This past May (2014), Certified Master Rug Cleaner hosted a second rug and cultural tour to the United Kingdom. (Our first tour was to Turkey in 2012, which you can read HERE)
The tour began after the Master Rug Cleaner course in Wales with 15 in attendance. The tour theme was “Carpets, Castles and Cathedrals.” We started our adventure with a private tour of Windsor Castle, viewing carpets in the State Apartments, the incredible interiors and Castle grounds.
Our next stop was the rug plant of Master Rug Cleaners Pierre & Laurence De Wet in Cambridge. We had lively discussions on marketing ideas and saw how they operate an English rug wash facility.
Then it was on to Kidderminster for two great days visiting The Museum of Carpet and taking The Carpet Walk, which was led by our old friend Melvyn Thompson.
Ellen Amirkhan found valuable archives relating to the Kidderminster woven carpet industry all the way in Dallas, Texas. How she found them is a story for another day, but returning these documents to The Museum of Carpet won a lifetime friendship with Melvyn Thompson. He, in turn, pulled some strings so that we were able to have a private tour of the Victoria Carpet Mill. There, we were able to see one of the few surviving mills in the Kidderminster area.
Our next stop was Halie Den Oriental Carpets in Bath. This antique rug shop is owned by Master Rug Cleaner Craig Bale and gave the group a chance to do a bit of shopping. We could not be on the Salisbury plain and miss seeing the iconic Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral.
We also visited Wilton House, a country manor along the lines of Downton Abbey – but with a carpet connection. This is the family home of the 9th Earl of Pembroke, who in 1720 smuggled two Huguenot carpet weavers into England. This event was instrumental in the development of the Wilton woven carpet industry in the UK. The house has remained in the family since 1544.
Our private bus next took us on to London for the close of our trip. Our main rug event was visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the Arbabil Carpet.
If you have attended a rug-training course, the Ardabil Carpet probably was a brief topic of discussion. It is the very interesting story of how a 500-year-old rug (and its twin) have survived the centuries and still are in reasonably good condition.
In 1539, a pair of rugs (or carpet, i.e. a large rug) was woven for the Ardabil Shrine of the tombs of Sheikh Safi and Shah Ismail in northwest Iran. Today, they’re known as the “Ardabil Carpets.” They were placed side-by-side in the shrine. In 1882, an earthquake caused the roof of the shrine to collapse, damaging the rugs. The rugs were then purchased in Iran by Ziegler & Co., a Manchester, UK firm involved in the carpet trade. The pair of rugs was taken out of Iran to Istanbul where one rug was used for extensive repair on the other. The result was one complete carpet and one with no border. The smaller carpet is now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a gift of John Paul Getty the oil magnet. The London Ardabil carpet hung on the wall in the V&A for many years. In 2006, the Museum created an extraordinary case in the centre of the gallery so that the carpet could be seen as intended, on the floor. To preserve its colors, it is lit for 10 minutes on the hour and half-hour.
The Ardabil Carpets represent the Golden Age of Persian rug weaving. It is amazing they have survived almost 500 years of history, as they were woven about the time Michelangelo was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
At this point the tour ended with some MRC’s staying on for a few more days in London.
Our next planned tour will be back to Turkey in 2016. See you there!