Friday 17 June 2011. Morning session second talk Central Asian section.
English spelling NOT American
Image titles in Red do not require speech translation
I am going to talk about felted woollen cloth - a material that was once common for clothing. The term Broadcloth being the most famous historically due to its large size and reliable quality
In Russian felted wool cloth is known as Sukno
Ushiga by the Qaraqalpaqs
Mahut by Persians
Manatand Nootu by Khirghiz
Stroud by Americans
Afghan Laine rather charismatically in French
andBanat by Afghans and Indians.
Banat being the most easily pronounceable and most used term encountered in the bazaars that I happen to frequent. Later for simple descriptive purposes I will use the mongrel term Banat Broadcloth as a catch all expression for felted wool cloth.
Before I explain more about this first gaze upon this somewhat grandiloquent scene and unpick some of its imagery. The newly titled Duke of Cambridge on his wedding day is wearing a red military style jacket of a felted wool cloth material made in Yorkshire, England probably circa 2011. This costume is chosen very deliberately to demonstrate very traditional notions of distinction and rank to provide a very potent indicator of social class and military order. Keep this image in mind as I would like you to retain this impression of status throughout my talk.
Such cloth was used by the imperial British and Russian colonising troops in the field until late 19th cent. During the American War of Independence, which resulted in the untimely loss of this minor colony, our brave British troops were nicknamed ‘ Redcoats ‘ however the British eventually discovered that this bright red colourwas unfortunately was too handy a target to be shot at during their difficult 1890s campaign in South Africa and they quickly dropped it –literally - in favour of a rather drab khaki..
So allow me to give you some technical background to the manufacture of felted wool cloth or Banat Broadcloth.
As explained the term Broadcloth is being used here simplistically with artistic license to describe an array of lighter felted woollencloth, serges and flannels. Strictly speaking broadcloth is a woven, milled and felted wool cloth with a raised surface made to a standard measure of quality and size prior to the industrial world of the 18/19th centuries. The felting was achieved by heating and beating to condense and shrink it by 40% of its original woven size. Much as you might do to a woollen by accident in a washing machine at too high a temperature, it is just the same.
Until the last 50 years it was ubiquitous for heavier clothing prior to the introduction of synthetic fibres from the petro chemical industries. Most typically made of a tabby weave the felted finishing leaves the weave threads quite obscured from view - submerged within the cloth and a smooth lustrous napped face , densely felted with a non greasy texture. Of course not to be confused with unwoven felt which lacks a proper structure.
The felting effect leaves cut and un-hemmed edges that do not unravel. A feature very handy to tailors and applicable to a tough military life.
After being taken from the weaving loom the cloth is put through several very exacting and rigorous processes . Described simply as
2.Fulling or Shrinking
3.Stretching on tenterhooks
5.Teasing or raising to a brushed pile
Some of the processes are repeated several times over,
Heads of the rampant Thistle plant were used to tease the wool pile. This is the origin of the word tease which comes from thistles other common name, teasel. The latin for the genius being Dipsacus.
As you can see it is not difficult to grow, this photograph here was taken rather disturbingly quite close to my garden.
Here you see the cloth being clipped by a Shearman worker
Here you can see the washing process taking place in this 18th cent engraving already on an Industrial scale. In Britain although standards and sizes varied according to regions of manufacture a finished Broadcloth was a minimum of one and three quarter yards or 63 inches which is about 160cm or nearly double the size of a standard ‘ steit’ ( or straight cloth ) thus giving the name Broad.
In Britain through Roman , Saxon , and Medieval times wool production became second only to agriculture in gross domestic product. This activity was largely responsible for Britain’s wealth and the accumulation of capital which rendered it possible to be powerfully active internationally
Thus by the end of the 15th cent it had become and I quote ” largely a nation of sheep farmers and cloth-makers” * Flanders and the Benelux countries having made significant trading and technical contributions..
The textile industry went on eventually to fuel Britain’s industrial revolution
Since Medieval times, apart from significant manufacturers, the drivers of the international trade were the London Livery Companies. By 16th cent overseas trade increased with European expansionism and various other ‘ Companies ‘ sprung up. The three later ones I found relevant here are:
The Levant Company 1581
The British East India Company 1600
Last but not least Muscovy Company founded in1555 which unsurprisingly is the oldest since Russia and Scandinavia were much closer and they certainly needed warm clothing.
These companies spawned a whole legion of multi lingual agents who rapidly
went native and proved to be excellent spies. This here is one Francis Levett of the Levant Company.
The Levant company was formed to reinvigorate the then flagging trade to the Ottomans by Queen Elizabeth and was no Colonial Adventure but a regulated monopoly. Goods were bought by factors in London on the spot market. Narrow goods from Devon went directly to the South Mediterranean.
