A MULTI-MILLION pound grant will secure the future of a historic manor house, allowing it to attract thousands more tourists each year.

Kelmscott Manor, in West Oxfordshire, has been awarded £4.3m from the National Lottery's Heritage Lottery Fund to save the building from dilapidation and construct new facilities.

The house was the retreat of influential designer William Morris from 1871 to 1896 and since 1962 has been owned by the Society of Antiquaries of London, of which Morris was a fellow.

The society expects the work to almost double yearly visitor numbers from the current number of around 21,000 people to as high as 40,000 across 12 months.

The money will be spent on urgent repairs to the listed building, the renovation of its gardens and the construction of a new education centre and visitor facilities, including a car park.

It is hoped the project will enhance visitors' understanding of the house and attract new audiences, particularly young people using the educational facilities.

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund said: “We can all learn from the wisdom and beliefs of William Morris, and the beautiful Kelmscott Manor is the perfect place to understand why he continues to have such an influence on the way we live today.

"William Morris famously believed that art, like education, should be for everyone.

"With a new Learning Centre, a new programme for schools and community groups and increased public access, this National Lottery investment in Kelmscott Manor makes a significant contribution towards supporting his legacy.”

The architecture, history and landscape of Kelmscott inspired Morris, with many of his most important designs and writings and his ideas on conservation created while living in the area.

A collection of the designer's works, along with those by his family and associates are kept in the house to this day, including furniture, pictures and paintings.

Paul Drury, president of the Kelmscott Campaign Group, hopes the new funding will encourage members of the public to greater understand the influence of Kelmscott on the designer's creations.

He said:“The HLF investment will make Kelmscott self-sustaining and it therefore secures its long-term future while maintaining its fragile spirit of place.

"Our aim is to enhance the public’s understanding of the importance of Kelmscott and its landscape and how it influenced Morris’s thinking and his art."

The work will be carried out in separate phases and it is hoped the new car park will dissuade visitors from parking in Kelmscott itself.

In the past, tourists have left their cars at the other end of the hamlet when visiting the Manor, which is open to the public between April and October.