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2018 Conference blogs – Quilted petticoats in eighteenth century London: genuine and imitation, bought and stolen

Clare Rose, The Royal School of Needlework, London

Quilted petticoats in eighteenth century London: genuine and imitation, bought and stolen

Quilted petticoats played an important role in the development of the ready-to-wear clothing industry in Britain, as Beverly Lemire has shown. They had a tie-on construction that made them easy to manufacture, and easy to fit on most customers. They could be made in a range of fabrics, from heavy wool serge to delicate silk satin or crisp linen, to provide warmth and fullness under a gown. Quilted petticoats worn with open-fronted gowns or short jackets could add to the ensemble through colour contrasts or decorative stitching.  Petticoats made from corded quilting from Marseilles or yellow silk embroidery from Bengal could add an exotic touch to the wardrobe. Trade cards from London and provincial shopkeepers in the British Museum and London Guildhall Collections confirm the importance of quilted petticoats in retail practice, sold by traders describing themselves as mercers, linen-drapers, haberdashers, or milliners. The consumption of quilted petticoats by women at all social levels can be seen in the trial records of the Old Bailey, which note over 230 thefts of these garments between 1688 and 1805 (www.oldbaileyonline.org).

A closer analysis of these sets of documents reveals the strategies and subterfuges used to increase sales of these standardised garments. Retailers promoted their petticoats as ‘finest’ or ‘most neatly worked’; they offered them in a wide range of fabrics at a wide range of prices. Imported quilting from Marseilles and Bengal was imitated in British workshops, and sold as the real thing. By the 1760s, loom quilted petticoats (double cloth with a padding weft) were on sale as ‘marcella’, confusing them with French imports. Hand-quilted petticoats were often made by outworkers, who were vulnerable to exploitation both by their employers and by their peers. As standardised garments, petticoats were both desirable to thieves, and hard to prove ownership of in a court of law. Quilted petticoats with pocket slits at the sides might even be used as an accessory to theft, with their bulk concealing high-value items lifted from shop counters.

Fig. 1 T.306-1982 max

Fig.1. Green silk petticoat quilted in diamond grid, worn with a non-matching short gown. British, 1740-50c. T.306-1982. © The V&A Museum

The social and material variety of quilted petticoats

Trade cards in the Guildhall Library and the Heal and Banks collection at the British Museum show the variety of petticoats on sale: in 1767, Paulins & Coates of Tavistock Street, Mercers and Haberdashers (Guildhall Library)  listed  petticoats in ‘satin, sarsnet and Persian’ (silk), ‘all sorts of stuff’ (wool) and ‘callico’ (cotton). The implication is that these were hand-quilted, with an upper layer of decorative fabric, a lining of loosely woven wool, and a middle layer of carded wool wadding for warmth.  There were also petticoats made from ‘Indian’ or ‘Marseilles’ quilting, with outer and lining fabrics of undyed cotton or linen, with intricate patterns worked either in yellow silk or in inserted cords. These were cool for summer and could be washed, unlike wool petticoats. The terms ‘Indian’ and ‘Marseilles’ referred originally to the place of origin, but the distinctive techniques were soon imitated in Britain, either by hand or on specially adapted looms. Retailers deliberately blurred the difference between textiles stitched in France and woven in Manchester by calling them both ‘Marseilles’.

Consumers purchasing through an intermediary and unable to examine the goods in person had to pay close attention to clues such as where the quilting was placed on the trade card. For example, the 1792 trade card for William Stock’s Linen Warehouse listed ‘Marseilles’ quilting with woven goods (Heal Collection, British Museum).

The Old Bailey records of criminal trials include statements that clarify how consumers understood these distinctions. For example, in a trial of 7th July 1784 the victim was asked by the judge ‘Is that a Marseilles petticoat? – It is what they call a mock Marseilles, it is not a right Marseilles.’ (POB t17840707-60). ‘Mock Marseilles’ was presumably the woven rather than hand-stitched version. Two points of interest in this type of testimony are the values given to the stolen garments – 6 shillings for the petticoat and 10 shillings for a silk gown, both used – and the social level of the owner, in this case the wife of a man ‘at sea’, presumably a merchant or a naval officer rather than an ordinary sailor.

Displays of goods

The detailed narratives of thefts in the Old Bailey Papers also throw a light on retail practices, particularly the methods of displaying and showing goods for sale. A common method of display, particularly for lower-priced establishments, was to hang items outside the shop door where they could be seen by passers-by. However goods displayed in this way were vulnerable both to damage by rain and sun, and to opportunistic theft.  A trial record from 1775 states: ‘I saw the prisoner take the petticoat from a hook at the door post, I informed Mr. Judson of it, we pursued him and took him’ (theft from Richard Wallford, Mercer,  Houndsditch, 26th April, 1775. POB t17750426-99).

Fig. 2 Bermondsey shop fronts

Fig. 2. Eighteenth-century shop fronts in Bermondsey Street, London: a transom above the door to light the interior and wooden shutters secured with a lockable bar (author photo)

More valuable items might be displayed in the window, or on shelves behind the counter, and handed to customers by shop staff. However this system was not foolproof; customers would wait until the sales staff were distracted before filching goods from the window or from the counter. One way of distracting the shop staff was to engage them in a lengthy bargaining process, as in a case on 8th July 1719 when:

The Prisoner went to the Prosecutors Shop and cheapen’d a Quilted Petticoat, and while they were reaching some to shew her, she took an Opportunity to take the Gown from off the Compter, which was taken upon her… The Jury found her Guilty of the Indictment. Death. (POB t17190708-24)

The implication here is that the thief was not well dressed enough to be a plausible customer for the silk gown, but was a likely purchaser for a cheap quilted petticoat.

It was not only customers who posed a threat to shopkeepers, as the Old Bailey transcripts reveal.  Business premises were secured at night with heavy wooden window shutters held in place with a locked bar. Some merchants had junior staff sleeping in the shop as a further line of defence. Archdale Rooke, Mercer in the Strand, instead fitted shutters to close off the counter and shelves of goods: ‘ They went along the counter, and were put up of nights, and made it like a passage, with the goods within-side’. This was not enough to deter his maidservant, who picked the locks on the shutters and stole textiles worth £8 over a period of weeks in 1761 (POB t17610506-4).

