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Part 18. Chintz Part Two: The Development of English Chintz

Part 18 - CHINTZ Part Two: The Development of English Chintz

In my last review I looked at some very expensive books on the history of chintz: in this review I am concentrating on four paperbacks showing the development of English chintz from 1750 to the present day. These are a lot less heavy and easier on the pocket.

My first recommendation is a tiny Victoria and Albert Museum Small Picture Book Number 22- called English Chintz; issued in conjunction with an exhibition of English chintz held in Manchester in 1955. Its aim is to trace the main trends of taste decade by decade so each textile illustrated “can be taken as typical of some dominant movement in design in its time” and to present a pictorial summary of the changing styles of English printed furnishing. Brave words for a small book!  The thirty-two chosen illustrations cover 1750-195 and are, unfortunately, black and white but dated with details of design source or designer, printer and address etc as available. All the important names are there and it works: a distillation of the best and worst of our chintzes.

The second V & A publication is English Printed Textiles, subtitled inside 1720 -1836. It is Large Picture Book Number 13, and was published in 1960. While preparing the Manchester exhibition such a considerable quantity of new material-pattern books and textiles- came to light, a more elaborate exhibition of English Chintz was held at the V&A. So English Chintz was joined by this altogether larger account. After the brief Foreword there is an excellent eight page essay: English Printed Textiles, a well written historical account of printing and design details. Then come five pages: Description of Plates, again details are as in the small picture book, and then the sixty four full page black and white illustrations. A few of the textiles are reprinted from the small book but at twice the size this becomes a much more pleasant book to study. The book ends with a one page Select Bibliography. Despite its lack of colour this is a small but essential source of information, and at under a tenner should be on all bookshelves.

My next book is also a catalogue of an exhibition, held at the V&A but in 1984: From East to West, Textiles from G.P. and J.Barker. A thick quarto paperback designed by Bridget Heal, this book is lavishly illustrated, both in colour and monochrome. Not all the textiles are illustrated, from the two hundred and fifty catalogued; fifty are shown in black and white and sixty odd in colour. Annoyingly, they are somewhat randomly placed and not always easy to locate.

Chapters are written by different experts; after a two-page Foreward by Michael Cutcliffe (grandson), Natalie Rothstein gives ussix pages of G.P.&J.Baker-a prologue charting their origins as carpet importers. Linda Parry then writes eleven (illustrated) pages on The Baker Family. Infive pages Wendy Hefford describes the provenance of their pattern books as Pattern Books and Precursors andthe following three pagechapter, The Baker Archives, develops this theme. A one page Introduction to historic textiles is the proper start of the catalogue entries, 8-81.

Having shown prize specimens from their historic collection, the catalogue becomes chronological and it is now that the book becomes such a fascinating and unique view of one firm’s view of chintz design from the end of the nineteenth century till the nineteen eighties.

Linda Parry writes about the firm beginning in eight pages of: G.P.&J. Baker-the first twenty years, followed by the catalogue entries 82-161(1894-1910). Then Francis Hinchcliffe writes twenty pages –with company photos - on G.P.& J. Baker - 1914 onward followed by the final entries 162-252(1914 -1983). A two page spread with a photo of the current staff illustrates The Baker Studio, two pages of References, and three pages of Footnotes and Acknowledgements end the book.

As there is now a gap of about fifty years between the end of the V& A English Printed Textiles and the Bakers’ beginning. this can be nicely filled, chronologically, by my next book: The Brodsworth Hall Chintz by Crosby Stevens and Mary Schoeser. In 1863 Charles Thellusson inherited Brodsworth Hall and spent over £7,000 on furnishings; the firm Lapworths of Bond Street supplied 3856 yards of chintz in nineteen designs, block and roller printed, English and French. Three of the designs were used downstairs, the rest in the bedrooms; this book is the story of their survival through changes in taste and ownership.

Lucinda Lampton wrote the Foreword, a affectionate and lively two page account of the last owner and her idiosyncrasies; it was with her death that English Heritage took over the Hall. The first author, Crosby Stevens, writes the Introduction (three pages), The 1863 chintzes of Brodsworth Hall (ten pages) and The later chintzes of Brodsworth Hall (eleven pages). These are all written in the same style: short paragraphs with bold headings, e.g. Bedrooms 11, 12 and 13; The bedroom corridor etc His pages are busy with four to six illustrations as well as text, the black and white ones are reminiscent of back copies of Country Life and the colour pictures, mostly of the chintzes, too small to see much detail. However, the last two chapters, The history of chintz (five pages) and The use of chintz (six pages) are written by Mary Schoeser, a textile expert and these are of a different calibre, with fewer but bigger illustrations and each chapter,a brief but coherent essay with notes. The book ends with a one page Further Reading and another for Glossary and Acknowledgements.

This is definitely a book of two halves but for the idea and reasonable price (forty four pages filled with colour for £6.99in 2003) we should congratulate English Heritage.


English Chintz, a V&A Small Picture Book number 22 published in London by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO) in 1955 is a small paperback and often found in the “pamphlet” box in second-hand bookshops. It is common and easily available at £2.00-£4.00, there are plenty on the Internet.

English Printed Textiles 1720-1836, a V &A Large Picture Book number 13, published by HMSO (London) in 1960 is a quarto paperback. This is also often in the pamphlet box and will cost between £6.00 and £10.00. Again, easily bought from the Internet.

From East to West, Textiles from G.P. &J. Baker, a paperback catalogue designed by Bridget Heal was published by G.P. & J.Baker Ltd (England) 1984 ISBN 0-9509296-0-3 . It is easily bought on the Internet at prices ranging from £12.50 to £35.00, no particular reason for the upper end.

The Brodsworth Hall Chintz by Crosby Stevens and Mary Schoeser was published as a paperback in 2003 by English Heritage, ISBN 1 85074 863 2. Again, it is freely available on the Internet at prices from £4.79 -£14.92., you know the original price.

© Brigid J.Ockelton. 2007

PLEASE NOTE - An indication is given of the availability and market price of the book at the time of writing and may not reflect today's availability and price. Equally, some website links may also now be out of date.