Notes on Historic British and Irish Hand-Made Carpet Factories

Notes from Wilton Factory Archive ( Held at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre )

Range of 'Wessex' hand tufted rugs that were produced 1930 - 1935. Wilton may have introduced a special quality for contemporary art rugs. Can now properly speculate more on the differing weaving qualities attributed to Wilton. eg Marion Dorn as arguably the best known. The original a/w was done in gouache. Brightom Musem had these on loan at the time from Wilton.

The kind of book given to clients interested in creating rugs

With London offices it was easy for the artists to discuss their commissions with the design team representatives at Paternoster Square

Capable of huge commisions

Boasts of a large design team

Bacon, Dorn and McNight Kauffer were using the two cheaper qualities 4.5 x4.5 or 5 x 5cm

Prices circa 1932

less luxurious pocket price list - 1950s demonstrates decline

less luxurious pocket price list

Mentions costings and Dorn's commission for The Ritz


All records were transferred to Wiltshire County Archives whose collection are now held at

Email: heritageadmin@wiltshire.gov.uk

Telephone: 01249 705500

Postal Address:

Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre

Cocklebury Road



SN15 3QN.

the pages for the records on line are:


Choose Wiltshire and Swindon from drop down and insert 2583 into the search

also see my pages: 



Main Factory close to Wilton House seat of Earl of Pembroke ( patron and consotium leader )

Small subsidiary hand knotting workplaces opened:

1894 Southamton (unsuccesful ) destroyed WW11

1905 at Mere ( Somerset ) Tisbury ( Wiltshire ) Downton ( Wiltshire ) transferred to nearby next village Morgan Vale ( Wilshire )

1916 at Fordingbridge ( Hampshire ) only 4 miles south from Downton.

1935 Downton transfers to  Morgan's Vale  { coincides with end of ' Wessex ' range ? }

Downtown and Fordingbridge are very closeby and the two may be confused or the same

The managing director at Wilton Carpet Factory states it  

was possible that some factory records were sent to the V&A.

Their own files were destroyed on two successive occasions.

This may have occurred in 1959 when hand-knotting ceased , 1965  

during a merger , 1970 when they were taken over by Yougal or 1987  

when the group became part of Coats Viyella


They may show up at the V&A.( ?? ) but appear tragically lost


" Thank you for your enquiry about records from the Royal Wilton Carpet Factory. I have checked the catalogue and regret that neither the Archive of Art and Design nor the National Art Library holds any such records or trade literature." - Anne Newport.

Anne Newport

Librarian, Documentation

Word & Image Department

Victoria and Albert Museum

South Kensington

London SW7 2RL

Tel: 44 (0) 20 7942 2390

Fax: 44 (0) 20 7942 2394

Email: anewport@vam.ac.uk


12/8/2009 V&A / VAM 

Thank you for your enquiry about records relating to the Wilton Carpet Factory. We have two files of letters, accounts etc, but they are not from the period you are interested in. They relate to the late 40's and early 1950s, and to the late 1970s and early 1980s (although there is mention of an exhibition about Wilton's 1930s carpets in the 1970s file). If you still wanted to see these you would need to make an appointment with the Archive of Art and Design where they are held, and view them in their reading rooms at Olympia. Tel; 020 7942 2966.

To make it quicker when asking for the files you should quote MA/1/W2421 and Wilton Royal Carpet Factory Ltd., (Philip Coombes)

Natasha Jacoby - Assistant Curator

Designs  n.jacoby@vam.ac.uk


re Brighton catalogue at Brighton 5th October - 2 November 1975 BRITISH CARPETS AND DESIGNS: The Modernist Rug 1928 - 1938

Some of Wilton's lost records were exhibited in the 1975 Brighton Exhibition


Like you I had the reference to Wessex but could not detail anything.

In the documentation I have there is like different types of hand made or knotting mentioned, but there are never references to the modernist rugs. The images bellow come from my best booklet. There is no date for publication I believe in the 70s.


Here is the interior page of catalog from the WRCF published in 1950. All the carpets inside are of western classical design, none is modern.


In a catalog from the William Morris Collection, Walthamstow, 1958 it is written :

"The production of hand-knotted rugs was transfered to Merton Abbey in 1881 and to the Wilton Royal Carpet Works in 1921."

Could the modernist rugs have been woven on the same looms as the last Morris carpets??


In the book  "Arts & Crafts carpets by M. Haslam" page 186 : "Until an arrangement was made with the Wilton Royal Carpet Factory in 1914, Omega rugs were quite crudely woven. They were made of wool hand-knotted on canvas....."


I have a copy from "A history of British Carpets from CEC Tattersall, 1966 ed." page 126-7 is Wessex Weavers Wilton ::

Also I have the same book but mine is published 1934 and does not have this

Then they comment on Wilton Royal CF but nothing for our subject.

The illustrations in the chapters are not modernist rugs from 30s designers.

"Wessex Weavers" may be a revival of the ' Wessex' range 1930 - 1935 as described in the Brighton catalogue

Tin 1975 they had access to the Wilton records.


In "Carpet design & Designing , Mayers1934" I found a modernist carpet with dark warp and fringes from Alex Morton , image follows :


Information about the Kildare project taken from my personal notes on Brintons.

