Lace border, Honiton, linen, maker unknown, Honiton, Devon, England, 1840-1860
Honiton lace is the most famous of all English hand-made bobbin laces and represents a textile art requiring great skill. It evolved from a combination of Flemish and English lace-making skills in Honiton, Devon. By the 1600s, clothes had become an immediately recognisable symbol demonstrating wealth and defining a wearer's status. The evolution of lace as a fashion fabric ensured demand by both men and women for exclusive high quality pieces that commanded exorbitant prices. Fortunes were squandered and estates were mortgaged to acquire it. Such was the importance of lace, that during Queen Anne's reign (1702-1714), Honiton lace became an article of currency used to finance the Jacobite rebellion.
Lace was an essential part of a lady's attire and was often given as a present. Since the early 1600s, Honiton lace has enjoyed the patronage of many members of the Royal family. Queen Adelaide had a wedding dress specially made of Honiton lace to encourage home industry. The children and grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth have been christened in a Honiton lace christening gown.
The hand-made lace industry suffered a rapid decline in the 1800s as cheap machine made lace flooded the world market. Honiton bobbin lace varied greatly in quality in the 1800s. This Honiton lace piece with well-formed motifs is significant as an excellent example of good design and workmanship.
Lace border made in Honiton, Devon, England about 1840-1860.
The ground of Honiton guipure is formed of brides, while in the finest old Honiton the ground is worked with a needle making it more costly. Guipure is a term applied to any lace of heavyish texture made without a net ground. Bride is a small strip or connecting loop of threads overcast with button-hole stitches or of twisted or plaited threads. It is used instead of a ground-work of net. A favourite pattern was the butterfly as featured on this piece. The floral and leaf sprays with butterflies, are linked by bars. The edge of lace is ornamented on one side and plain on the other. To the plain edge is lightly attached a strip of lace called engrelure, or footing.
Honiton hand-made bobbin lace is the best known name in English lace and takes its name from Honiton in Devon, England. Lace has been made there for over 400 years. It is likely the lace-making skill was inflluenced by Flemish lace-makers. Honiton was a textile town and had in place an infrastructure suited to out-workers. With trading links to London, Honiton lace quickly became popular amongst wealthy men and women. Honiton lace varied in quality from expensive as the thread used was very fine and pattern-making was time-consuming to unrecognisable lumps affectionately referred to as slugs, snails, bullock's hearts, elephant rumps and frying pans.
Good quality Honiton lace was used to decorate clothing of the nobility and the rich. Lace was made into collars, shawls, handkerchieves, bonnets and flounces. The large pieces of lace were designed by an artist and comprise lots of small sprigs. The individual sprigs were made by different home workers and assembled by a specialist. Designs are based on animals and other natural motifs with the most popular motifs in Honiton, the shamrock, rose and thistle.
From the middle of the 19th century, Honiton made a lace called guipure, with bars instead of net joining the sprigs together.
Queen Adelaide had a wedding dress specially made of Honiton lace as did Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandria and Queen Mary. Queen Elizabeth has a Honiton christening robe which has been worn by her children and grandchildren.