1850s

B10. George Haite shawl design, 1853, for J. Dickson
George Haite (1825-1871) was the son of a textile designer, and probably learned the trade from his father. When George was a young man, the fashion for paisley-style shawls was at a height. Fashionable women counted their wealth in jewellery, lace and shawls. Shawl printing began to bring these luxury items within reach of more people. George Haite showed talent for designing printed shawls and was to become Swaisland’s foremost shawl designer in the mid-1800s. Haite would have seen the French shawl designs purchased by Swaisland from Paris designers like G. Meynier and Edouard Hartweck, and was undoubtedly encouraged to follow Parisian fashion. But Haite brought an English sensibility to the field, incorporating textures suited to printing, rather than following traditional strictures based on weave designs. J. Dickson may be John Dickson and Co., a Cheapside warehouseman active from the 1830s until 1857. Dickson evidently asked for a change to the shawl end which has been presented with an overlay. The leafy figures have been crossed out in pencil, indicating that only the more detailed figures were to be used in the final pattern. The designer was expected to offer the client choice, but it is disappointing to the modern viewer to see that conservative elements were usually chosen over more leading aspects of design.

16. Schedule of rates for block printers’ piece work, 1852
In 1852, a number of English print works decided to reduce the payments made for block printing in keeping with the reduced demand for hand-block work. This led to a strike at Swaisland’s works, and to great ill-feeling due to both Swaisland and David Evans employing outside labour to break the strike. Charles Swaisland was even hung in effigy in Swan Lane causing rumours of suicide (Morning Post, 27 October 1852, p.5). He would have been in his 70s at this time, and the day-to-day management of the works was probably by then in the hands of Charles Leonard Stable, the husband of his niece. But this incident shows that Swaisland was still more than just a figurehead for the company.
A similar schedule of pay for James Thomson’s Primrose Works appears in the same notebook as this one, indicating that Thomson offered a slighter higher rate, perhaps around a penny more in each category. However, it is difficult to make precise comparisons as the length and width of cloth are calculated differently. Less detailed schedules from Hargreaves’ Broad Oak Works dated 1850 and 1852 show that rates were reduced in the north as well as the south at this time, and their inclusion together in one book shows that “masters” were in communication with each other about their rates at the time.
At the head of the table of rates, it is clarified that the figures given are after payment to the tierer, the person who brushed out the printing colours for the block printer after each dip of the block. Additional percentages were given for more exacting work on wool mixture (delaine) dress fabrics and wool flannel cloths. The cloth specified here is presumably a calico and is based on 7/8 width. Seven-eighths of a yard is nominally 31½ inches, but 30 inches was more usual due to shrinkage from the width of the cloth as it left the loom. The block printer needed to print a separate block for each colour. This would be repeated from three to five times to cover the width of the cloth and down the full length of 36 yards – that is roughly 300 to 500 times for each colour. The width-wise repeats are called “overs”, such as “3 over”. In addition to the colours, the pattern might call for a “blotch” ground, here abbreviated to “blo”. The blotch was a solid colour that filled in the gaps in the design. The first block, often providing the outline, was the most difficult to print as the alignment of this block determined the fit of all the other colours. This is why printing four colours is not paid four times as much as printing one colour.
A skilled block printer in times of full work could make a very good wage, but suffered when work was scarce because of being paid piece rates. It was probably the depressed levels of work on top of the drop in pay that drove the block printers to strike. From our modern perspective, it seems unfair that the masters acted together to discuss the wage reduction, but wished to deny their workmen the opportunity to act collectively.
Modern readers should note that pay is given in shillings and pence; thus 1.3 is not a decimal amount, but means 1s. 3d.