Cotswolds or Gloucestershire was the principal quality Broadcloth maker which was heavily involved with the London market since the Levant Company understood the Oriental requirements and colours. The Gloucestershire output going mostly to the Levant.
OTTOMAN PIERCED felted wool prayer niche hanging 17th cent
The company became a virtual state within a state within the Ottoman Empire, Its field HQ in Syria styled the Levant Factory. The other centres being Alexandria, Izmir and Constantinople but the board remained in London.
There is an interesting reference in the Gloucester Record Office’s Whalley&Nelmes letters c.1700 asking for a description of ‘ Persian colours’ as the Levant Company’s activities were far reaching throughout the Saffavid era. At the time of the recent Shah Abbas exhibition in the British Museum I was informed there was even a guild in Isphahan to specifically handle the trade in English broadcloth.
n.b. ( Some of the delegates who had the good fortune to see the David collection on Tuesday may remember seeing a very lovely one of these )
English and Russian Banat Broadcloth was received via the Iranian port market of Rascht on the Caspian whose name is readily associated with particular woollen pieced work embroidery usually of a scarlet red colour , unlike the waqwaq like example shown here.
The 18th cent saw reverses for the Levant Company in the Mediterranean trade due to the actions of French. However the Baltic trade saw little such interruptions especially after settlement and the increased harmonious relations with a Dutch protestant monarchy in Britain around 1700. In 1744 The Baltic Exchange in London was formed and still remains responsible for a large proportion of worldwide dry cargo and tanker fixtures as well as the sale and purchase of merchant vessels - despite being blown up by Irish nationalists in 1993.
SOUTH INDIAN PANEL
Meanwhile in the 18th cent with proven sea routes British and European energies were now being concentrated more on India and the Far East eventually reaching Australia.
From the five Merino sheep taken there in 1797. Ten years later a Yorkshireman Samuel Marsden in 1807 commenced exporting Merino wool back home as this wool was the material of choice for lighter felted wool cloth more suitable for dryer and hotter climates.
Oriental markets discovered this kind of cloth was ideal for silk embroidery as it stands out in excellent contrast to a mat even background. Thus a bilateral and truly transcontinental trade was established with raw material being imported into Yorkshire factories and finished goods leaving across sea routes from Hong Kong.
SINGAPORE / MALUCCA gilded
to Boston and the greater USA
INDO PERSIAN EMBROIDERY FOUND IN TIBET
Over the Himalayas via British India, Tibet clearly had been in receipt of English cloth since at least the 18th cent. Here is an Indo Persian embroidery recently found in Tibet
TIBETAN SADDLE WITH BIRMINGHAM BUTTON
The back of a button on the saddle carries the legend ” Made in Birmingham ” CHINESE TURKESTAN , GANSU OR MONGOLIAN SADDLE-COVER
One route into Central Asia was down the Silk Road from China as it also expanded it’s colonies west and south. This saddle cover was created somewhere around Chinese Turkestan or Gansu
3 x HORSE COVERS
It seems saddle and horse covers were especially venerated.
MAP OF ASTRAKHAN
For Europeans Central Asia was extremely difficult to reach except via the Bazaars of Meshed and Kabul. Via KhorossanMerv was about 5 dangerous days by camel from Meshed and Bokhara more than double that.
Whilst Russia had access via it’s river systems and across the Caspian from Astrakand and eventually the land occupations of the 19th cent.
By the 1850s Russia had invested in British machinery and probably other complicating the picture with homogenised products perhaps indistinguishable from British or European counterparts. One interesting aside is the presence of the unlikely breed of ‘ Russian Merino’ which definitely exist but where I do not know possibly north of the Caucasus.
With their closer proximity to Russian incursions Northern groups of Turkoman had earlier trade exposure – the Chodor (through the Khiva Bazar) the Karakalpak and possibly Yomut .To Asiatic markets this imported ultra smooth cloth must have been a considerable novelty. Impressive as a sight to be seen on the uniforms of foreign troops. Here in the upper part of the image you can see a particularly early example of Chodor which could be 18th cent cloth and nothing like the weight of any military costume.
David and Sue Richardson are tracking and documenting some trade activity into the South Aral region.and the interaction of the Karakalpak and Chodor with their embroideries.
Some of this information may appear in their forthcoming publication on the Karakalpak next year 2012 in UK. Bob Chenciner talked of the cloth trade between Persia and Russia in his 1990 ICOCpaper in San Francisco.
The intrepid Lt.. Burnes makes mention of the disparity of cost vis-à-vis broadcloth from British India against Russian sources in Bokhara in the early 1830s. He reports the Moscow route was the cheaper source then and British broadcloth was well known. British products were certainly taxed en-route. There were Indian merchants in the Bokhara bazar
CHAR MINAR MOSQUE, Bokhara
Here we see the appropriately named Char Minar Mosque just outside of the city in Bokhara reputedly for the Indian community
The multilingual Burnes was on a mission to investigate the area and he proved most reliable helping to create the first accurate map of the area with the assistance of the famous cartographer Arrowsmith back in London. It should be remembered that Burnes was in the employ of the British East India Company who still governed India at that time and not directly for Great Britain. That distinction is worth remembering for Trade purposes . Although by this time the Company had become very much the political creature of the British.
