The Soft Furnishings

The wallpapers and soft furnishings at Farringford are often admired and were chosen for being historically in keeping...

The wallpapers and soft furnishings in the main house are often admired. There is a fair amount of background detail on the wallpapers in our restoration exhibition, open during the season to all who visit the house or garden, so here we will take a closer look at the soft furnishings.

Most of the curtains, upholstery and bedspreads are of a silk or cotton damask, with a few examples of a particularly lovely crewelwork for bedspreads among the exceptions. A traditional heavy velvet, known as a mohair velvet, can also be seen in both the Poet’s library and Hallam’s bedroom.

Damask originated in China as far back as 300 BC. Traditionally it was woven in silk, but as the technique developed and spread to Byzantine and the Middle East in the Middle Ages wool, linen, cotton, and flax was also used. When damask reached Britain in the seventeenth century it was considered a luxury cloth due to its highly labour-intensive means of production, but with the introduction of power loom weaving, or Jacquard looms in the 1850s it soon gained popularity with the emerging middle class due to its greater affordability.

London based Bernard Thorp, bespoke manufacturers of fabrics and wall coverings were the main supplier of soft furnishings for Farringford, chosen for their outstanding library of seemingly limitless historical patterns and custom-made traditional methods of manufacture – with patterns hand woven at their mill in Norfolk which has been in operation since the 18th century.

Emily Tennyson makes no mention of soft furnishings in her journal, and secondary sources give little or no indication as to her preference. Chintz was another popular choice for the mid and late Victorian home, and arguably may have been her material of choice but it is unconfirmed. Shades of crimson and so-called ‘flesh tones’ are however well documented as having been the Poet’s favourite colours, and visitors will observe these as prevalent in the furnishings, as well as the wallpapers and paint colour seen throughout the house.

The soft furnishings seen today were chosen for being historically in keeping, certainly, but also subjectively, and nonetheless importantly, they introduce accents of rich, lustrous colour to the dark stained woodwork and doors of the gothic interior to striking effect.

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