SHOCK and hostility greeted a plan announced last night to take the treasured William Morris collection out of Waltham Forest.

A public meeting organised by the Friends of the William Morris Gallery - Morris's former home -in Forest Road, Walthamstow - heard details of the proposal from Kate Catleugh of the De Morgan Foundation.

She said the foundation, which has been negotiating behind closed doors with Waltham Forest Council, is aiming to create a collection of Arts and Crafts objects and memorabilia in central London.

It is trying to buy the Beaufoy Institute in Black Prince Road, Lambeth, at an estimated cost of £25 million by January though Mrs Catleugh would not be drawn on how much of this money has been accumulated or where it will come from.

The meeting was told that the foundation would then aim to gather in collections from across London to develop one main Arts and Crafts Museum, with four galleries plus workshops and a cafe.

Mrs Catleugh said that it was absolutely essential to the success of the venture that the Waltham Forest collection was given to the new centre on permanent loan. It could not succeed without the works.

She said that £1m would be spent on "restoring" the collection and that travelling "modular exhibitions" would be sent back to Waltham Forest for exhibition to time as well as to other places.

Cllr Geraldine Reardon, cabinet member for arts and leisure, insisted that the council was keen that the William Morris Gallery should continue to be an asset of the borough and suggested that in future it could house exhibitions of contemporary art as well as the Arts and Crafts "modules".

The majority of people at the meeting in Greenleaf Baptist Church were unaware of the scheme beforehand and expressed their anger and confusion that such a deal was even being considered.

It was not made clear how, if the proposal goes ahead, it would affect the opening hours of the gallery, its staffing or the Lottery bid which is currently being considered to extend the gallery.

* The De Morgan Foundation concentrates on the study of 19th century art and society and is named after William De Morgan, the Victorian ceramic artist, and his wife, Evelyn, a painter.

For the full story see the Waltham Forest Guardian on Thursday.