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Turkey Red Frame Quilt

Made in Wigton, about 1880–1900
(Collection of Celia Eddy)

Size: 86 in. x 86 in. (218 cm x 218 cm)
General condition: good
Top fabric: cotton
Backing fabric :calico
Wadding: probably cotton
Design: centre square on point, surrounded by borders of Turkey Red alternating with cream. Borders vary from 3 in. (7.6 cm) to 5 in. (12.7 cm) in width
Construction: hand-pieced
Quilting: hand-quilted in all-over wave pattern, characteristic pattern on quilts from West Cumbria, Northern Ireland and Isle of Man
Edges: butted

History and provenance

This is one of four quilts I acquired from Mrs Oxtoby of Wigton in 2009.  Mrs Oxtoby and her family have lived in Wigton, West Cumbria, for many generations and the quilts had belonged to her mother, Mrs Smith, neé Sharp. After Mrs Smith’s death earlier in 2009, the quilts were found in a trunk in the attic when Mrs Oxtoby was clearing her mother’s house to put it on the market.

Mrs Oxtoby was able to tell me that other members of the family remembered the quilts and believed that they had been made by two sisters whose family had a close friendship with the Sharps. It is thought that the quilts came into the possession of the Sharp family as a gift. The sisters, neither of whom married, were Sarah and Mary Eliza McMechan. Their father, Thomas McMechan, was the founder of the Wigton Advertiser newspaper and rose to become one of Wigton’s leading citizens. Among many other civic duties, he had the distinction of leading the deputation which welcomed Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins to Wigton in 1857. After his death in 1914, the Wigton Advertiser was published by his two daughters and, on their retirement, by two long-term employees, theWilson brothers. It ran until 1941, when the Second World War brought paper shortages and severe restrictions.

Evidence for the close friendship between the Sharps and the McMechan sisters is in the will of Mary Eliza, who died in 1959, in which she bequeathed legacies to Henry Sharp (Mrs Oxtoby’s maternal grandfather) and his two children.

© CME 2012