How many in the archives?

My rosy fabric collection continues to grow even though the sewing seems to have declined! I still occasionally find a length of fabric that is irresistible and often it will prove to be from the Sanderson range. How many rose fabrics they have printed since their birth in 1860 I have no idea but I intend to find out.

"Chelsea" (1988) with "Little Chelsea".
“Chelsea” (1988) with “Little Chelsea”.

I know a little about the company and obviously some of the rose patterns they have produced with great names such as “Gather ye Roses”, “Country Roses”, “Eglantyne”, “Moss Rose”, or “Geisha Floral Roses” but I would like to find out more and extend my own range. It would be great to know not only the number of patterns but also their dates of origin and the talented designers behind them. I have emailed the company because I understand they have in their archives a sample from every fabric they have produced . That must amount to hundreds of samples but I am particularly interested in the ones portraying roses.

Sanderson rose fabric
A Sanderson fabric from the 1930s

For me the classic Sanderson rosy fabric is a linen union with textured pink and yellow roses named “Chelsea” which, I am sure, has been made into many curtains and upholstered chairs across the world since its production in 1988. It has a sibling called “Little Chelsea” which has smaller roses and is pretty but to me is not so elegant and beautiful.

Rose fabric design
A beautiful fabric; design not known by me.

Although the Sanderson firm was founded in 1860 by Arthur Sanderson, who began by selling imported wall coverings from premises in Soho Square, it was not until 1921 that fabric was made in any great quantity with the main focus of the company originally being wallpaper. A second factory for the production of fabric was opened in Uxbridge, the original then being in Chiswick. Sanderson had established his own wall paper factory here in 1879 because it was evident that the wall papers that he imported could not meet the rising demand.

Sanderson 1950s rose fabric design
A Sanderson fabric design from the 1950s.

Arthur Sanderson died in 1882 leaving his sons John, Arthur and Harold in charge of the business which prospered and grew dramatically. The first printing machine was increased by 7 more and the staff increased from 40 to 300. In 1900 Sanderson and Sons Ltd was formed and became part of the cooperative of Wallpaper Manufacturers which controlled 98% of all wallpaper manufacturing.

Rose fabric
A fabric design is usually produced in several different colourways.

Although the company has a detailed history which has included family deaths, a devastating fire, changes of name and ownership the name of Sanderson still survives today and it is the oldest surviving English brand name in its field.

Vivid rose design
A rather vivid design!

Fabric printing continued on the Uxbridge site until 1999 when it was transferred to a printing company, Standfast and Barracks of Lancaster. The latest notable change seems to have been in 2003 when Walter Greenbank PLC bought the business which was suffering financially. There has been significant investment and Sanderson is well and truly back on the map even though a family member has not been involved since the 1960s. Sadly for me it would appear that fashion has changed to the point where the classic English roses fabrics are a little too chintzy for our modern world and they do not seem to be manufactured any more.

Old rose fabric design
This must be quite an old design.

Fortunately there are plenty of beautiful rosy Sanderson fabrics from previous years to keep me occupied. The terrible fire of 1928 at the Chiswick factory destroyed much equipment and records as well as premises but the fabric archives , which would have been at Uxbridge seem to have been safe from harm.

Sanderson Rose and Peony fabric
Sanderson “Rose and Peony”; my latest acquisition.

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