Deck the hall.
Some years ago I visited the Victoria & Albert museum in London with my brother Neil. He was there in his capacity as archivist for the Philips family. They reside at ‘The Heath House,’ Team in Staffordshire. The aim of the visit was to research certain facets of Victorian décor.
During this investigation I discovered something for myself, which was much closer to home. There was an order book published by Messrs Cowtan and Sons Ltd., displaying examples of wallpaper, which was available for inspection. I found an entry dated 18th April 1842 confirming that a substantial order was placed with Cowtan’s for delivery to Kibworth Hall in Leicestershire. Cowtan’s were high-class decorators, upholsterers and cabinet-makers based in West Halkin Street Galleries, Belgrave Square, London.
At the time of the order Kibworth Hall was occupied by John Benjamin Humfrey aged 45, of independent means, his wife Charlotte and son Charles. John was born on 21st December 1794 and died on 24th July 1857, at the age of 62.
The interior decorators offered a wide range of quality wallpaper with a variety of designs. They reflected the increased demand in the mid 19th century not only for the best contemporary papers but also for traditional block and flock patterns of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.Many older owners of houses continued to prefer these when redecorating.
Cowtan’s, according to records, also provided a pattern book of their own papers to the Houses of Parliament between 1851 and 1859.