With the sound of sharp scissors in the background, Richard Hawker, Creative Consultant, described enthusiastically the history of one of the most remarkable survivals of the Gothic Revival of the C19th. Established in 1874 by three leading late-Victorian church architects, George Frederick Bodley, Thomas Garner and George Gilbert Scott, the Younger, all friends and in competition with William Morris at the time.  

Their first workshop in Baker Street was run by none other than Ms. Charmaine Windows ! They kicked off with a prestigious private client list but launched on to the national stage for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee at St Paul’s Cathedral. So it was not the furnishings that first took off, it was the vestments and especially the copes. In 1911 they moved from Baker Street to Dacre Street and established their embroidery school. At this time they produced the exquisite ‘Lady of the Rosebush’ for exhibition, which we were shown.



In 1939, their safe storage unit took a direct hit and much was tragically destroyed, but after the war, the business was handed down through the Scott family and reinvented itself.  Family member, Graham Hoare was tempted to sell the business to Liberty but his wife took an interest and ran it very successfully. She moved the business from Dacre Street to Tufton Street, to the Edwin Lutyens building it now occupies. Elizabeth Hoare had a passion for embroidery and put out a call for 18th and 19th century work to preserve it and create a collection at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. She sent samples of wallpaper and fabric to Augustus Pugin for the new Palace of Westminster and whilst recovering the alter kneelers in Westminster Abbey, discovered when stripped down, they had been made in wartime from Tate & Lyle sugar crates, which they dutifully re-upholstered. On to the 1980’s, when David Gadesley, took over with a sure eye for good design and expanded the collection testing the new technology of digital machine embroidery. Today Watts makes copes for all Royal Weddings and have numerous customers in palaces, parliaments, private houses, cathedrals and churches around the world, including St Thomas’s, 5th Avenue, New York.  With such knowledge, they advise set and costume designers for film and TV.

A wonderful visit and many thanks to Richard for sharing his enthusiasm and showing us some of the most beautiful patterns and intricate, delicate embroidery.