Images Courtesy of NMCT.
An indispensable resource for historians eager to immerse themselves into the realms of textile, fashion, business, and dyeing, The Crutchley Family Archive is an incredibly rare collection of dye books that has recently been acquired by the Southwark Local History Library and Archive. Compiled by the 18th-century wool fabric dyeing business in Southwark, London, the Crutchley family were renown dyers in their area, owning several dye-works near the south bank of the Thames between Clink Street and Deadman’s Place. With over a thousand dyeing instructions and colourful dyed patterns, this impressive archive was recently donated by descendants of the family after several pages grew to be water-damaged during years of storage. Among this generous donation includes fourteen of the Crutchley’s dyeing and business account books dating from around 1716-1744 and associated with John Crutchley (acquisition no. 2011/5).
Since then, the three earliest books of this collection have been selected as conservation priorities of the highest order. All replete with dyed samples, they include a pattern book, an ingredient book, and a recipe book with instructions for dyeing broadcloth. Researchers have found it especially rare that material culture of this period survive in such impeccable condition. Despite this, the three books will still be treated for mould, the pages cleaned and resized, and loose dye samples fixed. Once these documents are fit for handling, they are set to be digitised for public use. Upon completing the conservation of this case study, the National Manuscript Conservation Trust also believes historical research can be strengthened by working together with local residents and charities in the hopes of reproducing the books’ dye samples and recipes.
Recognised as a significant heritage document of UK textile history in 2019, the archive was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.