hoare (1915-2001), great-granddaughter of the founder Gilbert Scott the Younger, under whose inspirational direction the company would survive the difficult sixties and seventies.
After 70 years at Baker Street, a decline in demand for luxurious fabrics after the WWII forces Watts to downsize and move to premises on Dacre Street.
Keith Murray, one of the most post-war period’s most important ecclesiastical designers, joins Watts.
Morris and Co. closes.
1931 - 1937
Watts provides all the soft furnishings for the new University Library at Cambridge University and does the same for an extension to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.
At the coronation of Edward VII Watts is commissioned to supply all the principal religious figures with specially designed vestments. This is the first of three coronations for which Watts produced vestments.
Bodley is commissioned by the 4th Earl of Powis to redesign elements of Powis Castle and extensively refurbish the interiors, during which he uses numerous Watts fabrics and wallpapers.
1897 - 1900
Temple Moore, who increasingly collaborated with Bodley after the departures of Garner and Scott the Younger, restores the Treasurer’s House in York, using Watts fabrics and wallpapers exclusively in the interiors.
Gibert Scott the Younger dies of cirrhosis of the liver in a bedroom of the Midland Hotel, London, one of his father’s most famous designs.
Garner converts to Catholicism and the partnership between him and Bodley comes to an amicable end.
1889 - 1890
Bodley and Garner are commissioned by the 9th Earl of Dysart to renovate Ham House, one of the most quintessential late 17th century houses in England.
Gilbert Scott the Younger is declared of unsound mind and his association with Watts comes to an end.
Watts and Co was founded by Bodley, Garner, and George Gilbert Scott the Younger (1839-1897). The name Watts is chosen because, as gentlemen, the three founders could not be too publicly associated with trade.
Bodley falls seriously ill, possibly with septicaemia. When he returns to work he is much weakened and takes Thomas Garner (1839-1906), another pupil of George Gilbert Scott, as a partner to cope with the huge demand for his architecture.
1865 - 1869
Bodley and Morris move apart in their stylistic aims and by 1869 Bodley has begun to use Burlison & Grylls for his stained glass.
Bodley is invited to join the Hogarth Club by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rosseti (1828-1882), and he forms life-long friendships with him and other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
1854 - 1863
Pugin and others design the Medieval Court for the Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace.
Pugin submits the design for Bellini to J.G.Crace for use in the interior decoration of Abney Hall, Cheshire.
At the age of 19, G.F. Bodley (1827-1907) joins George Gilbert Scott’s architectural practice as a trainee. It is at this point that he meets William Morris, who is also working in Gilbert Scott’s practice.