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, 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.
Ribbon of Jacquard-woven figured silk. Woven in blue and white with a symmetrical pattern of a delicate wreath of twining ivy and other leaves, above which are sprays of a flower with cinquefoil leaves. The design is formed of silk weft in both colours left flush or bound on fancy twills on a white tabby ground. Blue satin selvedges and 'pearl edge' borders the ribbon.
The ribbon has a weaving fault about 6.5 inches from the lower edge.
On the back is a label showing that this ribbon was one of a group of ribbons exhibited in the 1851 Great Exhibition.