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Furnishing fabric - Beryl 8.9

Beryl 8.9

  • Object:

    Furnishing fabric

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1951 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Webster, H. (designer)
    A.C. Gill (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Machine-embroidered cotton lace

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Council of Industrial Design

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The Festival of Britain held in London in 1951 provided new opportunities for textile design and manufacture. Two very distinct types of pattern emerged at this event: one was inspired by scientific, crystal-structure diagrams drawn to record arrangements of atoms in matter; the other was based on abstract forms and organic shape, the so-called 'Contemporary' style.

This design derived from the crystallography model Beryl 8.9, provided by the crystallographer Lawrence Bragg, and was used for curtains on the east elevation of the Regatta Restaurant, as well as the in Festival Pattern Group display and in lampshades on GEC light fittings.

The Festival Pattern Group was the brainchild of Mark Harland Thomas of the Council of Industrial Design. He built on the idea first put forward in 1946 by crystallographer Dr Helen Megaw that the patterns made available by X-ray crystallography were particularly appropriate for textile design because of their repetitive symmetry and natural beauty. In 1949 he brought together the group of manufacturers who produced textiles, china, carpets, linoleum and wallpaper decorated with these patterns for the Festival. The project combined science and design and was perfect for the theme of the festival, which was to be a platform for British achievement in science, technology and the arts.

Physical description

Furnishing fabric of machine-embroidered cotton lace. With a design based on a crystal structure diagram of beryl.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


ca. 1951 (made)


Webster, H. (designer)
A.C. Gill (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Machine-embroidered cotton lace


Height: 49.5 cm, Width: 80 cm, Width: 86.5 cm minimum, Width: 91.5 cm maximum

Object history note

X-ray crystallography involved projecting a narrow beam of X-rays on to crystalline material. Photographs were then taken of the diffracted X-rays, and the resulting lines or spots were used to plot 'maps' indicating the relationships between atoms. For the first time ever it enabled scientist to work out the structure of atoms within molecules. Britain was a world leader in the field of crystallography and during the post war period this was one of the most significant and stimulating branches of science.

Historical context note

Illlustrated in Festival of Britain Souvenir Book, p.1 ; Queen; Skinner's Record, p. 475.

Descriptive line

Furnishing fabric 'Beryl 8.9' of machine-embroidered cotton lace, designed by H. Webster, made by A.C. Gill, Great Britain, ca. 1951

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Jackson, Lesley. From Atoms to Patterns. Crystal structure designs from the 1951 Festival of Britain, London:Richard Dennis with Wellcome Institute, 2008, p. 63.

Production Note

Made for A.C. Gill for Festival of Britain; Crystal Design 'Beryl 8.9'.

See Jackson, p. 63.

Attribution note: Manufactured from 1951, still available August 1959; 2 colours.




Machine embroidery


Textiles; Interiors; Lace; Embroidery


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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