Collection Focus: The Wellington Quilt

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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.

The Wellington Quilt, 1834, The Quilters’ Guild Museum Collection.

This stunning triangle patchwork frame quilt is an impressive example of vibrantly coloured printed cotton patchwork with a beautiful quilting design. The central block printed commemorative panel, which celebrates the Duke of Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, is one of several designs that were popular in the 1810s and 20s. There are 844 triangles in this piece which showcase 252 different fabrics, dating from the 1820s and 1830s. In the centre of the quilt, the intricate framed hand-quilted design reveals a quilted date – 1834 – which is hard to see from the front and only becomes apparent when you examine the plain Irish linen backing fabric.

The Wellington Quilt, 1834, The Quilters’ Guild Museum Collection.

The beauty of the printed fabrics and central panel make this quilt a visual feast, and they have retained their colour and vibrancy despite being up to 200 years old. There are pieces made from the latest dyeing techniques of the age, including examples of manganese brown and yellow, Prussian Blue, copper green, Cochineal pink and red and blue lapis prints. Some of these dyes were not fast to washing when used on cotton, so the fact they remain so strong in this piece shows it can’t have been used or laundered a great deal. Even the Irish linen reverse holds some interest in the two manufacturing stamps printed in brown, showing the company of ‘Edward Shannon, Colerain’. The symbol, which has a harp in the centre, the name of the bleacher and a crown on the top, indicates it is an official Linen Board seal.

The associated provenance with the quilt suggested that it was made by a sister of Jemima Puddicombe (née Phare), who was born in 1836. Jemima was the second youngest of 5 sisters, who were all born between 1830 and 1839, to parents John and Mary Phare, who moved between Sussex and Devon. It was always presumed by the family that the panel commemorated the death of Wellington, placing the production of the piece in the late 1850s, fitting in well with the sisters’ births. However, knowing the quilting dates the piece to 1834, and the fabrics support this date, this places its completion too early for it be their handiwork, suggesting we needed to look a generation further back. It is possible it was made by her mother, Mary and later passed down to her daughters. The fabrics are good quality, and John’s position as an Inland Revenue Officer must have meant the family would have been able to afford decent fabrics. Mary was originally from Devon, which would account for her knowledge of quilting and her framed design approach which is seen on other quilted examples in our collection from around that age that also originate from that part of the country.

If you like The Wellington Quilt, why not visit QShop to take a look at our exclusive products inspired by this historic quilt?

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The Quilters’ Guild Museum Collection is sponsored by Bernina, UK

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