Exhibition celebrates the history of the Norwich shawls
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016
Beautifully crafted with intricate designs and striking colours, Norwich shawls were seen as the height of fashion for women in the 19th century.
And this month a special exhibition at Norfolk Cathedral's Hostry is celebrating their place in our fine city's rich textile heritage.
Called Past Glories, Present Inspiration, the show is being presented by the Costume and Textile Association.
It features a stunning array of shawls dating back as far as the 1820s as well as a selection of contemporary art inspired by the 19th century craftsmanship. Joy Evitt, chairman of the association, and Jenny Daniels, chairman of the exhibition sub-committee, said the aim was to shine a spotlight on both the beauty and the history of the shawls.
'I just think they are outstanding. If you look at the patterns they are just so detailed,' said Mrs Evitt, who explained how shawlmaking had helped to revitalise the city's centuries-old textile industry at a time when it was beginning to decline.
'At the end of the 18th century shawls were coming in from Kashmir,' she said.
'They became fashionable but were very expensive. Norwich was incredibly well placed because Norwich used to weave fabric with a silk warp and a Worsted weft, and that made a very soft draping fabric which was ideal for shawl making.'
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John Harvey is credited with introducing shawl weaving to Norwich and he became associated with Philip Knights who was appointed 'Shawlman to Her Majesty' in 1793.
Mrs Evitt said during the 19th century other successful manufacturers of Norwich shawls included Towler and Campin, Clabburn, Sons and Crisp, Edward Blakely, Willett and Nephew, and Bolingbroke and Jones.
In the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 a number of Norwich shawl manufacturers exhibited, and Queen Victoria was also thought to have bought a shawl from Clabburn, Sons and Crisp. But by the 1870s the heyday of the Norwich shawl was at an end.
'Unfortunately fashion changed, the bustle came in and shawls didn't look so nice over a bustle,' said Mrs Evitt, who said another factor at the time was that women were becoming more active and wanted to wear something less restrictive.
However, more than a century later, the beauty of the shawls remains plain to see, and as this latest exhibition shows, the tradition has also inspired some exquisite works of contemporary textile art.
Mrs Evitt said the association thanked everyone who has supported the exhibition, including Helen Hoyte and Norfolk Museums Service Costume and Textile Study Centre
Past Glories, Present Inspiration is at Norwich Cathedral's Hostry until October 15. The exhibition is open 9.30am-4.30pm Monday to Saturday and 12pm-3pm on Sunday.
For more information, visit www.cathedral.org.uk
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