William Morris was born in March 1834 in London, the third of ten children, to a wealthy family, his father being a financier.
Among the benefits of this privileged setting is that the family copper mining shares funded his collection of antique books and paintings though dwindling income led to the later sale of many. Nonetheless, he collected old books and manuscripts to his dying days.
Morris attended Oxford University from 1853 where he soon met life-long friend and occasional colleague Ned Jones, later to become Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-98). While at Oxford both men fell under the influence of John Ruskin (1819-1900) whose inspiring though verbose writings presented the desirable virtues, or perceived ones, of medieval Europe. He led their thinking on art and architecture, human morality and work, materialism and society. Ruskin, like Tennyson in a different way, was to give an impetus to three related movements: the Gothic Revival, the Pre-Raphaelites, and the Arts and Crafts Movement.