Osborne House – a Royal Summer retreat
When Queen Victoria purchased the first Osborne House on the Isle of Wight in 1845 she had already fallen for the Idyllic setting with its 1000 acres and charming private beach. The original house was soon demolished to make way for a New Royal Mansion but the original front doorway was kept and adapted and built into the present garden wall.
The new design in the Italian style was designed by Prince Albert himself, who oversaw the building work. The building commenced in June 1845 and it took until 1850 to complete. It became Victoria and Albert’s favourite place where they spent as much time as possible.
The decorative schemes in the house were in keeping with the times but considered more homely and personable than other Royal Interiors. The main living rooms of the house, that concern our decoration, are the Drawing Room, Billiard Room and Dining Room. The Drawing and Billiard Rooms are set out in an L shaped style and the two are divided by some imitation marble columns and a large pair of gathered Amber silk curtains, which can be drawn back to open up both areas. The silk damask in the style of Philippe de Lasalle which featured his signature urns, trailing floral wreaths of flowers with cornucopia, musical instruments and garden tools to give the leisure pursuits visual display.
The Amber shade is a vivid yellow and is used throughout for all drapery and upholstery in the room and we were able to colour match from remaining fragments of historic textiles at Osborne House. The fabric was originally woven at 63” (160cm) wide, which by the 1860’s was a wide width for hand loom weaving. The normal width being three times the width of an 18th Century weavers hand span, or approximately 21” (53.5cm). The design image was isometric and required a double head Jacquard machine. Daniel Walters at his Braintree Essex New Mills was accomplished in this wide width, which can also be seen in damasks woven for both Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace which were woven at the same time. Fragments of this early weaving at Osborne still survived but the Walters loom did not. The unique design and layout was an essential part of the damask restoration to faithfully recreate the original historic textiles. After considering the poor alternatives, it was decided that we should rebuild the loom to exactly recreate the original silk damask.
We began to rebuild in the year 2000 and in the autumn of the following year set to weave the Amber cloth once again. With such a complicated build and heavy harness the production was steady and took almost one hundred working days to complete by weaver David Kerrison. The stunning result is the truly accurate hand-woven restoration of the original scheme for all to enjoy on their holiday visit to Royal summer palace.