 

Fig. 3 1782 Dighton A morning ramble or milliners shop colour - cropped

Fig. 3. Robert Dighton, ‘A morning ramble, or – The Milliners Shop’ . Hand-coloured mezzotint. 1782. 1935,0522.1.31 © The Trustees of the British Museum

Outworkers and subcontracting

The Old Bailey records also cast a harsh light on the systems by which goods were made up for sale in London shops. Merchants might claim on their trade cards that their quilted petticoats were in the ‘Genteelest taste and newest Fashion’ (Hermans and Broady, 1769, Guildhall Library) but the settings in which they were stitched were anything but genteel. A 1736 court case was brought by Mrs Battiley, a quilter making petticoats in her home for the merchant Thomas Street. Battiley subcontracted some of the work to an acquaintance who had fallen on hard times; but her ‘friend’ stole the petticoat and pawned it. When brought before the court the woman admitted taking the petticoat, but claimed that this was condoned by Battiley, who was selling sexual services and wanted her to put on a good appearance. This accusation laid Battiley open to double penalties, for theft and for prostitution; fortunately her protestations of innocence were accepted. The interest of this case lies in Battiley’s assumption that her acquaintance would have adequate needlework skills to work on a quilted petticoat without specialist training. The form of the counter-accusation implies that a quilter’s earnings were low enough that she might have to turn to prostitution as a side line.

Distinctive products

Without images of the products on sale it is hard to be sure how the design and workmanship of quilted petticoats varied between retailers, or even within the range sold by a single merchant. The Old Bailey descriptions of stolen petticoats refer mostly to wool fabrics in dark colours, or from the 1770s onwards to undyed cotton. Both these choices would be hard wearing and relatively inexpensive; it is likely that they were stitched in simple grids or wave patterns for speed and cheapness. Unfortunately these do not survive; all the examples in British and North American museum collections are faced with pale coloured silk satin.[1] These silk petticoats do reveal different standards of workmanship; most are worked in widely spaced stitches with motifs of stylised flowers or filled diamonds, placed around the hem where they would be most visible. A small group of surviving petticoats, two with matching gowns, stand out for their distinctive technique combining wadded and corded quilting and elaborate patterning of scrolls and feathers extending over the surface of the garment.[2] These are similar enough in design and workmanship to be from the same workshop, presumably one that catered to elite consumers. This kind of workshop is implied in the affirmation of a quilter in September 1782 that: ‘I quilted this petticoat for Messrs. Boucher and Alderson … I have quilted several, but never for any body else.’ (ROB t17820911-12)

CP566 0004

Fig. 4. A cream silk petticoat worked in a distinctive combination of wadded and corded quilting, one of a number attributed to the same London workshop. British, 1750-70c. 2009.300.894 © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Conclusion

This case study of quilted petticoats has indicated the many different ways that the Old Bailey papers can illuminate the history of retailing practice, from subcontracting manufacture to semi-skilled outworkers, to methods of displaying stock, to the protracted bargaining that was an expected precursor to the final purchase. They provide a means of evaluating the values placed on goods, and the steps taken to secure them. As the database stretches from the 1690s to the 1913, it could also be used to clarify the dates when new types of goods were introduced and when they  fade from use – or become so old-fashioned that they are no longer worth stealing.

References

[1] Clare Rose, ‘Textiles and Texts: Sources for studying 18th Century Quilted Petticoats’ in Sabine de Günther & Phillipp Zitzlsperger (eds.) Signs and Symbols – Dress at the Intersection between Image and Realia (Munchen: De Gruyter, 2017), pp. 89-114.

[2] Clare Rose, ‘Boutis de Londres: Marseilles quilting and its imitations in 18th-century London’, CIETA Bulletin vol. 76, 1999, pp. 104-113.


Clare Rose is a dress historian whose work frames object-based research with analyses of archives such as the Proceedings of the Old Bailey and the Stationers’ Hall Archive. She has published extensively on quilted goods, on children’s clothing, and on fashion before 1920. Her monthly blog on the French fashion industry during World War I is available at – www.clarerosehistory.com

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2018 Conference blogs: Eighteenth–Century Upholders as Appraisers and Brokers

Steve Sanders, Oxford Brookes University

Eighteenth–Century Upholders as Appraisers and Brokers

Campbell and T. Waller’s apprenticeship advice books, both published in 1747, recognized that appraisers and brokers of household goods were generally associated with upholders. Because they took an oath to do justice between each party, they were called ‘sworn’ appraisers and brokers.[1] Upholders were providers of the goods needed to ‘fit out’ a residential interior. They were upholsterers and furniture-makers, and they manufactured and assembled much of what they sold. After 1760, many upholders changed their business model by adding service-oriented business lines. These new businesses included appraising and brokering used household goods.

It might be assumed that used household goods were not in high demand, but there were vibrant markets for used furniture and household goods.[2] For example, purchasing second-hand furniture was an alternative to purchasing new and fashionable furniture from the expensive West End dealers, the less costly East End manufacturers, or from the dishonourable trade.[3] For example, the replacement of walnut and older oak furniture by new and fashionable mahogany furniture created a surplus of used furniture. Subsequent changes in style and fashion further increased the supply of used furniture.[4]

Where did the demand come from? The ‘middling sort’ could be practical in their consumption. If a family needed a table, for instance, it could have been a utility purchase, rather than a conspicuous or fashionable purchase. By purchasing second-hand furniture, a consumer could save money, obtain quality, and, sometimes, have an item that could be sold later for nearly the same price.[5]

Brokers were legally regulated through Parliament from 1603, when an act gave the City of London oversight of brokers.[6] Parliament passed additional acts regulating brokers at the turn of the eighteenth century. The number of brokers was limited to a maximum of 100, with twelve additional licenses allowed for those unable to take up a City freedom.[7] In 1708, the City authorized the issue of twelve additional broker licenses for Protestant refugees. A rule was established that licensed brokers had to provide a £500 bond, along with a £250 surety from a second party.[8] The initial capital outlay for the £500 broker bond was a sizeable amount, about £1.5 million in value today.[9] Brokers were issued a numbered medal with their name on it, which could be sold and transferred for between £800 and 1,500.[10] The fact that medals sold for a premium in the secondary market indicated that being a broker could be a lucrative business. Wearing a broker medal may have been a status indicator.

Although Campbell indicated that sworn appraisers and sworn brokers were the essentially the same, there were differences.[11] Brokers were paid on a commission basis for their services. Appraisers were paid according to established fees, rather than on a commission basis. Their sworn duty was to give a fair value of stock in trade or merchandise, usually stating it on a gross amount basis, rather than on an item-by-item basis. Upholders who were appraisers were qualified to value household goods, both new and used. Death and debt were primary reasons for requiring an appraisal, along with the purchase of property insurance. However, the valuations appraisers gave were often skewed lower because they could be compelled by the owner to purchase items at their appraised value.[12]

Upholders wanting to participate in the appraising and brokering businesses on a large scale were financially dependant on the ability to afford the sworn broker bond and associated costs, but it is naïve to believe that unlicensed general upholders did not occasionally sell items on consignment. The Index to Brokers’ Bonds and the Broker Sureties held at London Metropolitan Archives lists sixty-two upholders who posted a broker bond and/or a broker surety in the eighteenth century.[13]  An analysis of these upholders found the majority of them were admitted as sworn brokers during the last four decades of the century.

