One of our most unusual map acquisitions offers a glimpse into the little-known history of English calico printing in the London metropolitan suburb of Wandsworth in the late 18th and early 19th Century.
Probably dating from the last decade of the 18th Century, A Map of Man / Allegorically displaying on each side the / Rise and progress of the Human Mind and / the effects of a good or bad Education & Example / towards promoting our future Happiness or Misery in Life, is a fine example of allegorical maps offering a instructional template for personal morality & lifestyle that were especially popular in the second half of the 18th Century. Perhaps the most notable of such maps of this same period was John Wallis’ 1790 map delineating the allegorical travels of Christian as described in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, which had first been published over a hundred years earlier.
Like the Wallis map, ours also provides the reader with a remarkable instructional allegory of life’s journey from infancy to death, offering a choice of pathways determined by the moral rectitude and religious principles of the individual concerned. For those who strayed from the straight and narrow, life’s progress is depicted as one of dangerous & fraught moral degeneration & decline, the outlined route passing through the ill-starred Lands of Desolation via the Gulph of Errors to the final Land of Punishment (Hell) upper left:
For the morally pure & religiously upright, a more pleasant journey takes the traveller through the Land of Honour and Land of Promise to the final resting place, across the Stream of Eternity, into the Land of Immortality (Heaven), upper right:
On the left side all is Folly and Deceit – the figure of the Genius of Folly, wearing a Fool’s cap & adjacent to a peacock (symbol of vanity) – appears bottom left holding the hands of two potentially wayward children. The lines of verse below reads:
Ah Cruel, they, the Cruelest of their Kind /
Who Innocence mislead in Folly’s Maze /
No kind Paternal Hand to Guide their steps/
Thro’ Storms and Tempests of a Giddy World/
But Send them Floating down the Streams of Vice.
On the right all is Virtue and Truth. Standing almost in mirror image to the figures of the Genius of Folly and his young followers,the allegorical figures of Experience and Human Aid stand in close attendance to guide the future life paths of two suitably virtuous & attentive young children:
Further layers of complexity are added to the map’s design. A heart-shaped “Line of Life” encircles the whole central area, running like a river through both the lands of Folly and Virtue. Within it, at its very centre, the would-be life traveller has also to negotiate a spiral maze (this probably The Maze of Folly, to which the Genius of Folly appears to point with his left hand), its impressive gateway entitled the Grand Entrance of the Passions. Advancing into the Attributes of Vice, the honest & upright traveller is hopefully able to ignore the morally degrading passions that surface here, passing hastily onward to acquire the Attributes of Virtue that beckon in the spiral beyond, before finally reaching the Gate of Happiness. Passing through and mounting the slippery onward path he or she finally reaches the central mountain top Temple. Here the inscription reads: “Virtue and Fame conducts each prudent Youth / who steadily pursues the Paths of Truth”.
Around the edges, rhyming four line proverbs offer suitable religious and moral encouragement, whilst different ages (ten, twenty, forty, eighty) and progressive stages of life (infancy, youth manhood, age) are also highlighted.
Measuring 75 x 65 cms, and engraved and printed on calico, this map was produced at the Wandsworth calico works of Henry Gardiner [1744-1839]. It must be considered an item of great rarity and is in remarkably clean and fresh condition, with only a couple of areas of thinning & minor damage. It is the second example of this map that we have been fortunate enough to handle during the past decade. The previous example is now safely lodged with a major British institutional collection.
It seems probable that the above Henry Gardiner is the one and the same Henry Gardiner who married Ann Holmes in the church of St.Mary Le Bow, London on 20th Feb 1772. By the late 1770’s the couple appear to have moved to Wandsworth and started a family.
It is known that Henry Gardiner’s calico print works had opened on the banks of the River Wandle by the early 1790’s. According to Lysons , it was one of four calico printing works in Wandsworth at this time, being “a business of considerable extent” which employed “250 hands”, by far the biggest local business in this period.
