Ms Catherine Sidwell

Research project: The significance of nature and the representation of birds in C.F.A. Voysey's decorative designs for the English domestic interior (1890-1910).


Like William Morris, the English architect Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857-1941) designed wallpapers and textiles. Unlike Morris, Voysey also designed over one hundred buildings, and gained an international reputation for his small country houses in Britain. His oeuvre included all elements required to furnish a home: wallpapers, textiles, metalwork, ceramic tiles, furniture, fittings and decorative items, in a variety of materials. Influenced by A.W.N. Pugin, John Ruskin, William Morris, and A.H. Mackmurdo, Voysey believed designers should go to directly to nature for inspiration. In the context of Charles Darwin's publication On the Origin of Species(1859), and Mackmurdo's interests in botany my research focuses on Voysey's reverence for nature and his representation of birds within the English domestic interior 1890-1910. My research is an in-depth analysis of his decorative designs through his use of bird motifs. A key aspect of my study is an exploration of the symbolism he used. 

  • Research degree: PhD
  • Title of project: The significance of nature and the representation of birds in C.F.A. Voysey's decorative designs for the English domestic interior (1890-1910).
  • Research supervisor: Professor Penny Sparke
  • Other research supervisor: Dr Patricia Lara-Betancourt


I trained as a curator in local history museums and at the V&A. I then travelled to Australia and New Zealand, where I worked as a consultant curator for the National Trust, New South Wales and Bath House Museum Art Gallery, Rotorua. From 1996-2006, I managed exhibitions and projects at MAAS: Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (Powerhouse Museum), Sydney. I enjoyed working as part of large and small teams to develop and deliver over thirty projects: permanent galleries, temporary and travelling exhibitions, across curatorial areas. Highlights: Great Expectations: new British design stories - British Council, When Philip met Isabella, Philip Treacy's hats for Isabella Blow - Design Museum, London, Student Fashion and Sydney Design Festival. As Senior Project Manager for Exhibitions at the British Museum, I contributed to the development of First Emperor and Hadrian. I am a freelance journalist and I teach at Kingston University.

Areas of research interest

  • Design History
  • C.F.A. Voysey (1857-1941), English architect and designer
  • Arts, Architecture, Crafts and Design in England 1885-1915
  • History of the modern interior
  • Fashion
  • Nature
  • Lloyd Loom Furniture
  • Museums and Galleries
  • Arts, Architecture, Crafts and Design: in Australia


  • MA Management - Arts Management, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
  • BA History of Design, University of Brighton, East Sussex, UK

Funding or awards received

  • TECHNE - AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership