He trained as an architect under G.E.Street, where he met Morris. In 1859 he designed the Red House, Bexleyheath, for Morris, 'a straightforward, redbrick, made-to-measure house", which proved very influential. 'It was one of the foundation stones of the movement towards a free architecture'. Through Morris he became one of the Pre-Raphaelite circle and was an active member of 'the Firm' - Morris and Co.
He designed furniture and stained glass, especially lettering, animal figures and the lay-out of windows. In 1868 he built 1, Palace Green for George Howard, which was almost as influential as Red House.
He remained intimate with Morris throughout the latter’s life, and followed him closely in his efforts for conserving ancient buildings and for the Socialist cause. With Morris he found him-self spending his life 'ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich', because only they could afford the fine hand-craftsmanship in which they both firmly believed. He was a founder of the Arts and Crafts movement.
A man of great integrity, he would brook no interference, and sent his clients away unless they trusted his taste implicitly. He did not normally employ assistants and the amount of work he produced was small. Brampton was his only church, though he did other designs, which were not carried out. Most of his work consisted of country houses, several of which have since been demolished. However, as well as building Rounton Grange (1875) for Sir Lowthian Bell, the ironmaster, and Smeaton Manor for Bell's son-in-law, (1876), he designed Bell's office building in Middlesbrough and his pump house at Port Clarence, Co.Durham. Other houses were: Coneyhurst Surrey (1886), Joldwynds Surrey (1873), Clouds near Salisbury (1886), Standen East Grimstead (1892). He received the commission to design St Martin's through the influence of George Howard, and for him he also built in Brampton Four Gables (1874) and Green lane House soon afterwards.
After Morris's death he retired, but he did the drawings for the completion of Brampton Church tower in 1905 though the work was supervised by former pupil, George Jack. W.R.Lethaby wrote a biography in 1935.
If you can't see the menu on the left, select here for the website of St Martin's Pre-Raphaelite Church, Brampton, Cumbria.