On Saturday Marie and I spent a delightful afternoon at Gawthorpe Hall, a beautiful Elizabethan manor in Lancashire. This was the home of the Kay-Shuttleworth family, latterly Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth, who was an expert embroiderer. She amassed a massive collection of textiles which now forms the Gawthorpe Textiles archive, a historical resource that has been made available to anyone with an interest in textiles. You may have heard of it through Kate Davies, who has designed some knits inspired by pieces in the collection.

The house has several rooms devoted to a textiles exhibition, cleverly presented in themed cases. However, the displayed pieces are just a tiny fraction of the vast collection, which has around 30,000 textile artefacts. Some of them are viewable online through the collection’s website.

The hall also features a Charlotte Bronte exhibition, because she was a visitor there on occasions. This included a tiny knitted purse, which Marie and I spent some time examining in order to determine the pattern. A couple of very fine crochet mitts also caught our attention.

The items which most impressed me in the main textile rooms were the tambour pieces, which are incredibly delicate and dainty. I also fell in love with a tiny square scrap of fabric that featured tiny cross stitch flowers. I am now planning to translate these to some pretty intarsia motifs. Watch this space!

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3 thoughts on “A Visit To Gawthorpe Hall

  1. Back in the 1990s I learned beadwork from a Cree woman. I had a Cree friend who was learning some traditional medicine ways and wanted to make him a gift. I went to the Royal Ontario Museum and a curator there brought me to the collection of medicine bags from my friend’s area. It was awesome. I was allowed to copy down some designs and ended up looming one of them and sewing it onto a moosehide bag, like the original. My only regret is that the public never gets to see that collection, it is too delicate.

    1. How wonderful! I love that museums make their collections available for private research like this. In my experience they are positively eager to have such enquiries made of them! The staff at Gawthorpe were insistent that I should make requests there. They want the collection to be used.

      1. There is an extensive beadwork collection at the ROM in Toronto that will never see the light of day in terms of an exhibit. I wish they could at least photograph it and release it on-line or in book form, for those who can’t visit. On-line would be wonderful for researchers around the world. Curators love to answer questions, I find.

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