This short 10 mile stretch of the River Wandle between Croydon and its confluence with the Thames at Wandsworth was considered to be one of the hardest worked rivers of its size anywhere in the World at this time, its waters providing the steam power and resources for innumerable factories and mills. Indeed J Scratcherd’s Ambulator or Pocket Companion in a Tour of London  highlights this in his description of the locality as follows:
Wandsworth, a village in Surrey, five miles from London, situate in the road to Kingston at the confluence of the Wandle with the Thames….The art of dying cloth has been practised at this place for more than a century and there are two dyers here….There are likewise several considerable manufactories here: namely, one for bolting cloth; Mr Henchell’s iron-mills; the calico manufactories of Mr Gardiner and Messrs Lawrence & Harris; Mr Rigby’s manufactory for printing kerseymeres; Mr Dibble’s for whitening & pressing stuffs; Mr Were’s linseed oil and white lead mills; Mr Shepley’s oil mills; Messrs Gattey’s vinegar works; and the distilleries of Messrs Bush & Co.”
At some point in the 1780’s or 1790’s Gardiner leased the newly-built imposing Georgian property known as Down Lodge on Merton Road (a building which still survives today as an attractive block of six flats, having been refurbished after many years as an abandoned & derelict wreck). The house had substantial grounds & ornamental lakes and directly overlooked Gardiner’s bleaching grounds along the banks of the Wandle. It was described by Scratcherd in 1800 as “the excellent new house of Henry Gardiner Esq”.
Part of the bleaching process for calico (cotton cloth) involved laying out the material on the river bank between a series of parallel water channels. Workers would then walk between the drying cloths, scooping water from the channels to drench them, the process of wetting and drying by direct sunlight causing the calico to gradually whiten.
The extent of Gardiner’s Estate and the distinctive grid pattern of some twenty bleaching ground water channels, carefully constructed beside a small tributary of the Wandle lying to the south of Wandsworth High Street, can be seen in a fine 1828 manuscript plan preserved in a fascinating collection of 18th and 19th Century surveys of Wandsworth estates & properties in the Althorp Papers in the Additional Manuscripts Collection of the British Library (BL: Add MS 78154). Much of the land in the Wandsworth and Merton area was owned by the Earl Spencers. Indeed the title to Gardiner’s plan confirms the fact that he only leased Down Lodge and the surrounding lands & estate from the Spencers (I include the BL Catalogue description for reference):
Bl Add 78154 S.
‘Plan of Estate at Wandsworth Surry The Property of the Rt Honble Earl Spencer leased to Henry Gardener Esquire’ by Thomas Crawter & Sons; 1828. Scale: 3 chains to the inch [1:2376]. North at top. Depicts fields, buildings, lakes, plantations, an arm of the river [Wandle?] running through the grounds, and pleasure grounds. Key gives extensive details describing what each numbered part of the grounds consists of and the size of each section. A second key gives details of expiry dates of leases and the total size of the let land. Presentation map. Ink and watercolour on paper. 498 x 706mm.
The Plan itself is illustrated as Fig 4 in the excellent article of local Wandsworth historian and expert, Dorian Gerhold, Wandsworth’s Industrial Transformation, c1634-90, originally published in Surrey Archaeological Collections, 95, 169-191, 2010, which is also downloadable via the Archaeological Data Service.
It is interesting to note several examples of Gardiner’s calico productions in American institutional collections and to discover many of these are finely designed allegorical pieces dating from the post Revolutionary period and featuring the figures of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. The number of surviving examples of these allegorical American pieces clearly indicates the ready market for such products with the emergence of the newly independent United States in the 1790’s.
The example illustrated here is entitled The Apotheosis of Washington and, like our piece, probably dates from the early 1790’s.
Washington, in simple military uniform, stands between the classical figures of Minerva, goddess of Wisdom (note the owl on her helmet) and the figure of Liberty, holding the liberty cap aloft on a stick. Behind them stands Hercules, staff in hand, a symbol of enduring strength, whilst seated in the background sits the elderly Franklin, the figure derived from a French print by Cochin. He fingers a large volume entitled Code of Laws.
