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