1840s

B3. Colourings of printed delaine patterns by Swaisland for Ovington & Warwick, around 1840.
From the mid-1830s to the 1850s, Swaisland produced many “colourings” books to record the different colours used to print particular patterns, assigning a letter A,B, C... to each new colouring. This aided in communication with clients; the best-selling colourways could be ordered by specifying the letter code thus reducing the chance for errors due to the vagueness of colour names. We can see here that different colourings might be based on changing only one element of the pattern, say the stem, or the veining in tulip. With the development of steam colours in the 1840s, more and more choice in colour combination was possible, and some patterns were offered in as many as twenty colourings.
Ovington & Warwick were wholesale warehousemen located at 137 Cheapside, dealing largely in wool fabrics and shawls. The partnership was formed in May 1831 when John Wilkinson retired out of a prior partnership of Thomas Ovington, John Wilkinson and Charles Warwick (London Gazette, 10 May 1831, p.904). Swaisland printed for the firm from the early 1830s until the closure of the business. By 1840, Thomas Ovington and Charles Warwick were joined by younger members of the Ovington family Thomas Gibson Ovington and Michael Ovington. But in July 1846, the four men advertised the dissolution of the partnership without announcing whether the firm would be continued. Not long afterward there was a fire in the firm’s warehouse. The London Daily News of 24 October 1846 reported: Fires.- At a shawl warehouse in Cheapside: ‘The building in question is of considerable magnitude, extending backwards to Gutter-lane, and is the property of Messrs Ovington, Warwick and Ovington… After some time the fire was extinguished. The stock was not all damaged by water, but it is doubtful whether it is not injured by smoke and heat… The contents of the premises were insured in the Sun, Atlas, Norwich Union, County, and West of England offices.’

B4. A page of textural patterns from Adolphe Braun’s Materiaux, 1842
Adolphe Braun (1812-1877) was of Alsatian origins, and after completing an artistic training in Paris, he settled in Mulhouse where he worked as a designer for the textile printer Dollfus Meig et Cie. He eventually became head of the Dollfus design studio. In order to improve reference material for designers, he published an album of 31 lithograph plates in 1842. This was entitled Receuil de dessins servant de Materiaux destinées à l’usage des fabriques d’étoffes, porcelains, papiers peints, etc. [Album of drawings to serve as material for the use of manufacturers of textiles, porcelain, wallpaper, etc.], or Materiaux, for short. Many plates are laid out in nine small panels showing leaf forms, seaweed or textures drawn from nature with such great precision that they suggest photographs, especially since they are drawn in tones of black and white. The daguerreotype had been invented in 1839 and it may have been the new medium of photography that suggested the idea to Braun of drawing this type of source material.
In 1848, Braun established his own studio that was eventually to employ over 40 designers. The Braun studio sold designs largely to the British calico printers Butterworth & Brooks, and James Black. From 1855, Braun concentrated mainly on photography, and it is as a photographer that he is best known today.

B5. Swaisland designs after Braun’s Materiaux, around 1845 to 1850
Braun’s Materiaux was purchased by Swaisland soon after it was published, and there are signs that the album was heavily used. There are many Swaisland designs of the 1840s that can trace their origin to Braun’s plates. On this page of a Swaisland design album can be seen patterns with feathery and dotted textures similar to those found in Braun’s plate no. 27. But here the designer has arranged the textures in alternating stripes, and created a short pattern repeat in the height that would be suited to roller printing. The designer has also, of course, added colour.
The transformation from Braun’s textural plate to repeat pattern seems simple once we see it done, but in fact it was difficult to achieve a deisgn that would print evenly across the cloth, without drawing the eye toward any one point or points in the pattern.

9. Memorandum on David Evans’s method of steaming in 1844
Manufacturers sometimes resorted to using industrial spies in order to keep up to date, but quite often technical information was traded. Here, Swaisland probably co-operated with his Crayford neighbour, David Evans, in order to get details of a process that couldn’t be obtained through simple observation. Steam colours had been around since the 1820s, but wider ranges of colour were being developed in the 1840s. With these colours, the dye and mordant are mixed together before printing, and the printed cloth is steamed to bond them to each other and to the cloth. The steam method saved many steps in processing, as well as allowing unrelated colours like red and blue to be printed at the same time. Steaming was faster than ageing, but there was a danger of staining from one colour off-setting onto another, or through drops of condensation falling onto the printed cloth during the steaming process. The method used by David Evans was to interleave the printed fabrics with calico to prevent off-setting, and to sew them into flannel bags with a thick blanket over the top to prevent drips falling onto them. This memorandum shows that calico printers did not always act competitively, but could share knowledge for mutual gain.

