William Morris designs from Wast Hills

Rose Chintz, 1883 designed by William Morris

During August 2011, collections volunteers at Museums Worcestershire have been working on part of a small collection of William Morris carpet and fabric that has been in store since the 1960s. The collection came, along with arts and crafts furniture and photographs, from the Cadbury family house at Wast Hills near Kings Norton.

From late October 2011 an exhibition called Elegant Edwardians will take place at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum and the fabric and curtains which formed part of the new decoration of Wast Hills in the Edwardian period, will feature.

Two patterns of printed fabric have been selected. Curtains made in the golden lily design and another pair in the chintz rose design. The golden lily pattern was designed by John Henry Dearle in 1899 for Morris and Co whilst the chintz rose pattern was designed by Morris himself in 1883. Both fabrics have been made into curtains in the early years of the twentieth century to furnish the Cadbury house. The chintz rose curtains are modestly made without folds or linings ,whilst the golden lily curtains are made without linings but instead with double fabric stitched together reverse to reverse so that the curtains looked as good from the back as from the front. This style of curtain certainly looks very attractive but would have required a large amount of fabric in their manufacture.

Golden Lily pattern, 1899 designed by John Henry Dearle for Morris & Co

The carpet that has been selected is a corner sample of the artichoke design. The carpet is a machine woven 3-ply woollen Kidderminster type made by the Heckmondwike Manufacturing Company. The pattern was designed by Morris in the 1870s. This carpet sample, again from Wast Hills, demonstrates how this carpet has been constructed into a rug. The carpet was manufactured in widths measuring 27 inches and these have been hand stitched together to construct a carpet large enough to cover the floor. The body of the carpet has been edged with a border, hand stitched on the reverse.Whoever made this carpet has embroidered the letter A onto the reverse by way of a signature.

Artichoke pattern, 1870s designed by William Morris

The carpet was both dirty and suffering from mould growth. It was vacuumed very slowly and carefully using a museum vac with a piece of fabric covering the nozzle to ensure that no threads were pulled by the suction from the vac. The entire carpet has been very carefully cleaned using cotton buds and cooled boiled water. Its future storage is now crucial to ensure that the mould growth is not encouraged. The carpet will be kept in dry conditions and checked regularly during its  display and storage over the next few months.

The golden lily and rose chintz curtain fabric have fared better and have been thoroughly cleaned using the same technique with a museum vac.

All those involved; staff and volunteers, have been thrilled to work on such beautiful collection and it is hoped that our visitors will enjoy seeing the fabric and carpet in the Elegant Edwardians Exhibition that opens at the end of October 2011.

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