LGBTQ+ History Month

“[Double Weave is] an ode to a 40-year relationship woven of love, community, and creativity” – The World of Interiors

We’re marking LGBTQ+ History Month with a look at some of the key relationships in Double Weave: Bourne and Allen’s Modernist Textiles. The Map of Intimacies, which features at the heart of the exhibition, tracks the connections between a group of prominent textile designers who worked throughout the early to mid-20th century. The map is the work of Dr. Jane Hattrick, one of the co-curators of Double Weave.

Visit Double Weave: Bourne and Allen’s Modernist Textiles to see the map, or buy your own copy and trace the connections between these inspiring LGBTQ+ designers.


Hilary Bourne and Barbara Allen

Of course, we must begin with Hilary Bourne (1909 – 2004) and Barbara Allen (1903 – 1972).⁠ ⁠ ⁠

Bourne and Allen met in London in 1936 and set up a home and business together. They designed, made and sold textiles as a couple, however their names (like many other influential women artists and makers) have, until now, been lost from the historical record. ⁠

After a time in Gloucestershire during WWII, the pair moved back to London. The peak of their success came in 1951 when they won the competition to design and make textiles for the newly built Royal Festival Hall. ⁠Two decades later, Bourne and Allen left London for Yorkshire and built a house to their own design where they grew their own food and entertained friends. ⁠In 1972 the couple were en route to a holiday in Italy when tragedy struck. The hotel they were staying in caught fire, and Barbara Allen died. ⁠

Bourne, heartbroken and injured from the fire herself, returned to Yorkshire. Letters she wrote around this time suggest she intended to stay there, but she ultimately returned to her hometown of Ditchling to help her sister Joanna care for their mother. ⁠Hilary and Joanna went on to buy the Victorian schoolhouse to create a village museum – Ditchling Museum opened in 1985. ⁠

Hilary Bourne died in 2004. At 89 she told her biographer: ‘Inside, I am still dancing on the moors.’ ⁠


Elizabeth Peacock and Molly Stobart

Elizabeth Peacock (1903 – 1972) and Molly Stobart worked and lived together for over three decades in Clayton near Ditchling. ⁠

Peacock joined Ethel Mairet’s first weaving workshop in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1916, and showed such promise the Mairets invited her to move with them to Gospels, the home and studio they were building in Ditchling. ⁠It was here that Peacock met Molly Stobart, the daughter of a local farmer. In 1922, the Stobart family constructed a home and workshop for the couple, which they named Weavers. ⁠

Peacock skilfully worked with wool, linen, cotton, and eri silk, establishing herself as a weaver of intricately crafted textiles. Her creations featured subtle geometric designs and lively colours, inspired by dyes developed at Gospels. ⁠She became quietly famous, weaving dress lengths for the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli and King Feisal of Egypt. ⁠

It seems Elizabeth and Molly had a loving and idyllic creative partnership – Molly grew the dye plants for Elizabeth’s creations alongside vegetables in their garden. The kitchen was the heart of their home, as recalled by friend Margery Kendon – ‘the scene of many generous vegetarian meals, good talk and laughter.’ ⁠

An apprentice described Peacock as a ‘slight delicate prim little person’ and Stobart as a red-faced and short-haired farmer ‘who has never worn a skirt’. ⁠

‘They get along splendidly it appears.’ ⁠


Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher

Modernist designers Phyllis Barron (1890-1964) and Dorothy Larcher (1884-1952) wore dresses printed with their own designs and adorned their Cotswolds home with their handcrafted textiles. ⁠

Partners in life and at the print table, they were known for their adept use of natural dyes and meticulous hand-blocked fabrics, leading a revival in British hand block-printing. ⁠ Much like Bourne and Allen, the pair established their business in London before relocating to the countryside, setting up a home and studio at Hambutt’s House, an elegant Georgian residence in Gloucestershire.⁠

The house featured a cleverly designed sunken indigo vat and a garden full of plants which inspired their designs and were used as dye ingredients. ⁠Close friend Robin Tanner saw their partnership as a ‘marriage of true minds.’ ⁠


⁠Images

  1. The Map of Intimacies, photo by Tessa Hallmann
  2. Hilary Bourne and Barbara Allen at their home
  3. Photograph of Elizabeth Peacock demonstrating at an exhibition/ Curtains made from drawloom-woven Nigerian cotton brocaded with an abstract pattern in indigo dyed wool. From the collections of the Crafts Study Centre, University for the Creative Arts.⁠
  4. Barron and Larcher carving woodblocks in their London studio, The Graphic (1926). ⁠