17. Page from a Swaisland colourist’s notebook showing samples of men’s shirtings, around 1857
The fashion for figurative motifs on men’s shirtings arose in the 1840s. In earlier years, the waistcoat had been a site where men could indulge their fancy and individuality with colourful or symbolic patterns. However, the Victorian era brought a new sobriety to men’s dress in which pattern was limited to small accessories like neckties and handkerchiefs. In formal dress, the shirt was an undergarment, of which only the collar and cuffs were seen. However, on less formal occasions, especially for summer sports, men could remove their coats and ties, revealing more of the shirt. Following on from the prior waistcoat tradition, small one-colour motifs were considered appropriate for men’s informal shirts. Sports and military subjects formed the main repertoire of figurative subjects, being appropriately masculine and holding elite associations.
Here is seen a group of horseracing and cricketing subjects printed in one colour, alongside some small two-colour crosshatch motifs, the latter printed on cotton lisle. The colourist has noted the uses of the works’ own iron mordant and a thick paste to give the crisp, dark rendering seen in the racing prints. The bright pink used to print the cricketers may not have been thickened enough as the shading lines have run together obscuring the engraving.
Men’s shirts, especially those for informal wear, have seldom survived to reach museum collections. They were heavily worn, often altered for children’s use, and then sold on as rags to be made into paper. Thus manufacturers’ pattern books such as this give a rare glimpse of a forgotten aspect of menswear.

B11 Coloured lithograph of cricketer from an album assembled by the Swaisland design studio
This lithograph is one of a group used by the Swaisland design studio as sources for sporting motifs to be printed on men’s shirting fabrics. Swaisland’s best selling shirtings seem to have been those with hunting, riding and cricketing themes. Charles Swaisland had a dozen lithographs of cricketers bound in an album of over one hundred subjects that could be of use for figurative designs. There is one set of six lithographs entitled “Sketches at Lords Ground” published by Thomas C. Lewis & Co., but this print comes from another set by the artist G.F. Watts. Entitled “The Cut,” it depicts the cricketer William Ward Esq. at bat, and is said to have been drawn from life directly onto the lithographic stone. A Swaisland shirting based on the Watts print can be seen, alongside others from the Lewis & Co. group, in a notebook assembled by the works’ colourist Thomas Royle around 1860. These figures would have been somewhat antiquated by then, hinting that the shirtings may have been purchased by middle-aged men nostalgic for the sporting days of their youth. But nostalgic subjects are often favoured in textile design as people generally like their clothes and furnishings to have warm and comforting associations.

18. "Club stripe" flannels from a Thomas Royle’s notebook, around 1857
The introduction of striped blazers and caps by university sports teams, cricket and boating clubs gave rise to the "club stripe" trade. Club stripes are characterised by deep and intense colours that require considerable expertise to achieve. Swaisland's had many years of experience printing on wool flannels, and quickly dominated this trade.
It is difficult to hand-block stripes because the slightest mis-register at joins is easily seen; on the other hand, it is difficult to deposit sufficient dyestuff with engraved copper rollers in an ordinary printing machine. Swaisland developed special modes of preparation and steaming in order to achieve a high quality output with deep, solid colours. For many years, the firm enjoyed a near monopoly in the market. When the printworks was sold in 1892, Ernest Honey, the new managing director moved to Dewhurst's along with the machinery for printing flannels, and club stripes continued to be printed from Yorkshire on Swaisland machines.
Here three simple patterns are seen in different colourings. The first colour prints the narrow stripes, and the second colour covers the edge of the first stripes. The accompanying note states that these samples were “dressed” before printing, but that this step was now omitted. It is clarified elsewhere in the notebook that dressing caused the colour to “stuff” in the engraved rollers or plates. However, flannels printed by hand-block were still prepared by dressing and warm calendering.

Pattern 1: (a) Red & Green myrtle special; (b) Red & Chocolate dark special; (c) Red & Blue X special; (d) Red (prepared weak tin & weak sour chemick) first; (e) Crimson dark & Delaine black; (f) Delaine black & crimson dark Pattern 2: (a) Orange O & Chocolate dark gum; (b) Emerald Green O & Chocolate dark gum; (c) Blue 2-1 special & Chocolate dark gum; (d) Red & Blue X special Pattern 3: (a) Red first NB. These were Dress’s but we do without now. The Green was weak Chrom’d and weak sour Chemic’d. The blues weak sour Chemic’d.

