Reviving the William Liddell Damask Design Collection

Barbara Dass, Patricia Belford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Downloads (Pure)


The William Liddell archive is a collection of over 1600 glass photographic plates recovered from the premises of the abandoned Ewart-Liddell weaving factory in Donaghcloney, County Down, Northern Ireland. The salvaged collection was donated to the Belfast School of Art in 2007, however the condition was so fragile that they have not been able to be accessed or used. Heritage Lottery Funding was secured in 2017 to make this unique archive accessible to the public and to support a series of local road shows culminating in an exhibition in Autumn 2018 in the Linen Centre, Lisburn Museum. This paper reports on preliminary findings after the careful digitisation and cataloguing of each plate.

The plates appear to have been kept as a record of the working methods of designers and technical draughtsmen and draughtswomen in the company dating from the early twentieth century to 1970s. The sketches, designs and technical drawings recorded were used for the production of Jacquard Damask linen for tableware, bed linen and furnishings. The collection evidences a tantalising clientele that was worldwide. William Liddell produced high quality Damask linen products for clients across the globe, top hotels such as the Hilton, Savoy, Raffles and the Ritz; shipping lines such as Cunard, White Star, and the Union Steam Navigation Company of New Zealand; organisations such as the U.S. Navy, the Bohemian Club San Francisco, Canadian Coastguards and Claridges.

The photographs document design specifications from Liddell’s clients, early sketches, painted drawings, accurately hand-drafted designs and typography, point paper layouts and proof cloths. It is extraordinary that this form of unique photographic record was kept and perhaps more astonishing that the observation of everyday affairs of a textile manufacturing design office were the subjects of such an extensive and persistent documentary endeavour. This paper reports on the preliminary findings of the study, the approaches used to classify and cross-reference the archive’s content and outlines the present categories being used in terms of client markets, design influences and stages of the Damask design process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 46-70
JournalJournal of Textile Design Research and Practice
Issue number1
Early online date11 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 29 Feb 2020


  • Damask design
  • photographic plate
  • Irish linen industry
  • William Liddell


Dive into the research topics of 'Reviving the William Liddell Damask Design Collection'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this