The Warner Textile Archive holds the collection from furnishing fabrics manufacturing company, Warner & Sons. Warner & Sons, as a business as we know it, was formed in 1870 by Benjamin Warner who was descended from a line of scarlet dyers from Spitalfields. From relatively humble beginnings in the textile industry, Warner & Sons would go on to become one of the most respected furnishing silk manufacturers in the UK.
Warner & Sons would eventually dominate the fine furnishing fabrics industry in the UK. In 1885, the company purchased rival firm, Norris & Co. and in 1895 took on the assets of Daniel Walters & Sons, a well-respected silk manufacturer, with a large factory complex in Braintree known as New Mills. Through the acquisition of Daniel Walters & Sons, Warner & Sons moves production to Braintree.
Alongside Courtaulds, Warner & Sons were instrumental in making Braintree and the surrounding area famous for textile manufacturing. From 1895, when they took over the Braintree factory from Walters, until 1971 Warner & Sons had a major presence in the town. The Warner Textile Archive now houses the largest textile manufacturing archive in the UK. See a selection of designs and discover the history of Warner & Sons at Braintree Museum.
Norris & Co
In 1885, Warner & Ramm purchased silk manufacturers Norris & Co and acquired the patterns and samples of the firm, which are now part of the Warner Textile Archive. Norris & Co largely wove traditional silk furnishing fabrics and also some Gothic-style patterns. In the early part of the nineteenth century, Norris & Co purchased the business of William Lynes of Milk Street and inherited their patterns dating back to 1760. Patterns from Norris & Co include designs by Owen Jones and Augustus Pugin.
W2397b Floral Spray
Three Pile Velvet
Frank Warner patented the process of weaving three pile velvet in 1914. Benjamin Warner had revived the weaving of figured velvets more broadly, and the three pile velvet was a complex development which featured three heights of figured velvet in the weave. Primarily designed in fifteenth and sixteenth-century Italian style, these luxurious figured silk velvets showcase the technical abilities of the weavers employed by Warner & Sons. Our collection of three pile velvets features early examples of this technique as well as designs created especially for the Paris International Exhibition in 1925. The method of manufacturing three pile velvets was lost after the death of Frank Warner in 1930, therefore the collection at the Warner Textile Archive is a rare surviving example of an innovative weaving development.
We hold around 10,000 artworks on paper which date from c.1820s until c.2000, and which cover an extensive mixture of design styles and types. Paper designs include patterns for some of the earliest handwoven silks manufactured by Warner, Sillett and Ramm in the 1870s, detailed floral artwork for 1930s printed fabrics, designs purchased from freelance artists, art school graduates and Paris design houses in the 1950s, along with vibrant painted designs from the 1960s and 1970s.
1580 unnamed Margaret Meads design
Warner & Sons collected examples of historic textiles as inspiration for their in-house designers throughout the course of their trading. Our document collection of historic textiles combines an eclectic combination of many techniques and styles not manufactured by Warner & Sons but acquired in order to create a design resource for the firm. Collecting rare pieces of significance, Warner & Sons curated a collection of fabrics which form an important picture of historic interior decoration. The document collection includes French chintzes dating from the 1750s, often made into curtain panels, small fragments of printed furnishing fabrics from c.1860s made into seat coverings, and examples of technical innovations in manufacturing processes.
Our collection includes a large number of point papers. These are enlarged patterns drawn in a grid, mapping out the design for weaving. They are used by card cutters to plan how to produce the Jacquard cards, which form the code made through punched holes on cards, that are fed through the loom for the woven pattern to be created. In order to make it easier for the card cutters to clearly see the detail in the design, point papers usually depict a design in a much larger scale than the finished fabric. Bright colours are used on the point papers to show the card cutters the order in which threads should be passed through the loom.
Warner & Sons produced a vast number of printed textiles, which now form a significant part of the Warner Textile Archive. The printed samples offer a diverse array of styles and cover a broad date range; from late-nineteenth century floral motifs, through to bold 1970s geometrics. The printed samples often showcase one pattern in various colourways, printed on different base fabrics such as cotton or linen, and design and colour adaptations, which means some patterns have more than 40 examples developed over the course of 80 years or more. The printed textiles chart the development of printing techniques, from early copper roller engraved fabrics, block-printed designs, rotary screen-printed patterns, and digital printing. A huge design resource for the understanding of twentieth-century interiors, industrial art development, and public taste; the printed samples at the Warner Textile Archive are a unique example of charting design history.
Toile de Jouy
Our collection of around 200 toile de Jouy textiles contains important examples of patterns manufactured c.1750s – 1850s. Including many French patterns of pastoral and allegorical scenes, alongside oriental and figurative designs, our toile de Jouy collection showcases one of the most extensive of its type in the UK.
Warner & Sons introduced powerweaving at New Mills in Braintree in 1919. This enabled the increased mechanisation of woven fabrics and the ability to produce a greater volume of woven patterns. Our collection of powerwoven samples feature bold modern geometrics from the 1930s, through to lively woven stripes in the 1960s.
Our collection of handwoven furnishing fabrics, primarily woven in silk are a significant resource for understanding the development in interior decoration in the nineteenth and twentieth century. The handwoven collection includes key designs used in royal palaces and stately homes. The collection of samples charts the expansion of British silk manufacture for more than 100 years.
318 Starlings at Heybridge Basin
In 1950, Warner & Sons purchased furnishing fabrics company Helios, a division of Barlow and Jones, from Sir Thomas Barlow. Helios produced modern woven and printed designs, and many of these were transferred to Warner & Sons. Helios employed Marianne Straub to lead the design studio, and when sold to Warner & Sons, Straub joined the firm in the woven department. Our collection of patterns and samples from Helios include designs created by Marianne Straub, Graham Sutherland, Dora Batty and Hans Tisdall. Although a short-lived venture for Sir Thomas Barlow, Helios made a bold impression on the furnishing fabrics industry.