19. Roller printed "Persians", March 1857
With their strong worsted warps, Persian cloths were able to be run through the roller printing machine if desired, although at slower speeds than would have been possible with cotton calicos. Printing by machine in single colours brought this fabric in reach of a middle market. In the group of samples seen on this page is found one printed in “Purple 2-1 New.” Purple was a fashionable colour but expensive to produce; much experimentation was going on around this time, in France and England, to find new means of printing purple. William Perkins discovered the dyestuff that was to be known as mauve, which he patented in August 1856, but the dye only became available on the market at the end of 1857. So this sample is too early to be printed in Perkin’s purple, but demonstrates that the same shade could be obtained by prior methods although with greater trouble and expense.

20. Examples of wool fabrics printed at Swaisland's, around 1857-1860
While printworks in Lancashire mainly printed on cotton, printers in the London region tended to specialise in elite fabrics or techniques. The designer George C. Haité wrote that Swaisland was originally “famous for printing valencias. Then he took to the shawl-printing and other styles; and in 1844 he had no less than 120 block printers printing shawls and dress materials” (Architectural Review , 1897, 2: 89). Swaisland described himself in 1849 as a “calico printer on flannels, mousselines-de-laine, &c.” Thus it seems, at least in the first half of the 1800s, that he was best known as a wool printing specialist. Valencias were a mixture of worsted and silk, while “delaines” could be made entirely of worsted wool, but in England were usually a mixture with worsted warp and cotton weft.
On these pages of Thomas Royle’s notebook are seen a few more wool dress fabrics printed at the Swaisland works. Balzareen (balzarine) was a gauze weave version of delaine introduced in the 1840s. The gauze loom allows two adjacent warp threads to twist around the weft to form an open structure, making balzarine lightweight and cool for summer wear. Persians were plain weave worsted fabrics with strong, tightly spun warps but a loosely spun warp, producing a moderately soft fabric. Challis was an expensive, high-end material with a highly combed warp as fine as silk, giving the material very supple drape and lightness. Complementing its high value, more elaborate patterns were hand-block printed on challis, and supplementary woven patterns in silk could be added as seen in the lower example.

21. Plate printed indigo shirtings from Thomas Royle's notebook, March 1857
On this page Thomas Royle has assembled cotton fabrics printed with indigo dye using engraved copper plates. Once printed, the indigo had to be chemically altered to allow it to attach to the fibres and then changed back to its blue form– a process known as “china blue”. The single-colour shirtings presented have motifs taken from popular lithographs: a cricketer motif, and a fox on the lookout. The two-colour prints show small cashmere motifs that held an enduring appeal; similar patterns were seen on women’s dresses in the 1810s when two-colour plate machinery was first developed. Royle’s notebook demonstrates the masterful work that was produced at the Swaisland printworks, matching fabric with design type, alongside appropriate printing and dyeing technology. It was the range and quality of work available that assured Swaisland’s success.

