English Heritage has teamed up with Little Greene, to produce a stunning range of wallpapers based on historic papers in our archives.
English Heritage and Little Greene began working with each in 2005, when the very successful heritage colours paint range ‘The Colours of England’ was launched.
Building on this success we have now launched the exciting new ‘London Wallpapers’ range, based on fragments of papers that have been collected over many years and archived at Kenwood House in London. Working with these original papers was fascinating, and they have been given both a traditional feel and also a more modern look depending on the colours and materials used. There are 47 different colourways and over eight designs, ranging from the very traditional to more modern finishes.
From the 17th century until the mid-19th century, London was the hub of the wallpaper industry, and in general wallpapers were imitations of textiles and manufactured in a very similar manner. Most of the original papers reproduced in the London Wallpapers collection were made long before the impact of industrialisation on wallpaper production.
Until the mid-19th century all wallpaper was produced by hand-block printing: continuous roll paper was not introduced until around 1840, closely followed by the arrival of reliable printing machines.
Each paper in the London Wallpapers range, whilst not an exact copy of the original, nonetheless retains its essence and traditional feel. The designs have been re-scaled and re-coloured and produced using modern manufacturing methods. Some of the papers, such as the flocks, reflect closely the archive document whilst others achieve a more modern appeal through the use of vivid colours and metallic finishes.
The different papers used in the range are as follows:
1. St James's Place c.1760
Discovered in the first floor entertaining room of a house in the fashionable St. James’s Place, Piccadilly, the original design was produced in strong crimson flock with white highlights.
2. Soho Square c.1775
A reproduction of a silk damask fabric, the original paper was a strongly patterned crimson flock on a pink ground. It was, somewhat unusually, used to paper the entire first floor of a Soho Square household.
3. Broadwick St. c.1775
Found in a row of elegant early-18th century houses in Broadwick St., Soho, this design is remarkable in that it was based on a botanically accurate reproduction of a plant, Clusia Rosea, first recorded in a famous book 'The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands' by Robert Catesby in 1743.
4. Albemarle St. c.1760
Reminiscent of Spitalfields silks, this paper, found in Albemarle Street, off Piccadilly, had an enormous pattern repeat of 6ft. Originally produced in a dark blue flock on a light ground, it was unusual to find so bold and expensive a paper used, as here, in a low ceilinged, second floor bedroom.
5. Craven St. c.1885
A late-19th century machine-made design, discovered in a row of Georgian terrace houses in Craven Street, parallel to Charing Cross station. The original paper may well have been produced in a wallpaper factory off Liverpool Road in Islington, the last bastion of wallpaper production in London.
6. Bayham Abbey c.1880
Whilst the original paper came from Bayham Abbey, on the Sussex-Kent border, it is likely to have been produced in London. On a red ground, reminiscent of gothic style, the original paper was made from cellulose wood pulp and machine-printed.
7. Great Ormond St. c.1890
A colourful parrot motif, closely based on one of a multi-layered group of papers removed from the ground floor rear closet of a very early-18th century terrace house opposite the Great Ormond St. Children’s Hospital. This design was subsequently machine-reproduced on cellulose paper in the late 19th century.
8. Cranford c.1765
This mid-18th century paper, found in Cranford, Middlesex, has a yellow floral ogee motif printed on to thick hand-made rag paper. It is unusual because yellow, although a popular colour, was expensive and prone to fading. It was manufactured using ‘slip-printing’, a technique to make the paper appear more expensive than it really was due to its ‘shadow’ effect, which was achieved economically by using the same block to print two different colours.