An enjoyable aspect of research into Nottingham Lace is seeing such unexpected motifs in the design. Of course there are plenty of flowers, varying in quality and accuracy, but there are plenty of non-floral laces. Some lace is telling a story, other laces hint at a current fashion or craze.
One famous example of storytelling is a curtain lace panel depicting the story of Joan of Arc. I saw the panel when I visited the Musee de la Dentelle et Mode in Calais, France just before the pandemic.
This panel is said to be the inspiration behind the famous British curtain lace depicting the devastation of the Battle of Britain during the Second World War. Made by Nottingham Lace curtain manufacturers Dobson & Brown, it was created not long after bombing in London. The designer Harry Cross used photos of destroyed landmarks to create his panel, along with the famous quote:
‘Never has so much been owed to so few by so many’Winston Churchill
Only 32 were made, one now hangs in the Lace Room at Nottingham Castle. The NTU Lace Archive has been loaned original paintings of the panel design, completed by Harry Cross after his retirement. They were scanned and reproduced onto fabric as a print for display as part of the Lace Unarchived exhibition in 2018. There’s more on the story behind the panel on the Bonington Gallery website.
The Battle of Britain design, reproduced from Harry Cross’ original paintings. Nottingham Trent University ‘Lace Unarchived’ exhibition 2018
I have seen the Battle of Britain panel a number of times, and still get goosebumps when I see it. The design was worked on during the darkest days of the war, when no-one could know the outcome . Would those who worked on this panel be punished if the war ended badly for Britain? It’s sobering to reflect on hope in the darkest of times, and we were shown how to do that by Nottingham’s lacemakers.