Many London upholders sought out new opportunities to make more money by entering non-traditional business lines after 1760, including the appraising and brokering of household goods. One characteristic of London’s eighteenth–century consumers was that they wanted choices in how to spend their money. Upholding was one trade that met this demand.

References

[1] R. Campbell, The London Tradesman (London: T. Gardner, 1747), 175; T. Waller, A general description of all trades, digested in alphabetical order: by which parents, guardians, and trustees, may make choice of trades agreeable to the capacity, education, inclination, strength, and fortune of the youth (London: Printed at Crown and Mitre, 1747), 4-5.

[2] Jon Stobart and Illia Van Damme, “Introduction” in Modernity and the Second-Hand Trade: European Consumption Cultures and Practices, 17001900, Jon Stobart and Ilja Van Damme, eds. (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010), 4–6.

[3] J.L Oliver, The Development and Structure of the Furniture Industry (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1966), 4. Pat Kirkham, The London Furniture Trade 1700–1870 (Leeds: Furniture History Society, 1988), 76–8.

[4] Michael Snodin and John Styles, Design & the Decorative Arts: Georgian Britain 1714–1837 (London: V&A Publications, 2004), 44–53, 78–9, 145.

[5] Clive Edwards and Margaret Ponsonby, “Polarization of the Second-Hand Market for Furniture in the Nineteenth Century” in Modernity and the Second-Hand Trade, 93–5.

[6] John Raithby, ed. The Statues at Large of England and of GreatBritain: From Magna Carta to the Union of the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland (London: Eyre and Strahan, 1811) Vol. IV, 612-15.

[7] Danny Pickering, The Statutes at Large from the Eighth Year of King William III to the Second Year of Queen Anne (London: Joseph Benthan, 1864) Vol. X, 112.

[8] London Metropolitan Archives, Sworn Broker Archives.

[9] This calculation is based on the economic status value method and estimates the value of £500 from 1708 (when Parliament established the bond requirement) to 2016. Lawrence H. Officer and Samuel H. Williamson, “Five Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a UK Pound Amount, 1270 to Present,” MeasuringWorth, 2016. https://www.measuringworth.com/ukcompare/index.php (accessed 3 June 2016).

[10] Joshua Montefiore, A Commercial Dictionary: Containing the Present State of Mercantile Law, Practice, and Custom (London: for the author, 1803), BRO.

[11] Campbell, The London Tradesman, 175.

[12] Montefiore, A Commercial Dictionary, APP.

[13] London Metropolitan Archives, City of London. Reference Code: COL/BR/02/074-075. Index to Brokers’ Bonds A-H and I-Z and COL/BR05. Broker Sureties 1752-1813.


Steve Sanders is a late-stage PhD student at Oxford Brookes University. The title of his research is ‘The Upholder During the Age of Thomas Chippendale’. Among his British eighteenth-century research interests are livery companies, furniture and decorative art, and retailing and distribution practices.

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2018 Conference blogs – Defining ‘Traders’ in Bankruptcy Proceedings, 1700-1750

Aidan Collins, University of York

Defining ‘Traders’ in Bankruptcy Proceedings, 1700-1750

In 1571, a rather curious provision was entered into English law which attempted to restrict the scope of bankruptcy to certain trades or professions. Commonly known as the ‘trading distinction’, the wording of the statute is worth quoting at length, as bankruptcy only applied to any person, ‘exercising the Trade of Merchandize by way of Bargaining, Exchange, Rechange, Bartry, Chevisance, or otherwise, in Gross or by Retail …  or seeking his or her Trade of Living by Buying and Selling’.[1] On the surface, the wording of this act seems slightly unusual, as every person would have been engaged in an act of ‘Merchandize’ – put simply, everyone buys and while perhaps less frequently, everyone sells in one form or another. However, this provision remained in English law for nearly 300 years, until bankruptcy became applicable to ‘all debtors, whether traders or not’ in 1861.[2] So why was this trading distinction created? And how was this broad definition interpreted prior to the nineteenth century?

In order to answer these questions, our focus must turn to contemporary attitudes towards debt — and particularly credit — in relation to trade. The trading distinction was built upon the assumption that only overseas traders were liable to the sorts of losses, and used the sorts of credit, that the law sort sought to deal with. In this manner, the jurisdiction of bankruptcy was intended to be kept away from the landowning community and limited only to the business world. Perhaps an oversimplified categorisation of a sixteenth-century trader would be any person who was engaged in manufacturing, or the buying and selling of goods on a self-employed basis. In contrast, a non-trader would be any person in employment, engaged in a recognised profession, or occupying the position of landowner or farmer.

However, as we move through the seventeenth century, such distinctions were very hard to maintain and implement in a consistent manner, not least because of the way in which the economy changed and developed during this period. In 1600, if credit was used mostly by merchants, then by 1700 it was widely accepted that credit was vital to all businesses, not to mention being used extensively at home as well. With no legislation being passed that explicitly addressed this issue, judges and lawyers were compelled to work towards their own definitions of a trader. In so doing, much of their attention focused on the particular nature of buying and the particular purpose of selling. For example, one rule stated that you could not be classified as a trader if you did not buy the materials you used. This point can clearly be applied to farmers and landowners who sold the goods they made on their estate, and it was accepted throughout this period that farmers were categorically outside of the jurisdiction of bankruptcy.

Yet, despite attempts by legal experts to try to define and categorise a trader, litigation throughout the eighteenth century demonstrates just how complex this issue had become. One such example can be found from a case entered in the Court of Chancery in 1724.[3] In Hope v Salmon, the suit centres around the occupation of the bankrupt and named defendant John Sabb, who described himself as a yeoman, from Maidstone, Kent. As a prominent farmer, Sabb should have been outside the jurisdiction of bankruptcy. But what is interesting in this suit, is the manner in which the opposing parties attempted to manipulate Sabb’s day-to-day activities for their own benefit. Broadly speaking, as the major creditors, the plaintiffs argued that Sabb was not simply a farmer, but got his principal living through the buying and selling of hops. John Swinnock suggested that Sabb was an ‘esteemed’ dealer in hops, while Samuel Webb claimed Sabb bought and sold hops, ‘by which method he got his Livelyhood’.[4] In contrast, the defendants stated that Sabb had been brought up and educated as a farmer and continued to make his living through the standard activities of a farmer: he rented out several acres of his land, kept cows and sold their milk, and employed a team to work his land and sell a variety of goods, such as corn and hops, at Maidstone market. What is clear from this case, is that the plaintiffs are trying to persuade the court that Sabb was not simply a farmer, but got his principal living through buying and selling, and therefore should be considered a trader within the true intent and meaning of the statutes. Obviously, on the opposing side, Sabb and the other defendants are trying to explain to the court that, as a prominent land owner and farmer, it is clear that Sabb cannot be declared a bankrupt as he is engaged in an occupation that has always been excluded as a non-trader.

