Up until the 18th century, few homes in England had the luxury of carpeted floors. Thomas Whitty of Axminster, Devon, was one of the men responsible for the growth in their popularity, particularly within stately homes.
After an inspiring visit to a French weaver’s workshop in 1754, Whitty discovered the secret to producing large, seamless, hand-knotted carpets that would allow versatility in their design. Using a wide vertical loom, patterns were created by knotting coloured wool around two, lengthwise or warp threads in the symmetrical Turkish style. In 1755, with the help of his young children and their aunt, Whitty produced the first Axminster carpet.
Whitty undertook many successful commissions throughout the second half of the 18th century, accompanying decorative schemes in some of the finest and most fashionable county houses of the time.
Harewood’s Yellow Drawing Room Carpet
The Axminster carpet in the Yellow Drawing Room is thought to date from around 1780 and is integral to the decorative scheme of the Yellow Drawing Room. It is only one of 8 carpets across the country which remain within the original Robert Adam schemes.
As in many rooms designed by Robert Adam, the design of the carpet echoes the decorative plasterwork of the ceiling creating a sense of balance and harmony. The pattern consists of a central circular medallion and four pointed star, along with scrolling acanthus leaves and rosette borders.
Whilst the design of the carpet and ceiling are very similar, the colour schemes differ slightly. It is thought that Adam initially intended this room to have a pink and green colour scheme; after the purchase of vivid yellow silk by Edwin Lascelles, Adam’s design was adapted to incorporate the silk. It is likely that the carpet was already in production before this change took place, hence the absence of yellow in its design.
In the 18th century carpets were considered to be valuable and prestigious furnishings. It was recognised that they could be easily damaged and protective coverings also know as serge covers were
commissioned at Harewood to protect them.
Conserving the Yellow Drawing Room Carpet
The Yellow Drawing Room carpet is in urgent need of conservation treatment by professional textile conservators.
During Yorkshire’s Year of the Textile we are considering what kind of treatments they undertake and to what extent they are carried out.
We would like to ask what you think about the Yellow Drawing Room carpet’s conservation and would be grateful if you could answer our short questionnaire when you visit.
Each week we are holding talks about the carpet in the House to discuss this important topic. Talks take place at 12:30 on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.