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China Clay

  • Object:

    Pair of curtains

  • Place of origin:

    Northern Ireland (made)

  • Date:

    1951 (designed and made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Old Bleach Linen Company Limited (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Jacquard-woven linen

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Girton College

  • Museum number:

    T.117:1, 2-1992

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The Festival of Britain held 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 based on abstract forms and organic shape, the so-called 'Contemporary' style. This fabric was originally made in linen by the Old Bleach Linen Company of Randalstown in Northern Ireland and shown at the British Industries Fair. Subsequently, these curtains were woven in cotton for the Lawrence Room at Girton College, Cambridge. Prototype table mats and napkins in linen and rayon in the same design were shown at the Festival in the Regatta Restaurant. The design derived from the crystallography model China 8.6, provided by G. W. Brindley.

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

Pair of jacquard-woven linen curtains with a small crystal structure design.

Place of Origin

Northern Ireland (made)


1951 (designed and made)


Old Bleach Linen Company Limited (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Jacquard-woven linen

Object history note

Registered File number 1992/511.

Descriptive line

Pair of jacquard-woven 'China Clay' linen curtains, made by the Old Bleach Linen Company Limited, Northern Ireland, 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. 76.

Production Note

The design based on G.W. Brindley crystallography.

Attribution note: Limited production in 1951.


Linen (material)


Jacquard weaving


Textiles; Interiors


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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