This is just one example taken from a range of suits in which the scope, jurisdiction and procedure of bankruptcy are examined in the Court of Chancery. Taken in isolation, these suits give us an insight into the way in which individuals dealt with specific issues and attempted to circumnavigate problems within the bankruptcy process by manipulating the legal system for their own benefit. Taken collectively, they demonstrate that the ideals established by legal experts did not always conform neatly to the practical realties of day-to-day experience. What becomes clear, is that the trading distinction and its subsequent interpretation was far too complex to simply be reduced to a list of acceptable and unacceptable occupations. Even an occupation such as farming — which was excluded almost as an intention of the earliest bankruptcy statutes — contained specific working activities that by the eighteenth century, many considered to be a staple and important part of trade.

References

[1] 13 Elizabeth I c 7 (1571).

[2] 24 & 25 Victoria CXXXIV.

[3] TNA, C 11/2774/6, Hope v Salmon (1724).

[4] Ibid., deposition of John Swinnock and Samuel Webb.


Aidan Collins is a third year PhD student at the University of York interested in all aspects of the credit-based economy across the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His research explores bankruptcy proceedings at different stages of the legal process within Chancery to illuminate social and cultural aspects of financial failure during this period.

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2018 Conference blogs – The Life and Times of 54-56 Fossgate, York

Phil Lyon, Umeå University, Sweden and Dave Kinney, dkimaging.co.uk

The Life and Times of 54-56 Fossgate, York

Introduction

Numbers 54, 55 and 56 Fossgate were for many years the trading premises of the York Army and Navy Stores. The buildings housing the store were much older (c. 1796) with 55 and 56 Grade II listed and 54 listed Grade II* (Historic England, n.d.). The business had started out further down the Fossgate in 1919 and closed in July 2012 with the retirement of the youngest of the original shopkeeper’s grandsons – David Storey (DS). In the final few days of trading we were able to photograph the shop and storage areas, and to talk with the current owner to reflect on the loss of a local landmark.1

SAMSUNG

In the aftermath of the First World War there had been a flourishing trade selling the tons of army surplus – one of the less-heralded peace dividends.2 The shop had originally serviced the needs of working people – boots, coats, headwear and overalls – in the factories, kitchens and building sites of the town, and the fields of surrounding areas. Items designed and made for military purposes were practical and often of superior quality. New or used, and usually cheap, this was workwear at its best. The business did well, expanded into 54-56 Fossgate. Over the years, it continued to thrive with the army surplus that was abundant once more after the Second World War. As the years went by, the family established branches in Redcar and Scarborough. However, these coastal shops eventually closed as market conditions changed.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the austerity that kept demand alive for affordable workwear slowly gave way to a relative affluence where leisure requirements were also important. Supplies of hiking and camping equipment were a logical development. However, a more innovative venture was the use of surplus RAF oxygen tanks for the leisure diving market. The offshoot store in Scarborough sold flippers, masks, wetsuits and tanks to meet a demand that few other retailers addressed: ‘Me and my brother did a lot of scuba diving and spear fishing … and we were in on that in the very early days … because that was just coming in. The early scuba tanks were out of World War Two bombers, you know the big air cylinders that used to … oxygen … and the thing then was there was nobody who sold it … we ended up mixing stuff, selling flippers and masks, snorkels and their cylinders and such and everything that goes with it … and that went on for quite a few years … 5 or 6 years’. (DS interview) With the growth of leisure activities there had been a successful exploitation of new opportunities but, in later decades, it had been harder to compete.

By 2012, retail prospects had changed rather more than the premises at 54-56 Fossgate. Two of the shop fronts dated to the 1950s and the third was older. In fact, the relatively unchanged nature of the premises was both an asset and a liability. Shop window display, counter service, and the associated storage of most goods in drawers and on shelves was a lingering reminder of what had been commonplace when the business started, and not uncommon even in the 1970s. The popular ITV television series Heartbeat (IMDB, 2018), set in the 1960s, used the shop for filming in 2002 because it offered a period setting for one episode (The Press, 2002). Similarly, some customers enjoyed the authentically old-fashioned retail experience. ‘We could have modernized, but we kept the museum effect because the tourists like it and customers like it. A lot of people have told us not to change it, he said’ (The Press, 2012).

Two

Although nostalgia can be effective both as a marketing strategy and a distinguishing feature for some retailers, it is not a panacea. Circumstances were changing for the practical everyday retailing that had made the shop successful. ‘The trading in the town has dropped dramatically over the years. I mean I’ve seen it. We’ve got quite a lot of tourists in, but they don’t really spend anything. These out-of-town places, they’re giving me a real bashing’ (DS Interview).

SAMSUNG

Four

Five

Behind the Scenes

Supporting the counter-based retail areas had been the largely-unchanged upstairs rooms. Where there had once been three separate premises, there was now a continuous link between the upper stories of 54, 55 and 56 Fossgate. Storage, there and in the cellars, was important because retail display space was limited and some items were seasonal so needed to be brought out or put away as circumstances demanded.

SAMSUNG

 

Seven

SAMSUNG

The emphasis in these ‘backstage’ areas was utility and shelving was often made from whatever was available – a trend that went back to the original owner who at one time had described himself as a joiner. ‘I mean he never served any time; his joinery work is still … in evidence … and I don’t think he’d have made a living as a joiner’ (DS interview).

SAMSUNG

Eleven

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FourteenFifteen

Props

After so many years of trading, several display items had been put by for potential advertising use at some future date – even if that was never realized.

