By 1850 the family was
back in Birmingham, where 14 year old Harry attended
King Edward VI School. Here he befriended fellow student
Edward Jones (later Burne-Jones), one of a number of
Harry’s friends known as ‘the Birmingham set’ that the
Macdonald sisters idolised.
In September 1853 George
Macdonald was moved to the south London circuit, based
at Sloane Square chapel. This move proved pivotal for
three of the sisters, as this is where one renewed her
association with her prospective husband and two others
met their future husbands.
Whilst living at 39,
Sloane Square they got to know another Methodist family
from the Midlands. George P. Baldwin was an iron-founder
from Stourport, Worcestershire; his wife Sarah was the
daughter of the President of the Methodist Conference in
1845. Their son Alfred was later to marry Louisa.
Edward Burne-Jones went
up to Oxford in 1852, but left at the end of 1855 after
failing to complete his degree. He abandoned his
intention to join the church, deciding instead to pursue
a career in art with his fellow student William Morris,
a decision taken after they holidayed together in France
during the summer of 1855. By Easter 1856 Burne-Jones
had moved to London and took lodgings in Sloane Terrace,
opposite the Methodist Chapel. He must have been pleased
that his old friend Harry Macdonald and his family were
near neighbours. Romance between Georgiana Macdonald and
her ‘Birmingham set’ idol Burne-Jones blossomed quickly;
they were engaged as early as June 1856 when he was 22
and she was only 15.
The Macdonalds were
introduced to London’s artistic group by Burne-Jones,
becoming close friends with the poet and designer
William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante
Gabriel Rossetti. In August 1857 Burne-Jones took Louisa
to meet Rossetti on her own as a 12th
Birthday treat. She would spend hours in the studio
Burne-Jones and Morris shared furnishing them with
pencils and paints.
Influenced by the company they kept, Louisa and
Georgiana worked on wood engravings and were offered
drawing lessons by Ford Maddox Brown (Georgiana studied
at the Government School of Design).