Mr. D. Evans method of Steamg Shawls Cash[me]re Flannels & lasting Nov-1st 1844
Steam Box 4 feet Square wide & deep/ Frame for pieces to be sew’d in 3ft 9in flannel dry Bag to be put inside the Steam Box form’d with Bottom & Sides (no top) ̶ also a Square of Calico at the Bottom in addition to the flannel bottom/ Boiler at 4 ̶ Memorandum we steam at 1½ Hang in frame 8 or 9 8/4 or 9/4 Shawls only and sew them in with Worstead/ the Shawls are dry the same as from the printing shop - & not damp’d Begin the Steamg with very little Steam for 5 Minutes to damp the Goods – then turn on ½ the Cock for 40 Minutes – in all 45 Minutes for the 1st Steam ̶ the Steam Box is cover’d with One thick Blanket and a Wood Cover with 150 Holes ¾ of an Inch each and Strings are put across the Steam Box to prevent the Covering Blanket -falling- or sinking in the Centre – and before the Goods are put in the Steam Box a piece of Calico is put between every fold – to prevent the Blue Colr coming into contact with the Scarlet as the Blue contains a larger quantity of Tartaric Acid – which turns the Scarlet Yellow after the first Steam the frame is taken out & left 5 Minutes to Dry – as they have not any Blanket Round them – for the 2nd Steam the flannel Bag & Calico is changed for a Dry flannel Bag & another dry Calico – the frame of Goods put in and half a Cock of Steam turn’d on for 45 Minutes The Goods are Cut down from the frame & taken to a Warm place to dry prior to Washing – after the Goods are quite dry – they are Fly Winch[ed] – if Scarlet blo- One Hour if Blue blo One Hour and a Quarter then run thru Vitriol @ 1 Twaddle for 4 or 5 Minutes – then taken to the River & rinced a few Minutes then dry’d up – as they only Steam at One time 8 or 9 Shawls – they rinse only the same Number-

[Note: Lasting, short for everlasting, was a heavy, hard-wearing worsted cloth. The numbers 8/4 and 9/4 refer to the width of fabric, nominally 2 yards and 2¼ yards in this case.]

10. A draft agreement concerning a new thickener for mixing print colours, 1845
This agreement was drawn up during the period of Charles Swaisland’s partnership with his nephew Amos Swaisland. Amos probably became a partner in the business on reaching his twenty-first birthday around 1839. Tragically, he had a fatal gig accident on 2 January 1846, aged only 28. The Morning Post (5 January 1846, p.7) reported that his horse took fright while pulling his gig, “the near wheel struck the kerbstone, and from the violence of the shock and jerk, the deceased was pitched out of the gig on to his head.” He died about two hours later. When this accident took place, Charles Swaisland had reached the age of 65, and his careful plans of retiring from active management of the print works were dashed.
Thickeners to control the consistency of the colour pastes used in printing were an essential and expensive part of the process. Gum arabic, the hardened sap of the acacia tree, was the most widely used thickener at the time. This had to be imported from colonial Senegal and Mauritania, the major producers. “Turkey gum” is probably a generic term here rather than an indicator of the source. The new mucilage to be tested might have been British gum, a type of dextrin made from roasted starch that would have been less expensive than the imported product.
An agreement made this 31st January 1845 between ................................... on the one part and Chs & Amos Swaisland Calico Printers on the other. The said .................................................... having made a Mucilage which they say will be equally good to mix with our Colouring Matters as the Turkey Gum Arabic which we use generally – they agree to make ab[ou]t .................. Gallns and when we have made trial by mixing our Colouring Matters & printing the said Colours on Cloth made from wool – after Steaming Washing & finishing should the expense of said Mucilage and Goodness of the Colours be to our satisfaction (they are to make the said Mucilage in the presence of one of our Colour makers- or ourselves) – and we agree to give them 50£ for the process recipe for making & pay them the cost price of the ingredients used – also to give them a Letter stating our opinion of said Mucilage.

B6. Designer’s graffiti in an album of 1840s designs (Inventory 9)
During Swaisland’s era, designers worked six days a week, 9 to 12 hours on weekdays according to season, and about 6-hours on Saturday. Swaisland’s “Rules for the Drawing Shop” written around 1844 gives the precise timetable (National Art Library: L.774-1964, Box III, 86DD(x)). Not only were hours long, no tea time was allowed! An atmosphere of quiet concentration was expected, and inevitably apprentices must have found the long hours tedious when not fully occupied. One way to use their drawing skills and amuse each other was to create humorous “doodles” amongst the designs in the old pattern books. These are always lightly drawn in pencil with a view to being quickly erased if necessary. But one suspects that the studio manager turned a blind eye to this form of creative activity and of letting off steam. A number of such sketches survive to amuse us today. Some are simply rude graffiti, or hackneyed jokes like putting a moustache on the face of a woman. But others show talent and imagination, like this clown that gives a charming sense of the popular imagery of the day.