Sixteen

SAMSUNG

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

SAMSUNG

Short term and long term perspectives

The York Army & Navy Stores had been a successful supplier of workwear over the years but that market changed with the decline of manufacturing jobs, health and safety legislation, and direct competition from manufacturers for end-user sales. Reduced footfall along the Fossgate and the attractions of out-of-town and online shopping were additional problems. With the imminent retirement of the youngest grandson as catalyst, the business was closing in 2012. In spite of the difficult trading conditions, there were hopes of finding a clothing retailer to take over the premises but these efforts were to fail. Almost inevitably, in the eyes of local residents, a new bar and restaurant (Sutler’s) was to open there (The Press, 2014, 2015a). It is easy to understand and sympathize with adverse local reactions (The Press, 2015b). Something familiar, even if little used, was to be lost. The question of what 54-56 Fossgate was to become took longer to answer and, reflecting changed times, it was to become Sutler’s bar/restaurant. Some questioned the need for more bars and restaurants on a street where such ventures were already well represented.

However, even with a 93 year old business, such adverse reactions represent the perspective from a single point in history. Over time, the premises at 54-56 Fossgate had actually been the home to many different enterprises – including being part of a substantial local property portfolio and indications that rooms above one of the shops were let out.

Table 1 – Timeline for 54, 55 and 56 Fossgate

Tables 2 and 3 – Newspaper advertisements placed by occupants of 54 Fossgate and Newspaper reports of Fossgate property sales

In the public announcement of closure, there were voices of concern about the number of bars, cafés and restaurants already in the area but adapting to consumer markets that emerge has been part of a continuous cycle for these premises for more than 200 years. Undoubtedly there would have been some adverse reactions to any of those changes of use in earlier decades. However, there is a twist in this change of use from shop to bar/restaurant.

In this closure, it is not simply the replacement of one enterprise with another. Quite starkly, we see different representations of the past – from the simply old-fashioned, a survival of the past into the present, to the re-imagined past – ‘involving as it does a contemporary orientation towards the past rather than just the survival of old things’ (Wright, 1985, 229). The new bar/restaurant, Sutler’s, contrived to look old and well-established in the 54-56 Fossgate premises – much older than the shop fronts it replaced. The new bar/restaurant façade could be Victorian but the interior was anachronously described as being themed on the 1920s and 1930s. The original counter and some decorative drawer fronts added a sense of indeterminate age and an imagined location. Oddly, considering the austerity of Second World War food rationing, it was reported that ‘Sutlers’ menu evokes wartime. It is designed like a ration book and has a section called Officers Mess featuring dishes such as sirloin steak, rump of lamb and Yorkshire beef, with prices from £13 to £23 for main courses’ (The Press, 2015a).

Commercial ventures had come and gone in 54, 55 and 56 Fossgate but the Army and Navy premises had been there so long it became a well-known reference point in this part of York. As David Storey said, ‘Even if we sell the shop, people will [still] say “On the Army and Navy Store’s corner” ’ (DS interview).  Perhaps that will be true while memories last but, in this transition from the genuinely old fashioned to the fashionably aged, ‘sometimes the authentic trace of history is precisely what just has to go’ (Wright, 1985, 231).

Notes:

1 In addition to the recorded interviews, photography and traditional library searches, the British Newspaper Archive (https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ ) was used to search for references to Fossgate.

2 Although stock is generically described as army surplus it is better described as military surplus. In later years most of the stock was manufactured for the retail trade.

References

Historic England (n.d.). https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1257826 (accessed 2 September 2018).

IMDB (2018). Heartbeat. URL https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101114/ (accessed 28 July 2018).

Kelly’s York Directory (1901). Available at http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/ARY/York/York1901b (accessed 23 April 2018).

Pigot’s Directory York (1829). Available at http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/ARY/York/York29Dry (accessed 23 April 2018).

Stevens’ Directory of York and Neighbourhood (1885). London: George Stevens.

The Press (2002). Heartbeat star draws crowds. 9 July. Available at:  http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/7923858.Heartbeat_star_draws_crowds/ (accessed 2 September 2018).

The Press (2012). Army & Navy Stores up for sale after 93 years. 5 May. Available at: http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/9691041.Army___Navy_Stores_up_for_sale_after_93_years/ (accessed 2 September 2018).

The Press (2014). Famous York shop to become brasserie, bar and coffee house. 14 April. Available at: http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/11147727.Famous_York_shop_to_become_brasserie__bar_and_coffee_house/ (accessed 2 September 2018).

The Press (2015a). York’s former Army and Navy Stores transformed into new bar and restaurant. 28 March. Available at:  http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/11886860.Yorks_former_Army_and_Navy_Stores_transformed_into_new_bar_and_restaurant/ (accessed 2 September 2018).

The Press (2015b). LETTERS: York city centre doesn’t need any more bars or restaurants. 5 December.  Available at: http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/14125890.LETTERS__York_city_centre_doesn_t_need_any_more_bars_or_restaurants/ (accessed 2 September 2018).

White’s Directory of York and Neighbourhood (7th edition) (1895) Sheffield: William White Ltd.

Wright, P. (1985). On Living in an Old Country. London: Verso.


Phil Lyon is Affiliate Professor in the Department of Food and Nutrition at Umeå University in Sweden. His long-standing research interest is in food and social change and publications include the advent of food broadcasting and the early days of food journalism; the transition from small food shops to supermarkets; the historical impact of the canned food industry; current and historical discourses on cooking skills, and picnics in the 1930s.

David Kinney has been working as a professional photographer and educator for more than 20 years. In education he has taught on highly successful photography degree programmes in the UK and in Russia. Professionally, he has worked with major companies as well as small and medium size businesses with commissions ranging from jewellery and food to the commercial, industrial and architectural. Focusing on conservation of the built environment, many projects explore our architectural heritage from ancient Rome to post war modernist iconic structures. At present he works between Andalucia in Spain and the UK.

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2018 Conference blogs – Glass Blocks and the Fashion Retail Space of the 1930s and 40s

Myriam Couturier, (Ryerson and York Universities, Toronto, Canada)

Glass Blocks and the Fashion Retail Space of the 1930s and 40s

This project examines American fashion retail architecture in the 1930s and 1940s using as a starting point a specific architectural element: the glass block. Through an analysis of articles published in the influential American trade publication Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) between 1936 and 1949, I explored how glass blocks were part of a wave of building modernization – which included precise light and colour elements, as well as modern amenities such as air conditioning and escalators – that transformed the fashion retail experience during the Depression, World War II, and the immediate post-war years.

Popularized in the 1930s, glass blocks were seen as a functional and versatile way to light commercial buildings both during the day and at night. As detailed by architectural historian Gabrielle Esperdy in her book Modernizing Main Street, in 1934 the US Federal Housing Administration passed the National Housing Act, which included a “Modernize Main Street” initiative. This project insured private lenders for building improvement projects (both residential and non-residential) that would help stimulate the economy during the Depression. In the next ten years $5 billion dollars were spent, and lent, in order to revitalize existing retail spaces. Esperdy examines how shop facades in small town Main Streets across the country were renovated through this program, using glass, stainless steel and other ‘streamlined’ architectural materials, with the idea of appealing primarily to female shoppers (1). In line with Esperdy’s analysis, the WWD articles I surveyed consistently mentioned the use of glass bricks as a new, modern material for storefronts, but also as a key decorative selling point inside the stores.

