Signs of the Times
3 - Little History Lessons
By Eva Cantin
Everyone has been very helpful and generous about stitching their names for this piece. The names make a wonderful collection on their own – each is an individual treasure with a character of it’s own … just like the people who stitched them. See them all here.
Meanwhile I have been stitching signatures and marks from the Delme-Radcliffe collection documents; family members, household servants, traders and more. I have also tried to represent some of the historical themes and events I came across.
Although the collection includes material spanning several centuries my interest has focussed mainly on the 18th C and the Levant Trade. This was a period when fortunes were made and lost. Conspicuous consumption was spreading throughout society and fashions were changing more rapidly. Luxury goods like silks, decorative furnishings and exotic foods were in demand. The Radcliffes were in place to supply these goods while exhchanging them for the products of British craftsmanship and technological developments. Hitchin Priory underwent significant development, thanks to the success of the family’s trading activities.
The early 18th C in England was a time of political and religious instability following the deposition of James 2nd. James died in exile in 1701 but his family still had supporters who plotted to return his son to the throne. One of these plots is recorded by John Radcliffe in the document “An Account of The Dover Story” (DE/R/Z7 c1708).
When I came across this account I knew very little about this period of English history, so it prompted me to find out more about it. My school history lessons stopped at Charles I and my involvemnet in Threads of Time has repeatedly given me an excuse to explore little chunks of the past which have caught my interest. Much more memorable than “wot we dun at skool”!