Daniel Walters & Sons
We hold a collection of point papers and fabric samples inherited by Warner & Sons when they purchased Daniel Walters & Sons in 1895. Daniel Walters & Sons were an award-winning company, praised for their high-quality manufacture of British silks. Patterns from Daniel Walters & Sons were often supplied to royal palaces.
Daniel Keith & Co.
Daniel Keith & Co were the main rivals of Daniel Walters & Sons in the middle of the nineteenth century for luxury furniture silks. Their designs ranged from floral bouquets through to Gothic style patterns, and they supplied some of the leading decorators of the era. Norris & Co purchased Daniel Keith & Co in 1868, and took over their large premises in Wood Street, London. The samples which we hold, all that remains of the firm, hint at the richness of colour and design in the nineteenth century.
H. Scott Richmond
Warner & Sons purchased the textile samples and designs belonging to H. Scott Richmond & Co in 1930. Almost 1,000 samples within the Warner Textile Archive originate from H. Scott Richmond. H. Scott Richmond & Co had been in business as designers and warehousemen for furnishing fabrics since c.1850. Their textiles were woven primarily in Tours, France, and were generally designed in the French style. H. Scott Richmond took part in the Royal Jubilee Exhibition in 1887, held in Manchester, alongside Warner & Ramm.
The Warner Textile Archive preserves a selection of print blocks used by Warner & Sons c.1920s-1930s. These wooden blocks with metal fixings were used to print colourful patterns. As many as 100 blocks could be used to finish one design, with the average of around 30 for most patterns.
Warner & Sons were meticulous in their record-keeping. Ledgers in the Warner Textile Archive date from the early days of the company and record many small details on the day-to-day running of a textile business in the Victorian era. Information has been retained on individual weavers, customers, and manufacturing processes, which offer us a glimpse into the development of a prominent textile manufacturing business.
Historic Pattern Books
Warner & Sons accumulated several important pattern books in the process of acquiring other businesses. These large volumes, which often contain hundreds of different designs, date from as early as the 1750s.
The library at the Warner Textile Archive holds many rare texts on textile design, silk manufacturing, and interior decoration.
Warner & Sons have a long tradition of supplying textiles for royal events and palaces. When the firm purchased Norris & Co in 1885, Warner & Sons increased their number of customers as they were able to produce designs that Norris & Co had previously manufactured. Queen Victoria was one of the high-profile customers that began ordering textiles from Warner & Sons at this time. She initiated the longstanding relationship with Warner & Sons, which was continued by many of the subsequent monarchs. Warner & Sons provided silks, and cloth of gold, for the coronations of Edward VII, George V, George VI, and Elizabeth II.
The photography collection enables us to illustrate the manufacturing processes used by Warner & Sons, and the people who were integral to the success of the business. Photographs also exist of patterns created by the firm, including some where photographs are the only surviving record.
Warner & Sons advertisement from the 1980s
Articles and advertisements were saved by Warner & Sons, including some regarding Daniel Walters & Sons in the 1870s. New innovations and design trends were often highlighted in marketing content in women’s magazines and specialist publications throughout the twentieth century, and the Warner Textile Archive preserves these snippets of social and design history.
Pattern books were a vital tool for Warner & Sons to track their designs and orders, and show potential customers the variety of patterns on offer. The pattern books for handwoven, powerwoven, and printed textiles cover a broad timescale and help us understand the diverse textiles on offer at any one time, and how interior decoration trends emerged and developed throughout the twentieth century.
Greeff Fabrics was founded in 1933 by Theodore ‘Teddy’ Greeff in the USA. Teddy Greeff quickly became a customer of Warner & Sons, distributing designs in the USA. By the 1950s Greeff were producing their own printed fabrics. Warner & Sons collaborated with Greeff in 1955, to print six American designs for UK customers. These were in a new bold style, and were highly praised in the trade. Building upon initial success, the connection with Greeff grew each year until the formation in 1964 of Greeff Fabrics (UK) which was managed by Warner & Sons. The Greeff studio in New York worked closely with the Warner & Sons studios in London and Braintree, but each retained their characteristic look. Our collection of Greeff Fabrics is the largest in the UK, and maintains samples from the earliest 1950s collaboration, as well as bright 1960s printed textiles. The Greeff collection illustrates the cultural exchange between the UK and USA and highlights the interweaving of global furnishing fabrics trends.
The Jacquard loom was invented by Joseph-Marie Jacquard in France at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Jacquard weaving was reportedly introduced to England in c.1816 by Wilsons of Wood Street, a furnishings fabric manufacturer purchased by Norris & Co, and subsequently absorbed into the Warner & Sons conglomerate. Daniel Walters & Sons used Jacquard looms from c.1870 at New Mills in Braintree, and Warner & Sons also utilised the method. We hold a small collection of Jacquard cards, the punched cards used to programme the loom. Jacquard looms are cited as the precursor to modern computers.
In 1921, Warner & Sons purchased the furnishing fabrics brand Cohens, and we hold the textile samples of what remains of this business. Trading from c.1900 until 1921 when Warner & Sons acquired the firm, Cohens produced silk furnishing fabrics.
Alongside the finished samples retained within the collection, we also hold the preparatory trials and small swatches used to develop the textiles. This includes silk hanks of many colour variations, and small silk samples woven to assess design structure, colour combinations, and quality of weave.