Tuesday 3 November 2009

A Norwich Darned and Embroidered Shawl Counterpane

Thank you for supporting Carrow House with your purchase of samplers charted by Philippa Sims. Here you can see an example of the good work undertaken by the Norfolk Costume and Textile Association. This unique, embroidered counterpane needed conservation and the NC&TA raised the necessary funds of £10,980 to complete its conservation in 1997. Conservation is expensive and now you can see the significant role played by your purchases - every purchase does make a difference. But I'll let Philippa Sims who is a member of the NC&TA and a volunteer at Carrow House tell you its interesting story.
'Folded away in a museum cardboard box is a piece of local textile history with royal and heraldic interest. Made in 1792 by the Norwich firm of Harvey and Knights this ten foot square Counterpane is a splendid - and possibly the earliest - example of embroidered shawling. It was donated soon after the opening of Strangers’ Hall Museum in the 1920s but sadly all details of the donor are lost. However, it is known to have been a prototype of a counterpane made for Queen Charlotte and won the Silver Medal of the Royal Society of Arts. Queen Charlotte and the Princesses visited the Norwich Shawl Exhibition in New Bond Street, London and perhaps this counterpane was on show.
Made with silk warp and wool weft, the design would have been block-printed on to the fabric and then embroidered. In the centre you can see the arms of George III with magnificent athletic supporters. The fleur de lis was included in the Royal Arms until George III abandoned the title of King of France in 1801, the arms of Hanover are two leopards for Brunswick, lion among hearts for Luneburg and the white horse for Westphalia. The crown above was the badge of the Arch-Treasurer of the Holy Roman Empire. On four small corner shields are fleurs de lis, Scottish lion, Irish harp and three cuddly looking leopards! The embroidery in polychrome silks resembles weaving but is actually a very close darning stitch, creating some wonderful shading of colour, especially on the lion and unicorn.

The border is stitched in stem and chain stitch in realistic sprays of roses, thistles and laurel leaves, joined by Garter stars. In each corner is the monogram GR depicted in gold. All surrounded by a deep silk fringe.'

By Philippa Sims
Carrow House Costume and Textile Study Centre.

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