Rules for the Drawing Shop: Time of attendance
From the 14th Feb to the 9th November the hours of attendance are from 8 o’clock in the morning until dark. Breakfast to be taken before coming and one hour allowed from ½ past 12 to ½ past one for dinner, no tea time allowed. From the 9th November to the 14th Feb the hours of attendance are from 7 o’clock in the morning until 6 o’clock in the evening. Half an hour is allowed for breakfast viz from 8 to ½ past, and 1½ hours for dinner from ½ past 12 to 2 o’clock, no tea time allowed. [Later, seasons and dinner times were adjusted as follows] From 25th March to 29th September 1½ hours are allowed for dinner or from ½ past 12 until 2 o’clock and from 29th September to 25th March one hour is allowed or from ½ past 12 to ½ past one. On Monday business does not commence until 8 o’clock in the morning and on Sats business closes at 2 o’clock if the Dinner hour be not taken. Holidays: At Christmas business is over on two days at 4 o’clock. At Easter Monday and Friday business closes at 4 o’clock, also on Whitsun Monday and Friday. Crayford Fair day at 4 o’clock. Bexley Fair Day the 1st day at 4 o’clock, the second day the regular hours. On the two Dartford Fair days to be at 4 o’clock. For Apprentices: The same time of attendance is expected of apprentices with the exception that from the 14th of Feb to the 9th November they are to come to business at 6 instead of 7 o’clock in the morning, and for their holidays they are allowed two whole days at Christmas, Christmas Day being considered one should it not fall on a Sunday, two days at Easter & two at Whitsuntide. The youngest apprentices are expected to light the fire & take it in turns to clean the shop which is to be done once a week after business hours.

11. Page of designs from a Swaisland album, around 1845
This page is from an album of “unengaged” designs from the 1840s. Designs that did not sell were retained in case they might become useful in the future, and to prevent them falling into the hands of competitors. They were pasted into the album, probably at the end of a season, to efficiently cover the page, rather than arranged by designer or precise date. The reason for a design not selling was often because it was part of a series of closely related patterns; once one of these patterns was selected, the remainder could not be sold to another buyer as they were too close in style to the one already sold.
The designs seen here, all jostling for our attention, demonstrate the vibrancy of design in the 1840s. These patterns were for printing on wool fabrics called “delaines”, derived from the French mousselines de laine meaning wool muslins. These fabrics being both lightweight and warm suited the vagaries of the British climate, and were affordable to middle-class women. Delaines printed with medium-to-large-scale, strongly-coloured patterns became fashionable for women’s day dresses in the 1840s; many examples survive in museum collections.
Here we can see the revival of a style that was called “rainbowing” when it began around 1823, but later was known as ombré from the French meaning shaded. This method produced ground colours that were graduated from pale to dark across the fabric. Pale to dark purples, and pale to dark blues can be found here. The fashion for large waves, and bold geometrical shapes that was prevalent in the mid-1840s is also a feature of these designs. This explosion of form was later condemned and suppressed by the design reform movement of the 1860s and the Arts and Crafts generation. Design of the 1830s and 1840s has not yet been adequately assessed or received recognition for its creativity. George C. Haité saw the 1840s period as the culmination of the work of the generation of pattern designers working at the beginning of the 1800s (Architectural Review , 1897, 2: 81).

12. Fashion plate from the New Monthly Belle Assemblée, Vol. 23, July 1845
Fashion magazines of the mid-1800s catered for the wealthy, or those who wished to dress like them. Since printed fabrics were seen as somewhat below the aspirations of their readers, the magazines concentrated on fine silks. However in July 1845, the Belle Assemblée published a printed delaine dress with a large banded pattern showing a squiggle motif. This probably marks the height of the fashion for such bold motifs. Whether by accident or design, the magazine did not issue written descriptions of this plate.

13-14. French designs of 1845
These patterns are from a French album of designs that came into the hands of Swaisland soon after it was created in 1845. It is possible that it was brought to England by a French designer seeking work, and needing an example to show potential employers. Or it may have been purchased from a French firm that closed down. Paris was the European fashion capital in the 1800s, and designs from Paris were sought after as representing the latest fashions. The Parisian design ateliers were often staffed by a multicultural mixture of nationalities, and this may have been the key to their success.
In the Swaisland studio, the designs in the French album were not copied, but rather studied as a basis for new patterns. Characteristics seen in the two designs selected here– silhouetted leaf shapes, and beaded waves– appear recombined in a new way in a Swaisland design. One of the French patterns was originally produced for the firm Eggly Roux et Cie., a leading Parisian manufacturer and wholesaler active in wool dress fabrics in the 1840s.

