RSS Feed

My North & South Anniversary 5/7. Wallpapering Milton

I’m still celebrating my 1st N&S Anniversary. In my previous post I talked about death in Manchester during the Industrial Revolution.

What is it about wallpaper that upset the Hale ladies so?

Why focus on the walls when you find yourself in a strange place, so far from the home you loved, in a sub par dwelling?

Wallpaper popularity saw an increased in Elizabethan England, although its history dates back to the Medieval times, when patterns were painted on walls, and woven tapestries were attached to the walls of churches and castles.

 It offered protection against dampness, and hid the smoke stains from the fireplace.

It also provided a decorative element and enhanced the room’s interior.

By the early 1700s, wallpaper became so popular, a tax was introduced an any paper “painted, printed or stained to serve as hangings.”

 The industry continued to grow with the rise in popularity, and the development of a printing machine in 1839 that allowed for the printing of endless lengths of paper.

The Manchester Exhibitions of 1849 added to their popularity, and there was an entire wallpaper section at Great Exhibition 1851, showcasing an overwhelming variety of design, probably much to Fanny Thornton’s delight.

Wallpaper could display new-found interests, especially those connected to newly discovered cultures within the British Empire.

They were also a reflection of prosperity and status.

Fashion dictated that a bare room reveals poor taste.

During the Victorian era, wallpapers fell into two classes: simple, meaning repeated geometric patterns; and complicated, which would consist of flowers, vases, shields.

 Many appeared three-dimensional.

A standard Victorian parlour would be full of ornamented furniture, with knickknacks cluttering the surfaces.

The wallpaper meant to embellish this design, and to imitate fabrics, drapery, and architectural mouldings.


Others were to give the impression of marble, wood grain, leather or damask.

Mrs. Hale and Margaret chose a paper that most resembled the one at Helston. As we know, almost, but not quite.

It would stand to reason that Milton taste would differ from that of the south.

 As Fanny states, the fashion is the same, although it arrives in Milton delayed.

 John Thornton concludes: “On behalf of Milton taste, I’m glad we almost past muster”.

The paper chosen by the Hale family depicts a floral pattern on a beige background.

It would have been a point of honour for the Hale ladies to entertain their guests in an environment that reflected their status and social standing.

For more on the history of wallpaper, visit the V&A page

About Agzy The Ripper

Sew, Rip, Repeat... and love each moment of it! Join me as I embark on a myriad of sewing and crafting shenanigans.

17 responses »

  1. Because of a trip during the weekend, I couldn’t read your previous posts before. By the way, they are great. So, I’ll make a general comment here. N&S is a very comprehensive novel/series and it shows us many different aspects of that society. For me they are all very rich and you’re talking about them in a very interesting way!! Thank you!!

    • Thanks Luciana! The period is very exciting, although I doubt I would feel that way if I was in Bessy’s shoes! I hope your trip was fun. Did you go anywhere special?

      • The trip was ok. It was jus a quick visit to my parents in my hometown!!!

        • See, I wouldn’t get excited by a weekend visit home, but this is Brazil, so in my mind it’s exotic and beautiful 🙂 As I live about 8 km from my parents, even a weekend like that seems interesting!

          • We tend to stop paying attention to the places we are used to see every day, don’t we?? Besides, this is a long journey as my parents live 550 km from me and I really get tired to go and spend just two days there!!! But it’s really nice to go see them and my nephew and nieces whos also live in the same city!

          • I often pop in for a quick coffee on my way home from work, and that tires me so much sometimes 😉 I guess my parents are repaying me for exhausting them when I was a child. There’s a definite role reversal going on at times! But as much as visiting family can drain every last ounce of energy, it’s nice that we have people like that. Sometimes I forget how many people out there have no significant bonds in their lives.

  2. In the book, Margaret was disgusted at pink and blue wallpaper with garlands, and was very anxious to change it into a calmer pattern. There, Thornton made it for her, despite the landlord’s reluctance.

    • I’ve only read the book once, so thanks Belizec, that would make sense. I think because the colour of Milton is altered in the film, because of a greyish / blue filter, it’s hard to determine the shade of the original wallpaper, but I could see it being a strange khaki and banana yellow. So it would not be appropraite for the ladies from the south!

  3. Snicker's Mom

    And a few years later came wallpapers by my personal favorite, William Morris. 🙂
    Very interesting info, I like the direction you’re taking with this. Happy AnniveRsAry!

  4. Happy AnniveRsAry! I love the Victorian wallpapers, the Iris and bull rushes caught my eye!

    • Thanks Mers! I wonder how many people actually have wallpaper in their house. I’m a big fan of them myself, although I favour vinyl wallpaper with retro patterns. My living space would not allow for a grand piano, much to Fanny’s distaste 🙂 It wouldn’t allow for the Iris paper either!

  5. Pingback: My North & South Anniversary 6/7. John Thornton, Manufacturer and Magistrate « I Want to be a Pin-Up

  6. Your blog is just beautiful 🙂


Have Your Say!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: