Wardle & Co, Leek, Staffordshire. Set up by Thomas Wardle in 1881, the firm dyed silk threads for embroidery and yarns for woven textiles and velvets. During the late 1870s Wardle was printing fourteen designs for Morris & Co., but by 1881 Morris, dissatisfied with the quality produced moved all his printing to his own works at Merton Abbey. Wardle also imported Indian silks for dyeing or overprinting and bought designs directly from Lewis F. Day, Crane, Voysey and Solon. They supplied many leading retailers including Liberty & Co., Debenham & Freebody, Story's and Heal's. — Arts & Crafts Textiles in Britain.

The Morris Connection

When [Morris] arrived in the town in 1873 to study dyes, Thomas invited him to work at Hencroft [the firm's site] — to such an extent that Hencroft was converted into a printing works to support a new direction in the use of colour and design.

Wardle collaborated with William Morris, thus making Leek's fabrics an essential item for enthusiasts of the Arts & Crafts movement. Large and deceptively simple floral designs, using newly developed dyes, helped to push the boundaries of textile manufacture.

Silk yarns and fabrics, which came from India and China, were dyed in Leek, using dyestuffs from all over the world and were further enriched with gold thread from Japan.

Morris was so impressed with the developments he observed in Leek, he stayed in the town two years working on colours and processes that would make his own experiments in tapestry, printing and wallpaper all the more possible.

Wardle's dyeing and printing company had three sites along the River Churnet. The river water had properties that helped produce superior dyes. — "Thomas Wardle"

Examples of Wardle & Co.'s Textile Designs

Example of Wardle's Embroidery Designs

References

Arts & Crafts Textiles in Britain. Exhibition Catalogue. The Fine Art Society in Association with Francesca Galloway, nd.

"Thomas Wardle." Stoke & Staffordshire Local History (BBC archives). 6 January 2016.


Last modified 17 January 2016