Preservation – Edmund Potter & Co. Shirt


A few weeks ago we blogged about the Beatrix Potter connection with our collection of archives from her grandfather’s printing company, Edmund Potter & Co, Calico Printers of Dinting Vale, Glossop (D1589). The collection contains some beautiful original pattern books, and also a rather amazing shirt which we think dates from around 1883. The shirt was found in one of the archive boxes, folded up and stuffed into an old brown envelope – an entirely unsuitable way of storing such a unique and historic item. D1589 potter shirtD1589 Shirt (8)D1589 Shirt (2)Potter shirt wrapped upPotter shirt in box

The conservation team have now re-packaged the shirt by carefully wrapping it in acid-free tissue, supporting the folds using conservation padding, and making a made to measure box out of acid-free archival box-board for it to live in. We think such a lovely item is worthy of such care and attention (much better than being stuffed in an envelope!) don’t you agree?

Derbyshire’s Beatrix Potter connection

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.

D1589 printing samples (8) D1589 printing samples (12) D1589 printing samples (13)

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.

D1589 Shirt (2)

D1589 Shirt (12)D1589 Shirt (8)

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!