1906 The company had many Gripper looms including a 15ft loom christened the Majestic loom.

The Kildare hand knotting section was introduced for specials up to a width of 40ft. 

[the records suggest that the looms were in A Shed and it could be that they came from Kildare in Ireland, hence the name?]

Note: Extract from Sarah B.Sherril's "Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America"

Around 1900 The Congested Districts Board in Ireland provided funds to set-up ca

rpet companies in the area around Killarney. In 1904 Brintons discussed with the Board the provision of funds to set up a company in Glenbeigh. The factory lasted less than 1 year when it was bought by a Mr Flynn who continued to run it in conjunction with his own business.

Between 1904 and 1909 Brintons managed a company in Kildare. They supplied the looms and management and marketed the carpet in England. In 1909 it became the Kildare Carpet Company Ltd. and Brintons were no longer involved [?]

1909 A product called Cecilian was named after Cecil Brinton.   [210]

Reginald took over all weaving operations and reintroduced some hand weaving for specials.

These hand looms were very wide. A 33ft circular carpet was produced for a London company in a multi colour design called “Kildare”. 16 girls for 5 weeks, 250,000 tufts knotted.

Vigorna Hand Tuft Dept. “A” Shed. 40ft wide looms, warping with a frame on the wall.

pre 1914-18 war 3d/ 1000 tufts after war 9d/ 1000.   see - Beacon extract with photo.

The Vigorna hand-tuft department. A shed.      see - Beacon extract.

These vertical hand looms were in A shed prior to and just after the First World War.

All operations except shearing were carried out by hand. The tufts were cut to length in there separate colours boxes near the operative. The knotting followed a design to the rear. 

Many girls hand knotted their way across the loom and when the row was complete the weft shot was put in and the lash beaten up with a hand beater.

In 1914 the pay was 3d per 1,000 tufts, a good knotter would earn 14 shillings a week. After the war the rate increased to 9d a 1,000. The last carpet woven was for Bristol Golf Club.

The most notable was the 33ft circular rug for the foyer of the De Keysers Hotel London. 

Before the carpet was delivered it was put on show in the Corn Exchange with a lot of interest.

From "Brintons of Kidderminster" draft of unpublished book by Don Gilbert and Len Smith

Around 1909 Reginald Brinton reintroduced wide looms for knotted carpet, the looms came from Mere in Wiltshire. Special orders 33 feet diameter with an elaborate Louis XIV design for a London firm and seven for the Japanese Embassy.

Melvyn Thompson    4th November 2009

Brintons Library does have the book entitled Carpets by Reginald Seymour Brinton first published 1919.


No information on The Kildare Carpet Company still existing after 1913.

If in the future you would like to visit the company I would be delighted to show you the Archive

Yvonne Smith

BRINTONS Carpets Ltd.

Archivist Dept. 





Abbeyleix / Naas and the Irish counties of Laois and Kildare, Abbeyleix was the home of Francis Bacon

Notes on Kildare Co. Kildare

• Did Lord Ashbrook continued manufacture after the closure of Kildare in circa 1912 ?

Notes on Abbeyleix Co. Laois

• 1903 Robert Flower invents and patents Latched Hooked needle with moveable latchet

• amalgamation period 1909 - 1912

  26/3/2003 fire  destroyed the former Peerless Rugs factory in Athy, Co Kildare.

Notes on the Dun Emer Industries,  founded 1902, later to include the Dun Emer Press and the Dun Emer Guild

Notes on Irish facories and Killybags Co. Donegal

Killybegs - Gavin Mortimer commenced 1898/9

Back of a typical  all wool Gavin Mortimer carpet based on a fusion of Turkish Ushak and British ' Arts & Crafts ' taste. Killybegs (?) Donegal circa 1905 All wool construction. Warp and weft dyed green 




Worked behind the William Morris shop at Oxford Street London 1916 whilst Merton Abbey remained closed.

http://thecarpetindex.blogspot.com/"She worked in London as a textile designer and like the Bauhaus student produced her own textiles (Batik , flat weaves, rugs) or for others like Marion Dorn 1925-1928 ". Info - Jean Manuel de Noronha 2009.


First Rugs said to have been in 1928 by a ' wild' red haired Irish woman. Jean Orage retired 1930 in her 60s. Wove rugs commissioned by McKnight Kaufer , Marion Dorn, Ronald Grieson. She dyed her own materials. - source - Brighton Museum catalogue 1975.

Jean Orage's first rugs by a "wild" red-haired Irish woman.

Need more on her background as there may be a link to Abbeyleix / Naas and the Irish counties of Laois and Kildare


Information regarding Jean Orage

Jean Orage has woven art tapestrys for Morris & Co from 1905 to 1916; then she opens her worshop in London; produced some knotted rugs but specialised in tapestry and flat-weaves:1925 Paris exhibition with 2 tapestrys The wood and The See;  Exhibition in the MET, New York 1929; has worked for Ronald Grierson, Kauffer  & Dorn, and Claude Flight (see my next post about Studio bibliography 1928)

2 photos of her weavings published in Etoffes et Tapis Etrangers, Exposition Paris 1925, by M.P. Verneuil

One of her items for McKnight Kaufer is described tapestry in the V&M by implication a flatweave I am seeing it in Jan 2010 - would you like to come along?

We have no evidence or picture of any pile rug as yet