[My Chamber of Textile Thoughts. No: LIX | By Viveka Hansen]

Umbrellas for protection in the rain and parasols for the sun – here I will give a few examples of the first mentioned from the small coastal town of Whitby during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. These umbrellas can be studied via advertisements in the weekly newspaper Whitby Gazette, two local photographs and preserved models from Whitby Museum – illustrating this useful item from different perspectives. The umbrellas were made of silk or cotton in various qualities, mainly depending on each and everyones taste and financial circumstances.  

“The Umbrella Seller” from the 1870s. This staged photograph depicts one of the yards in the eastern part of old Whitby, if the group of people were just admiring the umbrellas or someone actually made a purchase from the travelling salesman is hard to know. (Photo: Frank Meadow Sutcliffe).

“The Umbrella Seller” from the 1870s. This staged photograph depicts one of the yards in the eastern part of old Whitby, if the group of people were just admiring the umbrellas or someone actually made a purchase from the travelling salesman is hard to know. (Photo: Frank Meadow Sutcliffe).

Edmund Crane’s Linen and Woollen Drapers, apparently the largest such local firm in mid-19th century, advertised continually in the early years of Whitby Gazette. The shop had a rich stock to offer its customers, mainly clothing and accessories for clothes but also textiles for home furnishing. On 27 July 1855 Crane’s list ‘umbrellas’ among many other wares.

Henry Duck was in business as a General Draper at 9 Flowergate and regularly had small advertisements in the Whitby Gazette. In the spring of 1870 he announced ‘a Large Display of New Goods in his Extended Premises’ not only with the usual drapery items but every imaginable accessory for women’s clothing: ‘Crinolines, Sunshades, Umbrellas…’ As well as in December of 1882 when he among many articles mentioned ‘the Best Umbrellas’. Around the same time W. Thornton’s at the Old Market Place repeatedly announced: ‘Prepare for a Rainy Day, Home-made Umbrellas – the Largest Stock of Home-made Umbrellas’. & ‘Umbrellas made to order, Re-covered or Repaired on the Shortest Notice.’(May 26, 1877)

An example from the 1890s is the firm of Lambert & Warters of Manchester House, Fishburn Park. They advertised regularly, selling both clothes and home furnishings, as for example on 30 March 1893 when everything was described as ‘New’: ‘Jackets, Capes, Dresses, Skirts, Corsets, Umbrellas…’ and much more.

This photograph taken by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe from the church tower of Whitby Parish church, gives a rare opportunity to study the use of umbrellas on a rainy and smoggy day. The occasion can be dated exactly to 21st September 1898 when the Caedmon Cross was unveiled. (Photo: Frank Meadow Sutcliffe).

This photograph taken by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe from the church tower of Whitby Parish church, gives a rare opportunity to study the use of umbrellas on a rainy and smoggy day. The occasion can be dated exactly to 21st September 1898 when the Caedmon Cross was unveiled. (Photo: Frank Meadow Sutcliffe).

The Whitby Museum Costume Collection includes quite a number of parasols, but just a few umbrellas that can be dated from before 1914. It must however be stated that it sometimes is an obvious resemblance between the parasols/umbrellas and some models may have had double uses! Additionally, one can suppose that umbrellas were often used until worn out – not as dependent on fashion trends as parasols – and were therefore seldom donated to a museum collection.

Three models in the collection can be classified as umbrellas, two of these are late Victorian in style whilst the third is Edwardian with unbleached cotton and open-work machine embroidery. The two earlier umbrellas are both in brown silk, including a very expensive specimen (GBZ 58) in silk brocade with an inner lining of matching brown silk, and a heavily ornamented ivory handle – illustrated here below – that matches a similarly designed top. Its metal cover is marked ‘28 Cheapside Crawford’, indicating the umbrella & parasol manufacturer by the name of Crawford with a business address at 28 Cheapside, London. The firm was already established by 1829, when it appeared in The Register of Arts, and Journal of Patent Inventions. At what time this umbrella ended up in Whitby is unknown.

Close-up of the ornamented ivory handle, notice that the ivory top and handle may be older than the rest of the umbrella which dates to the late Victorian period. It was probably common to re-use the frames, tops and handles – particularly if these parts were of expensive types – when the worn fabric was replaced with a new cloth. (Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, GBZ 58). Photo: Viveka Hansen.

Close-up of the ornamented ivory handle, notice that the ivory top and handle may be older than the rest of the umbrella which dates to the late Victorian period. It was probably common to re-use the frames, tops and handles – particularly if these parts were of expensive types – when the worn fabric was replaced with a new cloth. (Whitby Museum, Costume Collection, GBZ 58). Photo: Viveka Hansen.

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Sources:

  • Hansen, Viveka, The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914 – A lively coastal town between the North Sea and North York Moors’, London & Whitby 2015. For full list of Notes & Bibliography, pp 404-423. (Additionally: Research material from the period 2006-2014, including surplus photographs and various facts not possible to fit into the book)
  • Whitby Gazette, 1855-1914 (Whitby Museum, Library & Archive).

(The monograph The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914 is available here: The IK Foundation)

PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Hansen, Viveka, ‘Victorian & Edwardian Umbrellas – A Case Study’, TEXTILIS (April 1, 2016); http://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)