22. Block-printed proofs on paper for flounce patterns to be printed on muslin, 1859
By the end of the 1850s, hand-block printing was too costly for ordinary dress fabrics, but continued to be used for specialist materials and techniques. Here we see patterns especially adapted for printing flounces, which were a fashionable addition to dresses of the 1850s to early 1860s; these patterns are for muslin flounces in particular. Due to the open weave of the fabric, patterns with no more than three to four colours and well-defined shapes worked best.
At the head of the page, it is indicated that the patterns were commenced 21 December 1859. Swaisland registered the designs in this group on 22 February 1860 (numbers 126594 to 126610), and they would have been available for warehousemen the following month to be sold on to retailers in time for customers to make summer dresses. The patterns are in the French taste, but simplified for the British market. Each block pattern is given a coded number in the ‘H’ range: H2461, H2462, H2449, and H2451. ‘H’ probably originally stood for “handkerchief,” but came to be used for any patterns that were printed on a particular shape of cloth unlike ordinary piece goods. To the right of the sampled proofs are inscribed the dye combinations used. For example, the uppermost pattern is printed in two colourings: black with three shades of lilac, and also with three shades of brown. The lilac colours are given the letter ‘G’ indicating that they are mixed with gum; from pencilled inscriptions below, we can infer that this is gum arabic from Gambia. However, the brown colours are all thickened with British Gum, later given the initials ‘BG’.
Note: Blk = black, Dove = grey, Chote = chocolate brown. The colourist used abbreviations to make recording recipes more convenient, but codes also served to preserve trade secrets from the eyes of factory visitors.

23. Examples of madder printed silks, 1859
The technique of printing cloth with mordant and then dyeing in madder comes from the ancient process that was developed in India and brought to Europe in the 1700s. Madder gives bright colours that have good light-fastness, are very fast to washing. Thus the extra expense of madder was worthwhile for printed silk handkerchiefs, which were worn as neckcloths by men and expected to be able to be washed many times.
Here, the colourist Thomas Royle provides five recipes for the madder colours: red, chocolate and black. The mordant for the colours is thickened with either starch paste or “British gum” (which is made from roasted starch). The red colour uses a mordant called “4/4 Red Liquor”. This was made by adding 4 pounds of “sugar of lead” (lead acetate) to 4 pounds of alum in 4 quarts of hot water. When cool ¼ ounce of “whiting” (calcium carbonate) was sprinkled over the surface and allowed to sink through. Here, alum and calcium were the active mordanting agents, the addition of calcium producing a brighter colour than if alum was used on its own.
On the opposite page is provided a description of the whole process: (1) preparing the silk by soap washing, (2) printing it with mordant on a table, (3) ageing the printed silk a few days, (4) dunging to remove any mordant that is not firmly attached, (5) “raising” the colour in the madder dyebath, and (6) after-treatment by bran washing followed by (7) dipping in weak “muriate of tin” (tin chloride) solution. The dye here is a mixture of Dutch madder with “garancine” (which is a somewhat cheaper acid extract of madder), and sumach (which contains tannin that helps to strengthen and condition the silk). Even without understanding the full process, it can be seen that madder printing of silks was a specialised and labour-intensive process. The small samples allow us to appreciate the beautiful and intense colours that resulted from successful manipulation of the process.

24. Printing with cochineal, 1859
The textile printer of the 1800s needed to work with natural dyes long after the introduction of the first synthetic dyestuffs. Natural dyes are not regular and uniform products; part of the job of the works colourist was testing the concentration and purity of each batch supplied. Recipes like those seen here would then be adjusted accordingly. This page concerns the desirable purple-red colour known as crimson that could be obtained by dyeing with cochineal, an insect dye.
Cochineal is obtained from the female beetles (Dactylopius coccus Costa) that can be found on several varieties of cactus, of the type commonly called the prickly pear cactus. It was imported into Europe from Mexico in the 1500s following the discovery of the Americas. At the correct season, the insects are collected from the cactus, then killed and dried in the sun. The insects contain a high proportion of carminic acid which is the main colouring matter. The recipes used at the Swaisland printworks show that the same mordants used for madder colours were also used when dyeing with cochineal.

24a. Cochineal beetles, once known as "coccinella", from a coloured engraving, 1801
This engraving of cochineal beetles is from the Encyclopaedia Londinensis; or , Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature, Comprehending, Under One General Alphabetical Arrangement, all the Words and Substance of Every Kind of Dictionary Extant in the English Language. The encyclopaedia was compiled by John Wilkes, and issued in 24 volumes between 1796 and 1828. J. Pass was the engraver.

 “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.”