Thomas Okey

One of the people I wasn’t familiar with in the William Morris exhibition was Thomas Okey, whose portrait is shown when he was Master of the Art Worker’s Guild and who remembered Morris lecturing at Toynbee Hall.   What I hadn’t realised in seeing the portrait is that Okey was an early product of an east end education:  the son of a basketmaker in Spitalfields, he was educated at St. James the Less National School in Sewardstone Road.   Whilst working as a basket maker, he taught himself French, German and Italian, attended evening classes at Toynbee Hall, and began to write books about Italian architecture, as well as An Introduction to the Art of Basket-Making, published in 1911.   In 1919, he was appointed as the first Serena Professor of Italian at Cambridge.   Quite a career.

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