We are looking forward to celebrating the 2021 Festival of Quilts by showcasing our forthcoming exhibition ‘Quilts and their makers’, taking 10 historic quilts and 10 pieces from our contemporary works. Newsletter readers can take a sneak peek in advance, as over the coming months we explore the variety and skill of our makers both past and present, and celebrate their creativity in a selection of the quilts which will be on display.
This interesting double Irish Chain patchwork is made from a variety of cotton dress prints with Turkey Red squares used for the central block, creating a red square on point. In the centre of the quilt is the embroidered name and details of the maker ‘Betsy Jane Cope, Hunmanby, Aged 13’. The reverse of the quilt looks to be a more recent fabric, and it is possible that the quilt was re-backed at a later point in the mid-20th century.
Betsy Jane Cope was born in 1859, meaning her 13th year, and the year of this quilt’s completion was 1872. Betsy’s father was a blacksmith and she had three sisters and one brother. Betsy’s older sister, Esther Emma Cope, was married in 1872 to Charles Reynolds Junior, son of Charles Reynolds Senior, who owned the most impressive house in Hunmanby, known as Batsworth House or ‘The Villa’. This grand house was built by Charles Reynolds himself, and featured a generous bay window, a conservatory on the front of the house, and chimney pots with hexagonal and diamond patterning. Charles and his father were both grocers and drapers, but had built up their wealth and social standing through their successful business. At the time of Esther and Charles’ wedding, Charles Senior was listed as a gentleman in the wedding certificate – a contrast to Esther’s occupation as a domestic servant and her father’s profession as a blacksmith.
This piece was conserved with a with fine conservation net by one of our conservation volunteers in 2019 to allow display, as many of the brown cotton prints were showing signs of deterioration. This fine netting stabilises the piece without detracting from the original fabrics, and allows the quilt to be handled and exhibited safely, preventing any further deterioration.