April 4, 2011 – some revisions
May 22, 2015 – added two more ‘gimpless’ examples, and one more ‘Regency’ example.
I’m much indebted to the authors of “A Regency Collection, Part One, A Very English Lace” for help on this post.
The name ‘Regency Point’ was a tribute to (or an attempt to curry Royal favor from) the future George IV who served as regent for his father from 1811-1820. “The lace with the fuzzy edge” as some have put it. A point ground lace with the gimp INSIDE the motifs, rather than on the edges. In this respect it looks almost like a Beds guipure done with a point ground mesh. The Beds Maltese laces really got going after the Great Exhibition of 1851 where samples of Maltese guipure were first seen. They kept their popularity for a short time largely because of the immediate failure of machine laces to duplicate the technique. It is quite tempting to think that Regency Point contributed to the ultimate design of Beds Maltese, but at this point it is only speculation.
Palliser in her History of Lace (1865) shows a sample of this lace with a short explanation:
“A “point” lace with the “cloth” or “toilé” on the edge, for many years was in fashion, and in compliment to the Prince, was named by the loyal manufacturers “Regency Point.” It was a durable and handsome lace.”
Figure 142 in Palliser. She discusses this lace in a subchapter on Northamptonshire, but that conflicts with the ‘Bedford’ label of the figure. It is notable that nothing quite like this design has surfaced in various lace collections.
The Dictionary of Needlework by Caulfeild and Saward (1882) shows exactly the same illustration (printed upside down and backwards) with a short, not very helpful explanation:
“Regency Point – This is one of the Bedfordshire Laces and was much made there during the first part of the present century, and, therefore named after the Regent. The lace (see Fig 700), is made upon the pillow in narrow width, and is of a more complicated pattern.”
The same photo in the Caufeild orientation is shown in Mrs. Neville F. (Emily) Jackson’s A History of Hand-made lace (1900), with this note:
“This lace, made in Bedfordshire, was in great demand during the Regency early in the nineteenth century. The edge is thick; the ground, a complicated réseau, or hand-made mesh. The Regency Point is seldom made now, the more quickly-executed plaited ground bobbin laces having entirely superseded it.”
Thomas Wright in “The Romance of the Lace Pillow”, 1st ed., (1909), page 219 states:
“During the Regency (1810-1820) there was made in Northamptonshire a striking lace, with fillings of a bold character, which was called Regency Point. (See Plate 25). One peculiarity was that the plaits or leadworks, instead of being in the net ground as in the case of other Bucks Point laces, were dotted about the ornamental fillings, giving them a bizarre and very pleasing appearance. A similar pattern was being used at Padbury (Bucks) in 1891.”
Examination of Plate 25 however, shows a lace with point ground, motifs with gimps on the outside, and plaits in the honeycomb fillings. This does not appear to be the type of lace we have been discussing so far. But note that the tallies mentioned by Wright appear both in the filling and ground areas in the Palliser figure.
The “Lace Dealer’s Pattern Book” was purchased by the Luton museum in 1952 and restored around 1994 . It is estimated to date from the mid 19th century, possibly by John Spencer of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, or perhaps from Thomas Lester’s firm. Alexandra Stillwell states that there are 9 Regency examples in this book, so I took a closer look at my copy to see if I could spot them all. Here’s my tally:
Plate 2: right side, second row from the bottom.
Plate 6: 5th row, 2nd from right. 10th row, 2nd from right.
Plate 10: right side, bottom row.
Plate 24: 1st row, 2nd from left. (It looks like the same pattern is shown 5th row, 3rd from left). 9th row, right side.
So I’m coming up with 6 distinct examples and 1 duplicate. There are two others with both inside and outside gimps which are very close in design, but I do not include them in the total. What is more interesting to me in this book are the pieces that look like a beds guipure edge merged with bucks ground on the footside. The real roots of Beds Maltese will be a fascinating study.
I don’t have copies of Sally Barry’s “Luton Lace Treasury” series, so I don’t know if any of the Regency-type samples in the Lace Dealer’s Pattern Book were reproduced there.
Another inner-gimp Regency example can be found in Montupet and Schoeller’s “Lace, The Elegant Web” (1988), page 119 in the English edition. On page 117 is a very similar lace, but without the inside gimp, perhaps indicating some experimental variation in this technique.
Left: The earlier Montupet example, note the absence of the gimp and the simpler design. It is a definite departure from the late 18th-early 19th c ‘English Lille’ laces which emphasize very small designs with the gimp that led directly to 19th c Bucks. The more familiar Regency Point may have grown out of such experimentation.
Right and below: Two more examples of ‘gimpless’ point ground lace which have recently come to light. I’m starting to think this may be a Lille variation, since several examples are in French collections. Note the large ‘circular’ filling areas in all pieces.
Just to throw in a little confusion, Florence May in Hispanic Lace and Lace Making (1939) shows a Regency style border in Fig 334, labeling it as an 18th century product of Castile!
This long-neglected lace has recently been revived in “A Regency Collection, Part One, A Very English Lace”, by Angela Brown, Jean Mary Eke, Joke Sinclair and Sandi Woods (see http://tinyurl.com/6h63m2k for more information). Angela (the current chair of the Lace Society) gives a thoughtful and thorough examination of the Regency Point technique based on a pricking donated by Marjorie Carter to the Lace Society collection. Jean Eke indicates that Angela’s work on this lace continues, and a sequel article will be published in the May 2011 issue of The Lace Society magazine.
Alexandra Stillwell also indicates that she will include a chapter on ‘Regency Bucks’ in her upcoming book on Floral Bucks.
The example used for this month’s featured lace closely resembles an example shown at the end of the Regency Collection publication from the collection of Jean Eke’s mother, Elsie Tudor. Jean kindly sent a photo of this piece which I attach at the end of this post. My piece is about 3-3/8″ wide, and appears to be made of linen (the Montupet example is also labeled linen). This piece has been lovingly cared for, with several well executed repairs (see the left end of the LaceNews header view). One curious feature – the lace seems to have been joined together in a zig-zag pattern every 20 inches or so (see the right end of the header). It is a deliberate, well executed join, leaving one to wonder if there isn’t some mystery as to how this lace was moved on the pillow. Or perhaps it was a length limitation of the linen thread. I attempted to measure the mesh angle, and it looks pretty close to 45 degrees. Also note the interesting edges of the motifs – this is not just catchpin without a gimp. It is the deliberate twists of the weavers as they leave and re-enter the clothwork, creating small loops. In this it really does resemble Beds Maltese. You also see this done in some Le Puy guipures. It is difficult to maintain a smooth motif edge in a point ground lace without a supporting gimp, so this seems to be a good solution to edge definition problem.
Regency Point deserves more attention if only because of the beauty of the technique. As for dating examples; at this point we can probably only bound the problem – greater than 1811 and less than 1865 from the sparse documentation. Of course there could have been earlier prototypes; the name Regency being applied to a more finished product. And no one could prevent the execution of an old pattern at any later date, but generally not as a commercial production. Known examples appear to always be quite narrow, which might mean that it predates the introduction of the racroc stitch into England in the 1840’s. And the use of linen thread also points toward an earlier date, perhaps before ~1830.