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I’ve known about this for some time, but  I can now tell you that the fantastic Threads of Feeling exhibit, which I saw  in 2010 at the Foundling Hospital Museum in London and reported on here, is going to be on show at the De Witt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, throughout  2013.

Threads of Feeling 2010 Catalogue

This was, as you will no doubt remember, a fantastic exhibit, detailing the range of 18th century fabric samples given as tokens by mothers and sometimes fathers of foundling children when they were accepted into the Foundling Hospital’s care. These tokens were kept and preserved  in the Hospital’s “Billet Books”. By examining them carefully it can be deduced what type of clothing would be worn by ordinary people in 18th century England. The archive of these tokens is a veritable treasure trove, as few clothes worn by ordinary people from this era survive, as, naturally, they would have been reused  in various ways until they disintegrated.

The fabric token left by the parent of “Florella Burney Born June 19th 1758. In the Parish of St Anns SoHo.Not Baptiz’d, pray Let particulare Care be taken’en off this Child As it will be called for again…”

The exhibit was curated by Professor John Styles, who will also curate the Colonial Williamsburg exhibition.  I understand there will also be a symposium.

Costume made for the 2010 exhibit using a recreated “Florella” fabric

Professor Styles has, of course,  made a special study of these fabrics in his fantastic book, The Dress of the People, which I reviewed here. He writes:

Threads of Feeling  is an exhibition of the mid-eighteenth century textiles preserved in the records of London’s Foundling Hospital. The exhibition was first displayed at the Foundling Museum in London in 2010-11. It will open for a year at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, USA in 2013. Meanwhile, it continues as an online exhibition at:http://www.threadsoffeeling.com/

The Dress of the People:Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth Century England by John Styles

So..if you live in North America and were frustrated by the exhibit being only in London you will now have your chance to see this thought-provoking exhibit. When I have more details of dates etc I will, of course, let you know.

As you know, the Threads of Feeling Exhibition at the Foundling Museum curated by Professor John Styles opens this week. Concentrating on the collection of 18th century fabrics preserved in the ledgers of the Foundling hospital, tokens left by foundling’s mothers, it throws a very revealing light on the type of clothing worn by ordinary people in that era, as was disclosed in Professor Styles wonderful book, The Dress of the People.


I thought you all might be interested in two recently published articles which give a little more  detail of the exhibition. The first, accessible here is published by the Arts and Humanities Research Council,who helped fund the exhibition.

(A fascinating “Playing Card” printed fabric, ©Coram)

The second, is a fabulous interpretation of the exhibition by historian Kathryn Hughes, the  author of two great books,The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton and The Victorian Governess. Go here to access it

And here is a photograph of a section of the specially re-printed cotton to be used for recreating a garment in the exhibition.

This is called Florella after the child who was deposited with the original scrap of material.

Above is an image of the original ledger from the Foundling Museum showing the linen / cotton printed with dots and red flowers. The Foundling, a girl, was given the number 8959 and was admitted to the Hospital on the 19th June 1758:

The written inscription reads:

Florella Burney Born june the 19: 1758: In The Parish off St Anns SoHo. not Baptize’d, pray Let partiuclare Care be Taken’en off this Child, As it will be call’d for Again; …’

I find it fascinating to think that this might be the type of fabric worn by Harriet Smith’s unknown mother, or by the poor of Highbury who are visited by Emma,or even Hannah, the servant at Randalls who could shut doors with exquisite quietness…I have been very kindly invited to the opening of the exhibition on Wednesday but sadly cannot attend due to other commitments, but I promise to give a full report of the visit I am going to make to it  later in October.

Yesterday, I had great fun at  Kelmarsh Hall’s second annual Country House Book Day.

Kelmarsh Hall, in Northamptonshire,  is a beautiful, small Georgian house,designed by Gibbs and Smith of Warwick, and has much in common stylistically and in size with its near neighbour Cottesbrooke Hall.

It is surrounded by parkland

a lake

the parish church

intimate gardens

and a walled kitchen garden in the process of being restored.

In addition to the fine surroundings yesterdays Book Day provided entertainment about houses and gardens with lectures being given by  leading garden writers and historians  to small but rapt audiences.

Amid these beautiful and fitting surroundings I went to listen to Amanda Vickery give her talk Out of the Closet: Love Power and Houses in the Eighteenth Century. It was as ever a virtuoso performance from Professor Vickery, author of the very interesting and rightly lauded book, BehindClosed Doors, and The Gentleman’s Daughter. She gave a talk full of riveting information and good humour. She told us about the universal need for a home,and what this need says  about us and about those who lived in the past ; how difficult it is to write about the home of the poor or even the middling sort for unlike the homes of the elite, few homes or artefacts from these classes survive into the 21st century; how responsibility for the different areas of a home were delegated between the sexes and how lack of a home was considered degrading for both spinsters and bachelors, those poor unmarried souls who had failed to achieve that most desirable  consumer object-a home of one’s own. She also discussed the concept of taste as defined in the 18th century and how this was viewed by the differing classes, ranging from the elite to the shopkeepers who supplied consumer goods to all classes. In all it was a marvellous bravura performance, totally enjoyable and very informative. If only all history lecturers were like this as my teenage daughter wistfully remarked  at the conclusion to Professor Vickery’s talk. Ah yes…if only….

 

If you go here you can downlad a podcast of a similar lecture Professor Vickery gave, the 2008 HarperCollins History lecture: I don’t think you need ITunes in order to play it, so I do hope many of you who cannot physically get to hear Professor Vickery talk will do this as it will give you a very good idea of her good humoured and intensely interesting style.

After the lecture I had the opportunity to take tea with Professor Vickery and amongst  other matters of important Austen-related gossip, she told me that she had been commissioned by the BBC to make a three-part television series based on Behind Closed Doors .I won’t give away details here but you can be assured that when  more information is available I will pass it on.

In all it was a wonderful day (and the English summer weather was kind for once!) and I am glad for this opportunity to share it with you.

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