Interior design at Owletts

18th century flock wallpaper found at Owletts

As part of the repair and renovation work at Owletts, we were able to look into the old decorative schemes throughout the house, and one of the most interesting finds was the wallpaper.

As a conservation charity we are always interested in unravelling the decorative history of our buildings. Whilst we take any opportunity available to discover more, we usually find that the changes in fashions are lost as the new decorative schemes replace the old. 


Peeling back the layers

Here at Owletts, the conservation team were surprised and delighted to discover some interesting and unusual wallpaper throughout the house. This included a very rare, late 18th century flocked wallpaper, which was bright copper green with an unusual brick pattern backgrounds. We found this in one of the upstairs bedrooms, and it must have been a real feature of the room when it was new.

" The flock wallpaper, complete with matching border, is a great find. It expands our knowledge of 18th-century wallpapers at a time when we produced the best flock wallpapers in the world."
- Andrew Bush, paper conservation advisor

Thankfully, it could be sampled without causing damages, as it just came off with a tickle from Andrew's pallet knife.


What is flock wallpaper?

The earliest wallpaper found in England was made in the late 16th century, with the earliest mention of flock wallpapers in 1680. Wallpaper developed from individual printed sheets of decorative paper with borders. Used to line boxes, paper eventually became a continuous repeating design, often imitating more expensive textile hangings.

Flock (powdered wool) was a waste product from the woollen cloth industry. It was originally applied to textile to imitate damask velvet. The earliest flock wallpapers were quite linear in design, but eventually started to imitate the rich damask designs. Flock paper varied in quality, but it was more durable than the fabric it was imitating as it was more resistant to moth damage.


On the cheap

During the 1840s, with the advent of machine printing and machine made paper, wallpaper prices dropped. By 1860, simple workers were able to afford to decorate their cottages with paper.