Image: from the Crutchley archive - 6 dyeing recipes from the 1720s in Flemish and English
In 2011, the Southwark Local History Library and Archive received a donation from descendants of an 18th century Southwark-based family dyeing business, owned by John Crutchley. This donation included fourteen hardbound dyeing and business account books dating from 1716–1744 – incredibly rare survivals which give a complete and well-rounded view of a contemporary textile business and dyed textile production in this period. Three of the fourteen books donated succumbed to water damage and were selected by the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust to be treated for mould, have pages cleaned and resized, and loose dye samples fixed.
Image: Detail showing condition of Crutchley archive document prior to conservation. Courtesy of LB Southwark.
The three books chosen as conservation priorities include a recipe book with broadcloth dyeing instructions, a pattern book, and an ingredient book, all featuring vibrant dyed samples. The colours of these samples are still vivid after nearly 300 years; ranging from delicate pastel yellows, lilacs, and pinks, to bright and bold oranges and yellows. It has been inferred that the Crutchley Family specialised in red colours due to the abundance of red swatches found throughout these books.
Image: Textile dye houses were secretive places where dyers learnt from written instructions from masters of their trade - UNESCO UK
It is rare to see material culture relating to dye work of this period survive, and few other collections of dye records can match the insight that the Crutchley archive provides. The importance of this collection was recognised in 2019 when it was inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. After the conservation efforts are complete, the archive will be digitised for public use. The records will serve as a rich reference for historians of textile production, dress and textile history, dyes and dyeing, economics, and business, as well as allowing modern-day artisans and designers to be inspired and instructed by their colleagues of nearly 300 years ago.