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Bill-head of Bromwich, Isherwood & Bradley, upholsterers and paper stainers, Ludgate Hill

A full transcription of the bill is available on the museum's online collections explorer.

In 1773 the Blathwayts carried out some interior decoration at their Golden Square residence. The firm they selected was that of Thomas Bromwich on Ludgate Hill. Bromwich had become master of the Paper-Stainers company in 1761, and Paper-hanging Maker in Ordinary to the Great Wardrobe in 1763. He had started out as a 'leather gilder and paper merchant', revealing the shift away from leather wallcoverings. The Universal Directory of 1763 featured a lengthy description of the firm's trade in wallpaper and its benefits:

The painting and staining of Paper of various patterns and colours for hanging of rooms, is lately become a very considerable branch of commerce in this country, for we annually export vast quantities of this admired article; and the home consumption is not less considerable, as it is not only a cheap, but an elegant part of furniture, and saves builders the expense of waiscotting; for which reason they have brought it in vogue and most new houses lately erected are lined throughout with paper...
Mortimer's Universal Directory, 1763)

The Blathwayts had used the firm on at least one earlier occasion. Another bill, dated 1768, was published in an article in the Journal of Decorative Art (November 1941). It records the purchase of 'a papier maché girandole with double Arms in white at 18/' and 'two circular picture frames with ribbons in burnished gold' for £2 10s. The Fitzwilliam's bill also shows the purchase of papier maché ornaments, which were described in the Public Register or The Freeman's Journal as 'for Ceiling, panelling Rooms, Jarindoles, Glass Frames and Borders, ... as sharp and durable as any Stucco or carved Wood whatsoever... (23 October 1770). The papier maché ornaments and the imitation ('Mc') India paper (printed, as opposed to hand painted) provided the opportunity for the Blathwayts to shop at the best firms, but for less expensive items. (As a comparison, the bill Bromwich's firm sent to Edward, 5th Lord Leigh in 1764, for extensive redecoration carried out at Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire, totalled £356 7s 1/2d).

The term 'India' was at the time synonymous with 'China' or 'Asia'. Imported goods from China, Japan and India became commonplace in homes in England. An inventory of the Blathwayts' home at Dyrham (at Gloucester Archives) records multiple lacquer screens and japanned tables. A recent study carried out by the National Trust on houses that have or are known to have had Chinese wallpapers shows that '40 per cent were in bedrooms, about 35 per cent in dressing room and about 25 per cent in drawing rooms', i.e. this exotic wallpaper was more often put up in informal, 'feminine' spaces. Specialist firms, such as Bromwich, undertook to hang the paper because of its expense. The style of the printed paper bought by the Blathwayts isn't mentioned on the bill, but it was likely to depict trees, birds, insects or Chinese gardens.

A 'piece' of paper probably refers to a standard 12-yard roll. The bill also records the provision of 'borders' which were probably less expensive English printed borders, required because the drops did not quite match the height of the wall. There are surviving examples of English block printed border in the Chinese bedroom at Saltram House, Plymouth (see illustration below).

© National Trust / Andrew Bush.

Bromwich's bill is another example of how accounts were allowed to drag on without accruing any interest. This bill was started on 15 December 1772 and was continued until 29 November 1773. The firm did not receive payment until 26 February 1774.

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