In the left foreground a young woman, representing the emergent young Republic, stretches out her hand to Washington.She has laid down her sword on the ground and holds a caduceus (a winged entwined staff), the emblem of Mercury, god of commerce.
Symbolic of this new commercial focus are the bale of cotton and barrel of rum or tobacco which lie at her feet. The message is clear: war is over and the country’s future is best secured through commerce & trade. Above, the winged figure of Fame points to the words inscribed on the obelisk: Independence 1776.
It is to be found in the collections of the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, the former childhood home of American collector and horticulturalist, Henry Francis Du Pont [1880-1969].
Other examples of works by Henry Gardiner in the Winterthur Museum’s Collections:
–Another example of the Apotheosis of Washington (printed in red)
–A commemorative calico handkerchief featuring portraits of several leading Americans
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York holds an identical example of the Apotheosis of Washington also printed in red.
By the early 1800’s, the position of the traditional Wandsworth calico printer was coming under increasing pressure from new steam powered machinery and chemical bleaching processes. Tastes in interior design & decoration were also changing such that by 1828, George Smith writing in his Cabinet Maker & Upholsterer’s Guide noted that printed calicos, whilst suitable for the interior furnishings of “secondary apartments or for those in houses of small fortunes”, were certainly “not at all suitable for those of persons of rank and splendid fortune”.
By 1815, Henry Gardiner was already in his late 60’s and had been widowed exactly five years earlier. As the father of several sons, none of whom appear to have held any desire to take on the business, Gardiner finally decided to retire. An advertisement for the sale or letting of his Wandsworth calico works with all its plant and buildings appeared in several editions of The Times in November 1815:
WANDSWORTH. – To be SOLD or LET, the valuable PLANT, and extensive BUILDINGS, IMPLEMENTS &c., of HENRY GARDINER, Calico Printer, retiring from business; comprising near an hundred copper plates, six copper plate presses, complete from 8,000 to 10,000 printing blocks, many large and small chintz, suitable for furnitures, a very large collection of waistcoats and handkerchiefs, &c. patterns; 17 printing tables and 14 pencilling tables, complete; a patent steam engine, with all the millwork complete; 4 madder coppers, worked by steam; sour and ash kettle; with any quantity of bleaching land that may be wanted; on lease for 29 years from Michaelmas last. To be viewed any day from 11 to 2 o’clock. A person will attend on the premises.
Dorian Gerhold confirms that Henry Gardiner’s calico works finally closed & ceased operations in the following year, 1816.
Located on the South wall of the nearby All Saints parish church on Wandsworth High Street, can be found the following memorial:
“Sacred to the memory of ANN, the wife of HENRY GARDINER of this parish, who departed this life November 11th 1810 aged 69 years. Also HENRY GARDINER died at Farnham in this county, July 15th 1839, aged 95 years, and was buried there.”
Henry Gardiner was interred in the churchyard of St.Andrew’s, Farnham, Surrey on July 23rd 1839. His death was also recorded in the Gentleman’s Magazine of August 1839.
It is known that between their marriage in 1772 and 1785, Ann and Henry Gardiner had 9 children, 4 sons and 5 daughters, whose details are recorded in the Wandsworth parish records. The eldest son Kirkman Gardiner was baptised in February 1774. The eldest daughter, Ann Holmes (b1775) and two sons, both named Henry (b.1776 & 1779) sadly died in infancy. Another of Ann & Henry’s daughters, Caroline would, in 1805, marry Daniel Henry Rucker, the nephew & heir of their Wandsworth neighbour, John Henry Rucker, a prominent Hamburg-born entrepreneur and banker, who had first taken on the West Hill estate in 1789 and died in 1804. The Rucker Estate was settled in trust upon Daniel Henry’s marriage to Caroline Gardiner. It would be later be sold by public auction in 1825, its principal buyer being George Granville Leveson-Gower, Marquess of Strafford, later 1st Duke of Sutherland.
We know of only two examples of this piece that have been offered on the market in recent years. A previous example (which we were also fortunate to handle several years ago) found a deserved home in one of Britain’s principal institutional Map Collections.