Duncan Chappell: The Stoddard-Templeton Design Library at Glasgow Green
Duncan prepared us for what we would see at the conference dinner by explaining that the carpet industry was once sizeable in Glasgow, employing thousands in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, only eclipsed by the ship-building industry. Stoddard mechanised carpet manufacture from 1843, production really commencing in 1862 (a centenary dinner for staff was held in 1962), and the firm was big on exports, supplying ocean liners and Heads of State.
The architect William Leiper was employed to design a factory impressive enough to get support for its construction; he chose to design it like the oriental carpets to be manufactured within, based on Doges Palace, Venice. It was completed in 1892. Cheap competition was a serious problem and several carpet firms, such as Templeton and Stoddard, merged in the 1980’s. Templeton had supplied the Westminster Abbey carpets for Queen Elizabeth’s wedding and coronation.
But despite amalgamations, bankruptcy eventually loomed; the factory was sold for £6.7 million and converted into a business centre. The carpets went to a museum, a huge archive to Glasgow University, but the design library to Glasgow School of Art. The library often provided initial ideas for new carpets. Carpet companies produced many books of designs to meet demands but these were mainly loose-leaf, so individual plates sometimes fell out or were sold. Templeton and Stoddard encouraged new designers such as Bruhns, Dorn and Benedictus (Art Deco speciality), and slab boys were responsible for hand-painting stencils. Motifs were often copied from one carpet and used elsewhere in another.
Duncan concluded by allowing us to browse a large number of designs from the library, after which we journeyed to the Green to see the building for ourselves.
Review by Norman Ashfield