Treasure 36: The Edmund Potter ‘shirt’ and fabric pattern books

I have chosen this collection because I was lucky enough to be involved in cataloguing and arranging the records (D1589). It is titled the Calico Printing Library of Alderman J G Hurst of Glossop, and includes records of Edmund Potter & Company Ltd, calico printers, Dinting Vale, Glossop.

The Edmund Potter & Company Ltd swatch pattern books are beautiful, and the colours are so vivid you would think that they belonged in the 1980s and not the 1880s!! It was my pleasure to be able to work on the collection every week, and to handle such delicate documents.

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This remarkable printed shirt was found in an envelope within the collection.  It was such a surprise to find it as no one knew it was there until I came across it. I found it difficult to describe in the catalogue as I’m used to describing documents!

The catalogue I produced is now accessible to the public. I hope everyone enjoys looking through the documents as much as I enjoyed cataloguing them.

Elissa, Derbyshire Record Office volunteer

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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!