CORNER OF A BOÇE
Here we have the corner of a large plain Kungradtype boçe which is quite possibly 18th cent. The rest of it was rescued.
WHOLE of BOCE
According to Wolfe on his rescue mission to Bokhara in 18443/5 the Emir of Bukhara was arranging to have his forces schooled in the manner of the European powers thus presumably using the ubiquitous scarlet Banat Broadcloth to some officer ranks in the colder season.
Wolfe made references to the remarkable ease in writing cheques and bills on his London bankers Drummond & Co. It seems that long range commerce was not effected but the distinct lack of diplomatic nicety and the fearsome isolation of the place. As on so many occasions business comes first providing the right introductions are made
Throughout the 19th cent and into the early 20th cent this new fad Banat Broadcloth must have diminished the local cottage industry in ever cheaper and increasingquantities.I ‘ve seen local felted twills evidently not imported made into Yomut hats
ASMALYK WITH FRENCH WRITING
Banat Broadcloth came to be used on prestige items such as asmalyks. This particular example carrying an unexpected inscription in French. How this came about might be answered by the fact that in the Mediterranean region , French remained a lingua franca for commerce and as a court language in Russia We had the intriguing French name Afghan Laine whose origins I do not know. All sorts of technologies had been exported to Russia like that of the Gardner porcelain works established in Moscow which developed a large export business to C. Asia almost certainly along the same trade lines of communication as the cloth trade. Gardner used Farsi and Cyrillic in their pot stamps.
Also please note the stitched roll end reference numbers on the cloth . These are proudly displayed on the item and I suspect some crafty merchant has charged a premium for what was only the scrag end. Also note the piece of Persian Kirman twill type Kashmir type work as a tassel – this was no cheap item and was intended to impart status
Note the layout is similar the Asmalyk of the Yomut with upright vertical tree type panels it a layout we are all very familiar with.
PAIR ASMALYK / 1
Here are a pair of super cool Asmalyks
PAIR ASMALYK / 2
It seems the Turkomans were the first to express minimalist modernism
Here we have applique technique Asmalyks
3 pairs of Dislyk allegedly for baby camel knee covers.
FOLDED BOÇE GROUP
There seem to have been a great many of these boça folded and sewn like envelopes. By the end of the 19th cent this cloth seems to have permeated into every remote back yard of outer Khirghyzistan and it came to be included into every kind of celebratory domestic usage. with the new medium.
3 UZBEK/KUNGRAD group
Almost certainly subverting the inherent local craft practices as a regrettable consequence but at the same time giving some artistic license with the possibilities of the new medium
2nd 3 UZBEK/KUNGRAD group
LAKAI Tent pole covers
So called tent pole covers
2nd BLUE ROBE
FINAL RED RED ROBE
HAINSWORTH& SONS YORKSHIRE UK
Despite the closure of literally hundreds of wool Mills in the UK and elsewhere the stuff continues to be made. This particular company continues to service the Royal households of Britain and Scandinavia, The Hudson Bay Company, your pool table, and your felt hammer in your piano. In 1917 a huge consignment destined for Russia had to be aborted due to irregular political activities in St. Petersburg . The particular shade of dull blue chosen for the Tsar’s troops was rapidly adapted for the newly formed British Royal Air Force and continues to this day this hand me down Russian Army colour.
You can find a link with supplementary images to accompany this talk on the ICOC website.
AW Hainsworth& Sons, Yorkshire , UK
Records - West Yorkshire archive service
Hainsworth accession 3159 18 Jan 1988
Persian Exports to Russia from 16th to 19th century
Robert Chenciner and MagomedkhanMagomedkhanov
IRAN XXX , The British Institute of Persian Studies, UK
Talk and paper ICOC - San Francisco 1990 (?)
Gloucester Record Office, UK
Whalley&Nelmes letters c.1700
Narrative of a Mission to Bokhara 1843 - 1845
Routledge&Kregan Paul, London, 1969
Susan and David Richardson
Lt Alexander Burnes and companions travel to Bokhara 1832
reports British Library and elsewhere
Lt. Arthur Connolly 1829 - 1831 and 1841
Journey to the North of India through Russia, Persia and Afghanistan
Richard Bentley , 1834
Map of Central Asia ,Arrowsmith map, London 1834
Map of Central Asia comprising of Bokhara, Cabool, Persia , The River Indus and the Counties Eastward of it
Taken from accounts of Lt. Burns
Suggested further archives:
British India Company
The Levant Company
The Muscovy Company
*Quotation taken from GREAT BRITAIN a Survey