The late Victorian period was a time when old craft skills using hand and eye rather than machines were being revived, notably by the artist William Morris. Tapestry weaving, considered by Morris to be the finest form of textile craft, was one of them, and he established his own tapestry works in 1881. Somewhat to his chagrin, however, he had been pre-empted by a firm based in Old Windsor.
The Old Windsor Tapestry Manufactory was founded in 1876 by two Frenchmen, Marcel Brignolas, as Manager, and Henri C. J. Henry as its first Director. Henry was Art Director of Gillows, Oxford Street, London. They brought weavers over from the famous French Aubusson works, and set up their looms in Manor Lodge in Straight Road, Old Windsor, a building since demolished. The 1881 census shows a large number of families from Aubusson or Paris living in the village. Wives worked as tapestry repairers and children received some education at a school held at the Lord Nelson public house where the wool dyeing works were first set up.
The Old Windsor Tapestry Manufactory was one of only two tapestry works to be established in England in the 19th Century, the other being that of William Morrisat Merton Abbey, The Manufactory enjoyed royal patronage as Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the youngest son of Queen Victoria, enthusiastically supported the project, becoming its President.
Welcome to Tapestry at West Dean, one of only a very small number of such studios in the world, and unique in many ways. This site will give you an insight into the designing and weaving process, introduce you to our designers and weavers and guide you through our gallery of past commissions. We'll look into the origins of tapestry and show how the medium is today very much a thriving art form.
Yarn has an ability to represent colour more effectively than any other medium. Dyed wool has an intensity far stronger than that of paint or pencil. Tapestry techniques allow for a subtlety of approach, with wide-ranging methods of interpretation. Tapestry both introduces warmth and enhances acoustic qualities of a space.
A tapestry may mark a special occasion in an institution's history, celebrate the construction of a new building or provide an innovative approach to depicting a service, process, or product.They add a new, colourful dimension to a space, soften a harsh surface and improve acoustics. They are truly unique objects.
The ability of the Studio to produce contemporary works of fine art that will become part of the 21st century's cultural legacy is highly valued by its clients. Designs in other mediums by well-known artists are also interpreted into woven tapestry, resulting in works of art that reveal new and unexpected qualities.
Originally established in Edinburgh in 1912 Dovecot Studios has collaborated with many renowned artists and designers of the 20th Century.
Dovecot continues to work to commission, working with artists and designers, architects, interior design specialists, museum curators and private collectors.