Beginning in the 1910s, corporations became increasingly interested in the effects of light and colour on human perception, psychology and consumption. Ahead of the New York World’s Fair, in 1938, a WWD commentator predicted that the “subtle use of light and color may advantageously be extended throughout practically all departments of a store, as an aid in the creation of a desire for things, not because we actually need them, but because we want them for what they are.” (2) In that spirit, in the 1930s and 40s, glass blocks were often combined with stainless steel or chrome finishes, fluorescent lighting, and carefully selected colours in pink, natural, and pastel tones, to create an optimal shopping environment for women. Glass blocks were used to engineer a new kind of lighting that presented products in a flattering way, with minimal distortion of colour and design. A piece goods buyer for the Indianapolis department store Wasson’s claimed, in 1938, that glass brick lighting had increased sales of silks and rayons at the store, stating: “the department has benefited greatly from the new lighting arrangement […] Wide strips of semi-transparent glass brick, running from top to bottom of the floor, and continuous from the roof to the first floor of the building, admit much more daylight than was formerly available, send the light farther into the interior, and aid in the matching of fabrics, and the consequent increase of sales.” (3) (Fig. 1)

1

Fig. 1 – Former Wasson’s department store, Indianapolis, IN (March 2018). Author’s own photograph

It was often argued that glass bricks provided a better, softer version of daylight, one that actually enhanced the beauty of various products, from swimwear to furs. WWD constantly praised the way daylight now bathed, even flooded, these renovated shopping spaces. It is crucial to note however that this light – described variously as “a maximum daylight effect”, “direct daylight” and “natural outdoor light” – was never entirely natural, as these spaces were often precisely light conditioned. Glass bricks were commonly used in dressing rooms as well, providing flattering lighting for both garments and the body itself.

Glass blocks were useful for admitting daylight but they also served an important window display function after hours. In 1938, commenting on new colour trends in storefronts, WWD pointed out that already “[f]requent use has been made of glass blocks in decorative panels, which become effective display media when illuminated at night.” (4) Another article described how glass brick panels, combined with fluorescent lighting strips, could even reproduce the “directional effect of sunlight” at nighttime. (5) The combination of cathode and fluorescent lighting with glass brick panels was often used as a way to add dynamic, visual interest to store displays in a streamlined, cost-effective way.

One glass brick wall could act as different backdrops depending on which coloured lights were projected above or behind it. WWD often discussed glass blocks with a sense of stylish motion, describing attractive ‘ribbons of light’ dancing and floodlights ‘playing’ behind them. The journal also recalled a high-end women’s shop in Harrisburg, PA, being “illuminated by flood lights, so that behind the glass brick walls countless thousands of diamonds seemed to twinkle.” (6) In both high-end and more affordable shops, softly lit glass blocks were installed to pleasantly reconfigure the shopping space. They were used to create warm, inviting nooks and corners within stores; they also elegantly concealed things like radio-phonographs, sales booths, fitting rooms, alteration rooms and executive offices from shoppers.

Figure 2 - Glass blocks

Fig. 2 – A.N. Finn, Chief of the glass section of the US Bureau of Standards, inspects panels of glass blocks before testing, June 20, 1938. Photograph by Harris & Ewing. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2016873727/. (7)

Glass bricks provided light and a sense of openness but importantly, they also defined and closed off space. In 1937 one executive observed that glass blocks allowed shops to be well-lit, even when they were located on streets with undesirable views. Following the growing popularity of swimwear and sportswear during this period, shop décor often evoked physical activity, the outdoors, and natural landscapes – with painted murals, plants, and specific colour schemes, it helped replicate the outside world, but located it firmly within the sealed off, air conditioned comfort of the retail space. Glass blocks, used with the proper lighting, could also help recreate a variety of weather conditions. After a visit to the 1936 Chrysler Motor Car exhibition building in Austin, TX, WWD suggested that “blocks of ‘moire’ pattern, immediately have the cooling influence suggested by their icy simulation.” Paired with large deep blue mirror sheets, they gave an impression of “marine coolness.” Such techniques, the article argued, could be especially useful to fur retailers: “This adherence to the cool dark blue and the natural white glass is definitely recommended to the notice of fur manufacturers for their showrooms since they make their most important efforts in showing merchandise during the warmest months of the year.” (8)

As much as retailers tried to frame these new design touches as thoroughly modern and original, even unique to each store, they became a standardized template used all across the country, from big cities to small Midwestern towns. By 1949, one WWD author declared: “I’ve seen so much glass brick, chromium, free form tables and carpeting sections, so many intricate floral arrangements that I’ve begun to believe there isn’t a store left in Texas or Oklahoma which hasn’t been bitten by the expansion and modernization bug.” (9) Just as contemporary fashion advertised the ideas of simplifying and streamlining – in the 1930s and 40s magazines like Vogue promoted ‘restrained design,’ rational consumption, and uncomplicated (yet stylish) clothes produced at lower price points using the latest technological developments in cut and fabric (10) – WWD actively extended this discourse into the architecture of the shopping space itself. Glass blocks were a cost-effective, mass-produced tool for retailers to sell products and organize their spaces; yet, just like the fashions they displayed, they were presented as being fully modern, versatile, and functionally elegant.

References

  1. Gabrielle Esperdy, Modernizing Main Street: Architecture and Consumer Culture in the New Deal (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 3, 7, 162-63.
  2. Donald L. Pratt, “New York World’s Fair Under Microscopes Of Trend Detectors,” Women’s Wear Daily, 8 September 1938, SII12, SII13, SII24.
  3. “Well-Trained Salesforce Is Keystone Of Wasson’s Success In Selling Fabrics By The Yard,” Women’s Wear Daily, 21 February 1938, 8.
  4. “Use Of Color In Store Fronts Noteworthy Trend: Swing Toward Color,” Women’s Wear Daily, 28 December 1938, SII68.
  5. Julietta B. Kahn, “Retail Executive: Demonstrate Effect of Lights on Merchandise: Lighting to Give Seasonal Effects,” Women’s Wear Daily, 8 August 1945, 27.
  6. “The Customers’ Room,” Women’s Wear Daily, 14 March 1938, 6.
  7. Harris & Ewing, photographer. Bureau of Standards making extensive tests of glass building blocks. Washington, D.C., June 20. Hollow glass building blocks are being used more and more extensively for structural purposes when both greater light distribution and air conditioning are required. Extensive tests to determine the strength of glass block walls and their resistance to wind pressure and moisture penetration. A.N. Finn, Chief of the glass section, is inspecting some 8 x 4 feet panels before they are tested, 6/20/38. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <loc.gov/item/2016873727/>.
  8. “Texas Marches On: Color On Parade,” Women’s Wear Daily, 10 June 1936, 2, 28.
  9. “Cutting Corners,” Women’s Wear Daily, 25 October 1949, 1.
  10. See Rebecca Arnold, The American Look: Fashion, Sportswear and the Image of Women in 1930s and 1940s New York (London; New York: I.B. Tauris, 2009).

