A group of extremely rare stained wall-hangings is preserved in the north range of Yarde Farm, Malborough, south Devon, which was built in 1718. The cloths are described and their context discussed. This paper offers a wider discussion of such textiles in England; use is made of local documentary evidence, notably that recorded in the Exeter Orphans Court inventories. Appendices discuss the documentary evidence relating to the owner of the house who probably commissioned the cloths and analysis of their pigments.
Inventories show that stained hangings were ubiquitous in early modern England. As their name implies, these textiles were decorated by means of dyes and stains so that the weave of the canvas remained visible; in this way they resembled the far more expensive dyed-in-the-wool woven tapestry. However, although they were once commonplace, surviving examples are extraordinarily rare. Of those which remain in the houses in which they were first shown, only two or three examples are known to the author anywhere in England (below). Consequently those that survive are of considerable importance, quite apart from their great charm. The most famous of these, at Owlpen Manor, Gloucestershire, has been the subject of several studies. The following paper will review a group of such hangings which is much less well known – those at Yarde Farm, Devon – and will conclude with an account of stained cloths in general.
Yarde is a substantial farm in the parish of Malborough, close to the Salcombe Estuary at the southern tip of Devon (Fig. 9.1). It preserves a fine group of traditional buildings with a complex structural history, whose exceptional significance was recognized when the farm was listed Grade I in the late 1980s. At its core is a courtyard surrounded on three sides by 17th-century buildings: the farmhouse running down one side of the courtyard, the kitchen range facing it, and a third range closing the lower, northern, side, formerly almost in ruins and recently extensively rebuilt.