The printed textiles industry in England, 1830-1870

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Greysmith, David

Printed textiles produced for the mass-market in the 19th century have had little historical or critical attention. This has been because these products, especially from the period 1830-1870, have lacked interest for the art historian and suffered retrospectively from the reaction against mass-production which was part of the rationale of the Arts and Crafts Movement later in the century. In this thesis the structure and distribution of the industry in these years is analysed, with relevant background material. This analysis is based on a wide reading of published material, official publications, and manuscript sources, some of which has been transcribed for the first time during this research. Attention is paid to the growth of the industry, its geographical location, and the relationship between production in the north and south of England. Use is made of figures from the Census Reports, (which are tabulated), to indicate the spread of textile printing across the country. Main trends are given in investment, expansion or failure of firms, legislation regarding taxation and copyright, and attitudes of manufacturers and commentators. Salient changes in technology are described. Surviving collections of prints have been examined, notably the vast collection of designs registered from 1842, held at the Public Record Office. Details of this archive are given with an analysis of numbers of firms involved and designs registered up to 1870, the first time this has been done. Use is made of this material to challenge a number of entrenched ideas about the effects of mechanisation of the industry, on skills and craftsmanship, on standards of design and public taste, and to re-assess the quality of mass-produced printed textiles both at home and in relation to the French industry. A survey of other research relating to this subject is contained in the Preface to the Bibliography.
  • References (50)
    50 references, page 1 of 5

    1 P. Floud, English Chintz - Two Centuries of Changing Taste (1955); and English Chintz - English Printed Furnishing Fabrics from Their Origins Until the Present Day (1960). The 1960 exhibition was substantially bigger.

    2 F. M. Montgomery,Printed Textiles. English and American Cottons and Linens 1700-1850 (1970); S. D. Chapman and S. Chassagne, European Textile Printers in the Eighteenth Century (1981).

    3 P. Floud (1960), op. cit. Note 1, p. 2.

    4 A useful definition is that given by S. Levitt in 'Registered Designs: New Source Material for the Study of the Mid-Nineteenth Century Fashion Industry', Costume, Autumn (1981), 49. 'While a patent protects a completely new idea for an object, a registered design protects a new appearance of an existing one. The function of both is to allow a person to enjoy the fruits of his or her invention and industry, free from commercial competition, and thus to stimulate trade. However, while a patent gives greater protection, it is harder to obtain and more expensive than a registered design.'

    5 27 Geo. III c. 38.

    6 A. K. Longfield, 'William Kilburn and the Earliest Copyright Acts for Cotton Printing Designs', BurlingtonMagazine, xcv (1953), 230.

    7 7 Geo. I c. 7; 9 Geo. 11 c. 4; 14 Geo. III c. 72. Despite these restrictions about 50000 pieces per annum were being produced, mostly in London. See E. Potter, Calico Printing as an Art Manufacture. A Lecture Read Before the Society of Arts (1852), p. 8: 'The common import of the term Calico-Printer now, is a printer of all sorts of fabrics - calicoes, muslins, linens, silks or woollens, or the many mixed varieties, composed of different materials.' For an example of technological piracy see A. and N. Clow, The Chemical Revolution. A Contribution to Social Technology (1952), p. 224: where a Scottish printer is described whose skill was 'annually acquired by stealth from the working printers of London ... '.

    8 Longfield, op. cit. Note 6, p. 230.

    9 Report of Select Committee on the Copyright of Designs, Pari. Papers, 1840, VI, QQ 2064-2073, subsequently cited as SC 1840.

    10 Longfield, op. cit. Note 6, p. 230.

  • Metrics
    No metrics available
Share - Bookmark