Sunday, February 16, 2014

Antique textiles: History of English carpets

The history of English carpets is surely not as rich and old as the Asian, but you can still find some of the facts fascinating. English rugs were not produced until the late 16th century and early 17th century. Main centers for production were located in Axminster, Wilton, and Kidderminster. Distinctive patterns on these antique rugs include deep golden coloration and asymmetrical designs. This was the first place to specialize in new innovative forms of weaving, so people started to call it the carpet capital of Britain. The first steam powered carpet mill was called Stourvale Mill and was build in the early 1850s by Henry Woodward. He and Benjamin Grosvenor, who joined later, operated the mill for a first time. The firm called Grosvenor Wilton Company Ltd. is still a major weaver of Brussels and Wilton carpers with 200 years in business and over 10 000 patents.

But let's take a closer look on the various carpets, which made this historical company. They are marked as the "Stourvale Mill Collection".

Kidderminster carpets

Carpet weaving in England was now flourishing and around this time Kidderminster was also beginning to become a center for carpet making. The town had had a weaving industry since the 16th century and Kidderminster carpets are mentioned as early as 1635 in an inventory of a bedchamber of a Lady Lettice, though the precise meaning of the word cannot be clear. 

These rugs were popular from the 18th to 20th century and are actually reversible flat weave carpets. They have no pile and the pattern shows opposing colors on both sides. In fact, you can turn the carpet over and still use it once the original side is soiled or worn. Nowadays you can't find these in the town of Kidderminster, but still in some parts of the US you can purchase them. In North America however they are called Ingrain carpets. 

On August 13 1783 George the 3rd and the Queen had visited the Factory, which had resulted in a flood of orders. The Crown Prince, later George the 4th, order several carpets, including one for the Throne Room at Carlton House.

Brussels and Wilton carpets

In 1751 Richard Po Cocke, in his Travels through England, mentions that the town was famous for carpets and by 1800 the carpet industry had become the town's major employer, although the trade was threatened by the Earl of Pembroke's Wilton Carpet Manufactory. It is known that one manufacturer, John Broom, went to Brussels and Tournai to learn the new techniques, although only two of the many original firms were to survive the technical innovations of the Industrial Revolution later in the century. In 1760 the Royal Society held an exhibition in their Great Room for a fortnight, showing two carpets from each of their leading premium winners-Whitty, Moore and Passavant. Whitty wrote of his success "These repeated successes so advanced the reputation of my carpets, that I had a constant and almost uninterrupted demand for many years."

These rugs are still part of the production in the town of Kidderminster, but in very small quantities. However, in the early days on the company these carpets were a major product. Anyway, the Brussels are level loop rugs, where the wool not exposed as pile is carried in dense backing. In a single row 5 colors can be used and they are drawn to the surface. With a crafty technique of "planting the colors", many more accent colors can be added to the design. As for Wilton carpets, they have the same structure as Brussels with just one difference. The pile is cut open and sheared, which creates a velvet-like quality. In the 18th to 19th century the Wilton rugs cost nearly double the price of Brussels. However, the Brussels were considered the by wealthiest homeowners as the highest luxury of carpets. This trend continued to the mid 19th century, when many new models came on the market and Brussels became common type of rug. 

If you are fan of retro carpets, then you probably have one of these beauties. Anyway, make sure to treat them right and preserve history. The best choice that you can take is professional service or advice and you look for reliable carpet cleaning agency. Any experienced cleaners specialized in old rug treatment will surely help you.


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