Myriam Couturier is a PhD student in the joint Communication and Culture program at Ryerson and York Universities (Toronto, Canada). Her work focuses on the relationship between fashion, gender, material, and visual culture. Her doctoral dissertation examines historical collections of twentieth-century clothing and printed fashion ephemera in Toronto, focusing on the spaces where fashion has been produced, consumed and performed in the city.

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2018 Conference blogs – BCLM: Forging Ahead: recreating a post-war Black Country high street at the Black Country Living Museum

Simon Briercliffe, Black Country Living Museum

BCLM: Forging Ahead: recreating a post-war Black Country high street at the Black Country Living Museum

Black Country Living Museum’s current Forging Ahead project is an ambitious plan to build a new 1940s-1960s town centre and industrial area at our site in Dudley, based on real lives and real stories. The research to date has thrown up numerous stories which show how architecture and material culture were formed by, and in turn informed, the everyday lives of residents in the Black Country. This post highlights the story of a record and music shop in Dudley town centre to discuss the evolution of class, gender and taste in post-war Britain.

James Stanton founded a piano-tuning business in 1870, moving swiftly into piano and harmonium sales to capitalise on burgeoning middle-class aspirations in an otherwise working-class region. Stanton opened a shop on Dudley’s Castle Street in 1895 and was well established by the time Stanton’s daughter-in-law Florence Stanton took over as director in 1932. Under the management of Jimmy Nash, they expanded into gramophones, radios and records, though they still specialised in pianos – a 1937 payment book in our collection shows the careful instalments with which a furnaceman, Harry Hobbs, saved for a piano for his son Dennis. Stanton’s was thus well-placed to serve the new prosperity of the Black Country post-World War Two, and diversified further. A team of engineers travelled the area providing after-care, and visually-impaired piano tuners were employed by the shop to tune pianos they had sold. Records for Dudley’s rock’n’roll-conscious youth and hymnbooks for its churchgoers lined the shelves, alongside pianos, other musical instruments, tape recorders, radiograms, televisions – and record players.

Stantons [Dudley pst427]

Stanton’s music shop, Castle Street, Dudley, in the early 1950s.  (c) Dudley Archives and Local History Service, Castle Street, Dudley, October 1957 pst/427.

The Black Country was one of the highest-paid manufacturing districts in the country. Its factories were turning out millions of components and consumer items, which the area’s working class were now in a position to buy. The boom industry was car components – the famous Beans foundry nearby in Tipton could produce 500 tons of castings a week – but everything from buses to washing machines were built there too. One of the firms that took advantage of this was Birmingham Sound Reproducers (BSR). Despite the name – a Black Country resident never admits to being from Birmingham – the firm was founded in a workshop on Perry Park Road, Old Hill, just four miles from Dudley, formerly used to manufacture bellows for the nailmaking industry. Its founder, Dr Daniel McDonald was an electronics expert and this came to fruition in the early 1950s when he offered his new automatic turntable changer to J. & A. Margolin Ltd. and suggested a name for their record player: the “Dansette.”

Picture1-1

1958 Dansette Major Deluxe, donated to the Black Country Living Museum in March 2018. The record player features a BSR UA8 auto-changing turntable, loaded with records purchased from Stanton’s in 1958.

Morris Margolin emigrated from Russia to London and was working as a cabinet maker when he built a record player attached to a wireless set – the first radiogram. The Dansette was in a different league though: it was affordable, portable, and immensely popular with the newly-affluent working-class teenager, and its BSR autochanger was key to its success. As Tom Perchard has noted recently they were a symbol of personal taste, from musical to aesthetic, and served to differentiate teenagers’ musical worlds from the more genteel tastes of their parents’ generation.[1] BSR soon expanded into a huge factory at Old Hill and another at Wollaston, near Stourbridge. They were a well-known employer of women on the assembly line, emphasising those blurred ties between work, home and leisure noted by Stephen Brooke.[2] Even today, it’s rare to find someone born in these towns whose mum, nan or auntie didn’t work at “the BSR” at some point. Their employability was directly related to regional and national economies, the industry of the Black Country tied up intimately with national and global cultural changes.

Although the building became tired and was replaced by a new flagship store in 1961, Stanton’s had proved highly adaptable during its tenure in Dudley. From pianos and organs, they had met a changing market and become the place to go to hear the latest 45s, and to buy the Dansette to play them on. But where pianos had been evidence of the aspiration of the working class to take on middle-class Victorian values, these record players represented the changing social status and purchasing power of the British working class. Stanton’s, BSR and the Dansette were thus emblematic of the post-Second World War Black Country, demonstrating both the changes and continuities of local cultures of work, taste and gender in the era. The record player will take pride of place in a recreated Stanton’s to explain this kind of history.

Black Country Living Museum is still searching for memories of Stanton’s in the 1950s. Please contact the Collections team on collections@bclm.com, or 0121 557 9643.

[1] Tom Perchard, ‘Technology, Listening and Historical Method: Placing Audio in the Post-War British Home’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 142, no. 2 (3 July 2017): 367–399.

[2] Stephen Brooke, ‘Gender and Working Class Identity in Britain during the 1950s’, Journal of Social History 34, no. 4 (2001): 773–95.


Simon Briercliffe is a historical researcher at Black Country Living Museum, working on the HLF-funded Forging Ahead project which aims to tell the history of the Black Country in the post-war period. He is also a doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham, researching space and Irish immigration in Victorian Wolverhampton.

