Saturday, 28 July 2012

The famous 'Stroud Scarlet '

At home I have an old piece of red cloth, covered in beadwork. I had always wondered what it was when I came across Stroudwater red cloth. Red, green and blue cloth was and still is made in and around Stroud for hundreds of years. The great supply of water attracted weavers to the area and there, they produced a very high quality cloth. In Stroud Museum in the Park, there is a painting showing a panorama around Rodborough Fort with large areas of red cloth  spread out in the fields nd hung on testers.

Blood Chief by Bodmer.
The Stroud broadcloth had its edges bound when first dyed which created white edges. The Indians used the white edges as extra decoration.
 Since the earlier 17th C the woollen cloth made in Gloucestershire had been worn by settlers and visitors to the American Colonies and the Iroquois trappers in the 18th century demanded stroud red and Uley blue cloth in return for furs. The native Americans began to stop wearing their native clothes and started wearing the red,blue and green stroudwater cloth.  They also made souvenirs with the brightly coloured cloth,adding embroidery and beads....some probably came back to the Stroud Valleys. The same red cloth was worn by the redcoats who fought the rebellious American colonists and the Redcoats who fought against Napolean at Waterloo. A detachment of Welshmen also wore it fighting the Zulus at Rourke's Drift.
In June 1776 Betsy Ross an American widow, who ran an upholstery business was asked to make the first American Flag....wouldn't it be great if she made a mock up using Stroud Cloth before cutting up bed linens and sail cloth . Uley Blue cloth was dyed with woad and possibly Indigo, and Stroud red cloth used cochineal and madder. The natural salts in the local water made the colours much brighter and also made them keep their colour for longer. The Royal Navy wore the  Blue,  and the gentry wore blue coat tails and hunting 'pink'. Even redcoat and bluecoat charity schools were formed by wealthy clothiers .with the children wearing uniforms made from the waste cloth of the local mills.
There is still a company,WSP Textiles    in the area producing fabric...the bright yellowy green for Dunlop tennis balls and the green beige for billiard tables.
Who would have thought that a little bit of Stroud is not only in our history books but is on the tables at Monte Carlo , the centre court of Wimbledon and now at The London Olympics !
Ps. A big Hello to my readers from Russia, I spent some time in Russia in 1993 and loved  it and I found everyone extremely warm and friendly...One day I'll visit again. Thankyou for reading, I almost have more readers from Russia than England !

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Stanway Water Mill

Last week I spent the morning at Stanway Flour mill, it is a beautiful old water mill which has been restored to working order and is now open on Tuesdays and Thursdays 2.oopm to 5.00 pm. Its run by Mike Lovatt who used to have 'The Clock Shop' in Winchcombe.
( I still repair dials for him ) He has always had a passion for mills and had the opportunity to become the Miller....and a fine job he is doing ,producing bags of flour that are sold directly from the mill and from local shops such as the delicatessen in Winchcombe and  one in Broadway. Mike has also recently published a book called The River Isbourne, a history of the mills along our local river. I believe that along with the Nile in Africa And the Ob in Russia , it is one of the few rivers that runs north.....but it still runs downhill !
One of the main restorers was a  lovely and very clever man called Christopher Loudon Wallis, son of Barnes Wallis and Dave Empringham.. Chris told me that his father was fed up being known for the bouncing bomb because they were all a very peace loving family .

The mill was first used for fulling, then in the 17th century it became a corn mill. In the 19th century it had a new wheel and became the Estate Sawmill. .The wheel was built by Thomas Savory of Tewkesbury  in 1850 , is the 8th largest wheel in England being 24ft in diameter and  3ft wide. (The mill pond is above the wheel house.) I wish I'd taken photos while I watched Chris and Dave rebuilding it, history in the making.. I think it is fantastic that the Earl of Wemyss  invests so much time and energy into the rebuilding . In the short time that I have known him he has rebuilt the gravity fed fountain ( the tallest in Britain ), reinstalled the Brewery ( one of only two log fired breweries in the country ), and got the water wheel back into working order. I believe that his next project is to restore an old cider press.

Years and years ago The Earl of Wemyss offered me the Mill to use as a workshop, fantastic but for me it was a bit like the story of The three bears, the inside was too big but the doors into it were too small...I couldn't get wagons in ! so I settled for an extremely cute workshop around the back of the Mill, alongside Richard Podds workshop..a brilliant stone carver. I'm not often at my workshop because I'm always working on site but I can meet you there if you call me.  Rob Langley is also based next to the mill in a large workshop producing beautiful rustic furniture
Of course I couldn't resist making another little video of the sights and sounds of the Flour Mill for U Tube.  Hope you like it....PS it starts with no sound then you hear the water a few pictures in...then the mill starting.. ,.Stanway Flour Mill.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Railway Posters

Next week ,9th July 2012, Jane at the Winds of Change Gallery is hosting a new Exhibition of the work of Laurence Fish.  He used to live here in Winchcombe, and his wife Jean Bray has selected pieces of his work to go on display. One thing I am going to buy is her new book, Pick up a Pencil, full of stories about his life and photos of his paintings. ( I think Jean 's next book should be her own memoirs,) Personally I love Laurences commercial work including railway posters.
Laurence Fish
The LNWR was the first to commission an artist, Norman Wilkinson to do a series of landscapes in 1905.
Norman Wilkinson
Before the First World War rail was the only way to travel and the increase in lines brought the boom in seaside resorts. Posters started to show the wonderful, exotic sunny places to visit in Britain. In 1871 Skegness had a population of 500, by 1907 it as having 300,000 visitors a year !
Fred Taylor
The 20's and 30's are thought of as the Golden Age of Railway poster design and  commercial art was beginning to be taken seriously. Fred Taylor, Tom Purvis, Cassandre and Kauffer were all recognised signatures.
Tom Purvis
Norman Wilkinson asked 18 Royal Academy artists to design posters for the LMS, all but one said yes, and he was already working for another railway company. A lot of the artists are hardly known today but at the time they were among the best known artists of their day.
Laurence Fish

After the war posters again showed the sunnier side of life encouraging us all to be optimistic and start travelling. Posters are now highly collectable and reach high prices in auctions....I'm not surprised they are fantastic....but I can't help wishing that the original artists saw more of the money !
Why not come along to the Exhibition, while you are here why not have a train ride at Winchcombe GWR Railway station, and visit The Railway Museum in Winchcombe .


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