Recently we were visited by two ladies who were researching Edmund Potter & Co Calico Printers of Dinting Vale, Glossop. Edmund Potter & Co was once possibly the largest calico printworks in the world, and on checking our catalogues we discovered that we had an uncatalogued collection which no-one had been particularly aware of.
The collection (D1589) was bequeathed to us by Alderman J G Hurst of Glossop, who wrote a biography of Edmund Potter and collected books and archives about calico printing. The collection contains a lot of printed books, which we didn’t usually collect (possibly explaining why it wasn’t catalogued at the time) – although of course now we also house local studies, that’s changed. Delving into the boxes, however, revealed some beautiful original Potter & Co pattern books dating back to the 1850s containing swatches of fabrics in stunningly fresh colours.
An even more unexpected find was a man’s shirt printed with tiny images, possibly from children’s illustrations. We don’t recognise the pictures and although one of them shows a Manchester postmark. If the date on that postmark is anything to go by, the shirt would date to around 1883.
So what’s the Beatrix Potter connection? Well, Edmund Potter was Beatrix’s grandfather and according to one of the ladies who came to look at the collection (she is an expert on Beatrix Potter) he used to send the young Beatrix fabric samples which she would use to make up little outfits for her toys. She would then make paintings of those dressed up characters… and of course these ultimately developed into her famous books. She also used the fabric to bind her own books and folders of her paintings.
Now that we’ve rediscovered this wonderful material, we’re cataloguing it so that more people will be aware that it’s here. But isn’t it nice to think that Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and other beloved Beatrix Potter characters may have been clothed in some of the fabrics tucked within our pattern books? Oh, and if you recognise any of the characters printed on the shirt, please tell us, as they’re a complete mystery!