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2018 Conference blogs – The Invention of a Boer Home Industries

Laura Breen (University of Huddersfield), Helen Dampier (Leeds Beckett University) and Rebecca Gill (University of Huddersfield)

The Invention of a Boer Home Industries

Our interest in the philanthropist and pacifist Emily Hobhouse (1860-1926) initially came through her extensive and fascinating collection of letters, newly deposited at the Bodleian Library (now online).  For the first year of our project, our noses were buried in the archive, rummaging through Hobhouse’s scrapbooks, her reports and her correspondence.  One of the first stories we uncovered was Hobhouse’s attempts to set up a Boer Home Industries school in South Africa after the South African War (1899-1902).  This was Hobhouse’s scheme to replenish artefacts such as blankets and rugs lost in the farm burnings, to create employment for Boer women, and “to draw together the broken threads as only one known by both sides can do, and place them in official hands to weave the web of peace” [Hobhouse to Smuts, 29 October 1917].  Spinning and weaving had no indigenous history in South Africa.  Hobhouse thus attempted to invent a heritage for the Boer people, using imported antique Swiss spinning wheels from her supporters in Geneva and Basle to do so.  Her project was quickly taken up by Boer leaders who were attempting to overcome the divisions in Boer society and were embracing cultural nationalism as part of becoming the ‘Afrikaners’.  Later the original Spinning and Weaving Schools were expanded to include lace production (the lace school was founded on the de Wet farm at Koppies, where items still exist in the retirement home there).  This was run by Lucia Starace, recruited in Italy by Hobhouse to establish the lace school (and whose family’s textile business, De Viti De Marco, is now the subject of a project by Elena Laurenzi at the University of Salento).

image001

‘Boer tweed’, HH/MCG/130. Courtesy of the  Alfred Gillett Trust

In tracking down the story of these textiles in the UK, our first calling point was Street in Somerset, where the archive of the Clark family is stored in old Clark shoe boxes and where there is preserved a natural-dye jacket belonging to Margaret Clark Gillett, Hobhouse’s assistant at the Boer Home Industries School in Philippolis.  Textile curator Judeth Saunders (also in attendance at CHORD this time) opened out the jacket to show the higgledy piggledy hand-stitched seams and the ridges on the jacket’s sleeve head which meant that Margaret Clark Gillett would always have worn this jacket slightly misaligned and ill-fitting.  This prompted the immediate question of why she would have worn such a jacket and wished to keep it.  Out of this has evolved an interest in the value of the homespun aesthetic and the politics of crafting – and it is this interest which brought us to the CHORD workshop in June this year.

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Margaret Clark Gillett Boer Home Industries jacket, HH/MCG/128. Courtesy of the Alfred Gillett Trust

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Margaret Clark Gillett Boer Home Industries jacket, detail, HH/MCG/128. Courtesy of the Alfred Gillett Trust

At the workshop we learnt from Hannah Rumball at the University of Brighton, who is working on Quaker bonnets of Elizabeth Pettipher Cash, that the Quakers had an ethics of plain dress and a tradition of refusing to wear dyed clothing, helping to make sense of the unadorned, humble textiles made by the Boer Home Industries and worn by Margaret Clark Gillett and her fellow Quakers in solidarity with Hobhouse’s ethics of production and her vision of Boer self-sufficiency and independence following the war.  The theme of the workshop – ‘Ordinary and Everyday Textiles and Dress’ –  was also illustrated by Helen Wyld in her paper on Samplers from Scotland in which she read these textiles as texts of women’s lives and the hidden history of people whose stories have not traditionally been written down.  Time and again at the workshop our attention was drawn to the ways in which textiles can be read as artefacts of social, and particularly women’s history, in ways that resonate with our own concerns to uncover the meaning of the design and production of Hobhouse’s textiles and their links to her informal politicking and her place in the cultural history of South African nationalisms.  No better symbol of this was Jan Smuts (Colonial Secretary for the independent Transvaal) overcoming the itchiness of Hobhouse’s homespun tweed to parade in public in a Home Industries suit.

We have just returned from a visit to South Africa where we were fortunate to meet textile curators AnneMarie Carelson and Sudre Havenga, and weaver and teacher Carla Wasserthal, who told us about the collections of Hobhouse textiles in the National Museum in Bloemfontein – textiles which the letters in the Clark archive in Street show had been collected by Trudi Kestell for her textile gallery at the National Museum in the 1950s.  This prompted further questions about the curatorial history of Hobhouse’s textiles, how they were exhibited and by whom, and the uses to which they were put as part of the Afrikaner nationalist project.  AnneMarie, Sudre and Carla are looking for contextual information of the type of wool used, where it was sourced, the kind of dye and the specificities of production – clues which we hope to provide from reading the letters between Margaret Clark Gillett and Hobhouse – and would welcome advice on.

These interests have come together in the next iteration of the project which will be a conference in the Spring/ Summer of 2019, on Humanitarian Arts and Crafts, held in Huddersfield in conjunction with the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (University of Manchester) and aimed at exploring how humanitarians and humanitarian organisations have favoured, and encouraged, the production of artisanal products and ‘folk’ artwork over the past 100 years and more.  We can think of no better illustration than the ethnic pieces on sale in most Oxfam shops today.

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Oxfam Shop, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, May 2018

We welcome expressions of interest to join us to explore these artefacts from anyone working in the fields of textile history, heritage or the history of humanitarianism, or currently involved in craft projects for humanitarian organisations.  We are also keen to hear about any collections of Boer Home Industries textiles still in existence in museums or private collections.

Please contact emilyhobhouseproject@gmail.com

See also:

Bodleian online catalogue of Emily Hobhouse collection

Alfred Gillett Trust

National Museum of South Africa, Bloemfontein

Elena Laurenzi project


Laura Breen is the Impact Support Officer for the School of Music, Humanities and Media at the University of Huddersfield. She works with researchers across the School to develop partnerships, projects and activities that will help to shape life beyond academia. Prior to this, Laura worked in the museums sector for many years, managing collections of social and military history and decorative and fine arts. Her doctoral thesis, which explored the link between contemporary ceramic practice, museum practice and public policy, will be published by Bloomsbury later this year. She is currently undertaking further research into craft, identity and community building.
Email: L.Breen@hud.ac.uk

Helen Dampier is based at Leeds Beckett University, UK. Her background is in South African history and her previous research projects have focused on women’s accounts of the 1899-1902 South African War, and on the letters of Olive Schreiner. As part of the Emily Hobhouse Letters Project team she is particularly interested in Hobhouse’s role as collector, editor and publisher of women’s wartime testimonies, and in the commemoration of Hobhouse in South Africa.
Email: H.Dampier@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

Rebecca Gill works on the history of humanitarianism. She is particularly interested in relief work in twentieth-century war, and in women’s activism. As part of the Emily Hobhouse project team, she is researching Hobhouse’s work in Germany following the First World War. She is based at the University of Huddersfield, UK.
Email: R.Gill@hud.ac.uk

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