Industries: Tapestry

Pages 138-139

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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Both Henry VIII and Elizabeth kept a staff of tapestry workers or arras-makers, of which the chief members were usually of foreign birth. (fn. 1) Amongst the adherents of the Dutch Church in 1550 were Hendryck Moreels, 'tapitsier,' and Roelandt de Mets, living in St. Martin's-le-Grand, and the first of these is probably the 'Henrhicus Moreels (fn. 2) tapestarius in opere Reginae' of a return of 1561. Another of the queen's workers at this time was John Celot, and the names of several other tapestry-makers are to be found in later returns of the reign of Elizabeth, living for the most part within the limits of the City of London.

A small tapestry manufactory was set up at Fulham by some Walloon refugees at the end of the 17th century. The parish register of burials (fn. 3) records the name of 'William King, Clarke at the Manufactori' in 1699, and that of 'Richard fflower, a weaver, from the Manufactori' in 1700.

Early in the next century another attempt was made to introduce the manufacture of tapestry into Middlesex. James Christopher Le Blon, a Fleming by birth and a mezzotint engraver by profession, some time subsequently to 1732 'set up a project for copying cartoons in tapestry, and made some very fine drawings for that purpose. Houses were built and looms erected in the Mulberry-ground at Chelsea (see p. 134 ante), but either the expense was precipitated too fast or contributions did not arrive fast enough', and the enterprise proved a failure. (fn. 4) Le Blon is said to have died in a hospital at Paris in 1740.

A more noted manufactory for weaving carpets and tapestries was started by Peter Parisot, a Frenchman domiciled in England, in 1753. Parisot's undertaking is described by himself in a scarce little book entitled An account of the new manufacture of Tapestry after the manner of that at the Gobelins; and of Carpets after the manner of that at Chaillot &c. now undertaken at Fulham, by Mr. Peter Parisot, 1753.

Parisot had engaged some workmen from Chaillot whom at first he employed at Paddington, but afterwards removed to Fulham, where this manufacture had already been established. Here he procured spacious accommodation for his business and for instructing young persons of both sexes in the arts of drawing, weaving, dyeing, and other branches of the work. In his book Parisot speaks of the patronage of the Duke of Cumberland, who gave him great financial help; other members of the Royal family, including the Princess Dowager of Wales, also supported the work. (fn. 5) His goods however were too expensive, and the manufacture soon declined. George Bubb Dodington the diarist, who lived at Fulham, records a visit he paid to this factory on 8th March 1753:-'We went to see the manufacture of tapestry from France, now set up at Fulham by the Duke. The work both of the gobelins and of chaillot, called savonnerie, is very fine, but very dear.' (fn. 6)

According to Giuseppe Baretti, Parisot was a renegade priest, once a noted Capuchin, whose real name was Pere Norbert, and his failure was due to his own shortcomings as a spendthrift. (fn. 7) Within three years of its establishment the Fulham manufactory, which was chiefly devoted to the production of velvet pile carpets, had to close its doors. Parisot left Fulham for Exeter in 1753, and on 12 January 1756 his whole stock was sold off. The highest price reached at the sale was £64 1s., given for 'a magnificent large carpet 18 ft. by 13 ft. of a most elegant and beautiful design'. A catalogue of the collection consisting of four small pages (the only known copy) is in the British Museum.

The various items mentioned in this catalogue (fn. 8) show clearly the nature of Parisot's business. Amongst the fire-screens after the manner of the Gobelins one bore a representation of a 'landscape with two doves billing,' another a 'Chinese pheasant with a green parrot and a butterfly,' and others, such fables as 'the Monkey and the Cat', 'the Fox and the Crane' and 'the Bear and the Bees.' Amongst the stock also were chairs similarly adorned; one 'large seat for a chair, depicting in the background a range of hills at a distant view, and a fountain in the middle; the border of which is ornamented with flowers.' Cotton-work after the manner of the manu factory at Rouen in imitation of needlework was represented by large pieces with birds and flowers. Besides these there were also firescreens, chairs, and velvet carpets after the manner of the velvet manufactory of Chaillot with similar designs. Three of the carpets had been worked by Parisot's apprentices, 'natives of England,' as a note on the catalogue informs us.

Another 17th-century factory of which no information appears to exist was set up in Soho Fields, the site of Soho Square. (fn. 9)


  • 1. W. Page, Denizations and Naturalizations (Huguenot Soc.), p. 1.
  • 2. Kirk, Returns of Aliens (Huguenot Soc.), i, 205 et seq. and 274.
  • 3. C. J. Feret, Fulham Old and New (1900), 85.
  • 4. Walpole, Cat. of Engravers (1794), 178
  • 5. Lysons, Environs of Lond. (1795), ii, 400; Gent. Mag. 1754, p. 385.
  • 6. Dodington, Diary (4th ed. 1809), 199.
  • 7. Feret, op. cit. 87-8.
  • 8. Brit. Mus. pressmark,7805.e.89 / 95
  • 9. J. H. Pollen, Anct. and Modern Furniture in the South Kensington Museum (1874), Introd. cxxxix.