The story of Georgian quilter Joseph Hedley is being told in a new exhibit at Beamish, the Living Museum of the North.
In the early 19th century, the industrial revolution was spreading across the country while smaller businesses in rural communities continued to thrive. From quilters to clog makers and everything in between, these small businesses, often found within people’s homes and cottages, were a huge part of rural life.
Occasionally the museum is asked why they chose to recreate a quilter’s cottage, as opposed to, a clog maker or a blacksmith’s and the reason is, they are so fortunate to have an internationally renowned quilting collection at Beamish. One of the quilts in the collection was made in 1820 by Joseph Hedley, known locally in Northumberland as “Joe the Quilter”.
Joe the Quilter lived and worked in a small cottage in Warden, near Hexham, and his work was reportedly sent as far as Ireland and America. Tragically Joe was murdered in 1826, this unsolved crime shocked the nation. There was even a 100 guinea reward. Joe was one of many who used his skills to make ends meet, but his tragic demise meant that Joe was secured in history forever.
Beamish recreated Joe’s cottage using floorplans and information recorded about him at the time of his murder, and even carried out an archaeological dig on the original site of Joe’s cottage – the museum found amazing things including flagstones where Joe would have stood 200 years ago. Now Beamish visitors can see those same stones, as they learn about Joe’s life and the history of quilting.
Volunteers Aidan and Margaret Nichol, and Linda Durant created a replica of Joe’s whole cloth, white cotton quilt, which took nearly 800 hours to complete.
Guest blog post by Matthew Henderson, Remaking Beamish Engagement Development Officer.