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  • Place of origin:

    Failsworth (made)

  • Date:

    1851 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Walmsley, Henry (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Jacquard woven silk damask and worsted

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs M. W. Taylor

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122c, case 1

This cloth was manufactured especially to show the technical skills of the weaver rather than for sale for domestic use. The design of this tablecloth shows the 1851 Great Exhibition building in the centre, with side borders representing the continents of Asia, Europe, Africa and America.

The cover was manufactured by Henry Walmsley of Failsworth, Lancashire . It was woven by power-activated jacquard loom, and the execution of the design was said to have taken 84,000 cards. The cards were bored with holes which followed the pattern required. These were then sewn together in sequence and mounted on the jacquard attachment on the top of the loom. The holes then controlled the lifting of threads in sequence on the loom. The cost of the design and the cutting of cards was 'upwards of œ800', an enormous amount for this time.

This tour de force of scale and weaving was typical of exhibits at the 1851 Exhibition, where the importance of innovative technique frequently had precedence over good design. It was one of four examples of the same design shown at the Exhibition (class XI, no. 51). The others were in silk, cotton and worsted, and cotton, all in various colours.

Physical description

Tablecloth of jacquard woven silk damask and worsted, and commemorating the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Crystal Palace building is in the centre with the side borders of figures and animals representing Asia, Europe, Africa and America. Woven by a power-activated jacquard loom. Woven in red silk and dark blue wool with a blue ground.

Place of Origin

Failsworth (made)


1851 (made)


Walmsley, Henry (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Jacquard woven silk damask and worsted


Height: 201 cm, Width: 242 cm, Length: 98 in, Width: 79.5 in

Object history note

Made by the firm of Henry Walmsley, Failsworth, Lancashire;

Shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851

Descriptive line

Tablecloth of jacquard woven silk damask and worsted, Henry Walmsley, Failsworth, 1851

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This jacquard-woven textile was designed to show off the possibilities of the new technique. The large, complicated design includes almost no repeated motifs. Such designs took a long time to prepare and involved many jacquard cards. But once the loom was set up, the design could be produced quickly. [27/03/2003]


Tableware & cutlery; Textiles; Household objects; Interiors


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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