Friday, March 19, 2010

Mr Gurney's Waistcoat

Last month I treated myself to this delicious 18thc embroidered waistcoat in a North Norfolk auction.

I wanted it for itself and I had no idea I might discover anything about the owner until I showed it to my very knowledgeable local picture framer who took one look at the name written in ink in the lining and said "That must be one of the local Gurney family - the bankers." Gurney's bank, I discovered, eventually became Barclays.

And certainly, the group of expensive gentleman's clothing - all with Gurney names inside -that the waistcoat had been part of, did look like the wardrobe of a well to do country banker.

I started to research the Gurneys, looking for a "J H" who might have been the owner of the waistcoat. and found John Gurney, one of the banking cousins, 1750-1809. Is it his? The dates are right for the style, but it will take a lot more research before I can be more positive.
If it is John b.1750 then there is the added excitement that he was the father of the prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry.
Meanwhile I'm just admiring the exquisite embroidery and trying to work out how to get an 18thc waistcoat into a book set in India in 1805 which is what I'm writing now!
Louise Allen


Jan Jones said...

Having drooled in person over the waistcoat (not literally, I hasten to add), I can confirm its exquisiteness.

As for local banks, our Barclays in Newmarket used to be Hammonds bank, which drew on Cocks and Biddulph in London. I wonder if the big banks all trotted around the country buying up the small ones?

Jane Odiwe said...

It's absolutely gorgeous - what a wonderful waistcoat to treasure - I'm sure Mr Gurney knows it's well loved!

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

I just love the waistcoat! As for getting it to India - it was given in payment for a debt ... and the heroine has to retrieve it because it contains a lottery ticket sewed into the lining! (Don't ask me why.)

Beth Elliott said...

What a treasure! The embroidery is exquisite, such even stitches and all so firm and flat. That garment really should feature in your story, Louise.

Beth Elliott said...

PS It makes me think of medieval romances, where the heroine stitched a thread of their [golden] hair into the embroidery before presenting their gift to the hero, who then of course lost it... any use as a plot line...?

Louise Allen said...

What a lovely idea about the stitchery,Beth! Trouble is, heroine of current wip is more likely to stick needle in the hero than in her embroidery

Mags said...

Ever read Pamela? The eponymous main character is an embroiderer and I seem to recall a plot point in which she embroidered a waistcoat for her master. But that is a decidedly 18th-century book!