B7. Swaisland design adapted from French models, around 1846
Ideas for textile patterns could be derived from flower drawings done during the growing season, from published prints such as illustrations of natural history and scientific works, and also from the work of other artists and designers. Because Paris was the fashion capital, it was necessary for designers of dress fabrics to be aware of developments in Paris. In the early days, calico printers employed agents residing in Paris to send news about new fashions. By the 1840s, there were French firms that supplied samples of the latest fabric novelties on a regular basis upon payment of a subscription fee. This is the way that most large design studios kept up to date, and such subscription sample services survived until the 1970s when trend magazines and trade exhibitions took over this role.
Direct copying was shunned by good designers, but creating new patterns based upon other designs was part of their stock-in-trade. This was something that all designers of the era had to be able to do. Here we can see a design from the Swaisland studio that owes its origins to models in the French album of 1845.

B8. Sketchbook design for handkerchief by Charles Hudson, 1847
John Audsley (1796-c1872) was the first designer to work with Charles Swaisland at Crayford, starting in 1814 while still in his teens. He was joined by John Robert Carter (born around 1774) the following year, and the two were the longest serving designers with the firm in 1849 when Charles Swaisland responded to a parliamentary committee on the subject of designers and design training. By then, he had a team of sixteen in-house designers and apprentices. Charles Hudson (born around 1811) began his career in Wandsworth, probably trained as a designer for printed silks. He probably joined Swaisland’s in the 1830s or 1840s.
The sketchbook of ten designs from which this is taken shows Hudson a fluid and inventive draughtsman, quickly able to lay out complex corner and border patterns for handkerchief squares using only pen and ink. The pattern shown has been initialled by Swaisland with an instruction for working up into a finished design.

15. Flannel printed by Charles Swaisland for Richard Andrews, 54½ Friday Street, London, 1849
The editors of the Journal of Design and Manufactures extolled an example of Swaisland’s printed flannels in the first issue of their new magazine: “For an extremely brilliant and judicious selection of colours, it seems hardly possible to suggest any improvement in this pattern. The excellence of the style, which is calculated to baffle all caprices of fashion, and to be ever fresh and enlivening makes it worthy to be a direct importation from Persia itself. It is rich, gorgeous, and refined in character, and a pattern, besides its ordinary use for morning gowns, very suitable for the traveller’s shawl-neckcloth.”
The editors used their magazine to promote design reform principles. Chief amongst these was the rule that textiles should not be decorated with naturalistic flowers, but rather with forms based on flat colour shapes as found in Eastern cultures. Thus the allusion to Persia was a great compliment. But it is the colour that demonstrates the quality of Swaisland’s work; each colour is well-defined and bright, the print achieving a deep indigo outline, clear white accents, and a brilliant red ground. This required deft manipulation of the hand-blocks to achieve a strong imprint with no spreading or smearing; and good fixation of the dyes to prevent any clouding of the colours when washed.
Richard Andrews, who stocked this printed flannel, began his own warehouse business after splitting with his former partner John Mair at the end of 1842 (London Gazette, 27 December 1842, p.3870). Cheapside, where his business was located, was the principal district in London for wholesale textile warehouses. Such warehouses carried a wide range of fabrics, supplying retail shops and exporters by the piece (22 to 30 yards), the lump (10 pieces) or bale (20 pieces or more).

B9. Green vellum book cover from a design album, 1840s (Inventory 14)
Charles Swaisland’s pride in his company’s achievement in design is reflected in the lavish bindings that he purchased to hold painted designs. He obtained the “gold standard” of the day in stationery bindings: large volumes bound with green vellum reinforced with laced Russia leather bands at head and tail. These were gilt stamped: C. SWAISLAND/ CRAYFORD/ KENT, demonstrating equally his pride in his place of origin. One volume was altered from C. to C. & A. Swaisland reflecting the partnership of Charles with his nephew Amos; sadly the partnership was cut short by the young man’s untimely death in a road accident. These binding have helped to preserve three decades of design, but especially work from the 1840s and 1850s. Lesser bindings would not have stood the punishing regime of studio usage, as well as periods of neglect, and rough collection move.

 “Dr. Philip A. Sykas is acknowledged as the copyright owner of the captions included here. As such any re-use of material which includes direct quotation or extensive paraphrasing should name Dr. Sykas as the author.”

  • B7.Swaisland design adapted from French models, around 1846