Thursday, June 27, 2019

From Novels To Nuptials To Turkey Red Twill

Belle Vue is a building that many Halifax people of a certain age will be familiar with, as it used to be the Central Library - although tucked away up Lister Lane it was not very central. Now it is an up-market wedding venue: from novels to nuptials!

Belle Vue  was built in 1857 as a home for Sir Francis Crossley and it was designed by the architect George Henry Stokes - the assistant to, and son-in-law of, Sir Joseph Paxton (of Crystal Palace fame).  It became the home of Halifax Central Library in 1889, and remained so until 1983, when it then moved to the centre of Halifax. The Halifax War Memorial was also originally situated in the grounds, until it too was moved in 1988.

The Belle Vue postcard was used in November 1913 as a kind of early on-line shopping order. "Please get me half a yard of Turkey Red Twill for my quilt", writes Lucy

The card was sent to Mrs Hartland of Margate Street in Sowerby Bridge, and the message reads as follows:-
Dear M, When you are out shopping some time will you please get me half a yard of Turkey Red Twill for my quilt. I have used up all I have so far as I know now we shall be coming home on Sunday. Love to both, Lucy.

Turkey Red was a dyeing process used of cotton cloth and yarn and producing rich vibrant colours. It was particularly popular in the nineteenth century and Turkey Red cloth was produced widely in Scotland. I did manage to find an advert for some genuine 100 year old Turkey Red Twill on eBay, so if Lucy would like to drop me a postcard, I can order her some.


  1. Although the library was a fifteen minute walk from town it was right on the doorstep of the Halifax Technical College, a forerunner of the Percival Whitley College and Calderdale College. I had the honor of being one of the first batch of students to enroll at the Percival Whitley College and then the dubious honor of being the guest speaker at the closing down ceremony of the college's engineering and textile departments.

    I have happy memories of visits to the Belle Vue Library in my lunch hour. The reference library and reading rooms were in the main building. The lending library was housed under a glazed roof which can just be seen on the right of the picture.

  2. I was fascinated by this entry. We lived in Halifax 1986-9 so missed the Belle Vue library and the War Memorial. We lived in Boothtown, so Bankfield was our local library.
    Just as we left and headed south, in 1989, unbeknown to me, the Quilters' Guild of the British Isles opened its first headquarters in Dean Clough with proper storage facilities for its then nascent British quilt collection, including Turkey Red examples.
    Turkey Red was the first fast red dye, and came to Scotland from eastern lands, and involved, I think, thirty seven different processes, some of which involved the waste products of various creatures and was pretty disgusting. But it worked. And Turkey Red paisley fabric is beautiful, and was particularly popular in Welsh quilts. Jen Jones had a magnificent gallery in Lampeter Old Town Hall and had annual exhibitions for ten years until last November when the gallery closed for lack of funding. Jen still has an online shop based nearby and sells antique quilts.
    I didn't know about any of this when I was living in Halifax, but I wonder what happened to Lucy's quilt. (It could have been plain turkey red twill she was after - red and white is still a popular combination for quilters.)
    The Quilters' Guild collection is now housed at their headquarters in York. The museum gallery was open at St Anthony's Hall for eight years, but again proved too expensive to maintain, and the collection is still open to visitors by arrangement. There are also travelling exhibitions, recently at Tennants' Auction Hall in Leyburn and also at the folk museum in Hawes.
    Ironic that the Belle Vue building also housed the (late) college textile department.


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