Beamish Museum and Joe the Quilter

I first saw a display of North Country (Durham) quilts at the Beamish Museum. It is a living museum in the North of England which gives a fascinating insight into our historical heritage.

One area of the museum has a 1900s’ town, pit village, colliery and cottages. In the pit cottages and Ravensworth Terrace you will find a variety of quilts on the beds. These displays together with a quilt exhibition gave me my first insight into the variety and quality of the North Country quilts.
Quilts and sketches from the Museum

Inside the cottages 

Beamish has a huge collection of quilts that have been donated over the years and Rosemary E. Allan has documented many of them in her excellent reference book ‘Quilts and Coverlets’, well worth a read.

Pages on Joe the Quilter in R. E. Allans’ book 

Returning last year we saw the recently added ‘Joe the Quilters Cottage’. Joseph Hedley (1745-1826) became a professional quilter and marked up the top of quilts for sale after working as a tailor. He was well known and created intricate designs including what is now called ‘Old Joes Chain’. Inside the cottage his quilting frame is set up with an example of his work.
He was murdered aged 76 and consequently a lot has been recorded about him, making him an obvious choice for the museum to showcase.

In the reconstruction of Joe the Quilters cottage ( sample quilted by Margaret and Aidan Nichol of Joes quilt ) 

A wholecloth which has survived has twists, cables and fan motifs (1820). This has been reproduced by Margaret and Aidan Nichol who I had the pleasure of meeting last year. They skilfully traced the design and beautifully quilted this antique quilt for the Museum.

Photo of article from the ‘ The Quilter ‘ no 157 -2018 

Beamish is well worth a visit for all the family with trams which take you around the Northern landscape and you can even buy a little fabric in the co-op ! 

Next week we will look at the striking strippy quilts and the repeat linear designs which make them unique. 

1 thought on “Beamish Museum and Joe the Quilter

  1. Have been to Beamish many times and never really took any notice of the quilts. Will go again and look with informed eyes!
    Thanks Helen.

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