The Great Exhibition was intended as a forum for displaying developments in technology. The textile industry was revolutionised by numerous technical inventions in the 19th century. These complex designs, woven on a jacquard loom, were so successful that such ribbons came to be known as Coventry 'Town Ribbons'. [27/03/2003]
Ribbon of Jacquard-woven figured silk. With a ribbed tabby ground of pale green silk and a pattern of three sprays of lilac in a bunch leaning alternately to the left and to the right in the height of the ribbon. This design is woven in white and dark green silk bound on the surface in a number of fancy twills and in parts left unbound. The selvedges have a narrow stripe of satin weave followed by an edge of bold rib from which the dark green weft protrudes in regular tufts.
Ribbon of Jacquard-woven figured silk, made by Cox & Co., Coventry, 1850
This is a typical woven ribbon of the mid-19th century which would have been used to decorate all forms of female dress from outfits to bonnets. The ribbon was exhibited in the section devoted to Silk (in the sub-section on Fancy Ribbons) at the 1851 Great Exhibition and was also illustrated in the Art Journalcatalogue of the exhibition.
The caption reads: 'We introduce on this page one of the RIBBONS contributed by Messrs Cox & Co. of London and Coventry; the design is graceful and effective, and may be accepted as one of the proofs of progress in competition with our more advanced neighbours of the continent' (p. 88). This refers to silk weaving in Lyon, France, which led the world.
Introduced into Britain from France at the beginning of the century, the jacquard loom was not widely adopted for industrial use until the 1830s. It allowed a far greater range of patterns to be woven than had previously been possible. Little is known about the Coventry firm of Cox & Co., which made this ribbon, although a street in city was named after R.S. Cox, one of the founders of the company.