Miles & Edwards and Charles Hindley & Sons correspondence
Scope and Contents
The collection comprises business correspondence sent by clients to the Miles & Edwards company and its successor, Charles Hindley & Sons. The bulk of the letters date from either the 1830s-1840s or the 1870s, with a few scattered letters from the decades in between. The authors of the letters were overwhelmingly female, eighty percent being written by or on behalf of women. The unknown collector of the letters evidently chose to include them based on the importance of the author. The authors include many countesses, marchionesses, earls and barons, as well as several duchesses, a maid-of-honor to the Queen, and an archbishop. Many of the women were daughters of earls or barons who had married men of the same rank. Authors of both sexes ranked as baronets or higher, or occupied important posts in the clergy or military.
Some time after the collector gathered the letters (perhaps around 1880), he or she mounted them on card stock and made handwritten notes about each of the authors. In most cases, the notes include the author's first name, parentage, and marriage names and dates. The unknown annotator seems to have been interested in exploring the family ties and social position of each of the authors. Because he or she was working many years after most of the letters were written, this interest must not have been directly linked to business concerns. The purpose of the notations is not clear, though one might speculate that the annotator was simply interested in finding out more about the firm's former clientele, or perhaps was an amateur genealogist.
Because the collector separated these letters from a larger group of correspondence, they cannot be used as a comprehensive source for the business history of Miles & Edwards or Charles Hindley & Sons. However, they do contain valuable information on what sorts and quantities of fabric notable English women ordered for their households in the nineteenth century. A large proportion of the letters that specifically mention fabric types include references to chintz, showing the wide popularity of this material. Several mention particular designs such as stripes or small patterns. A noteworthy example is that of Lady Grace Gore, who requested fabric samples patterned with wild hops, strawberry leaves, lilac larkspur, and shamrocks (Box 1, folder 69). Others discuss colors such as pink, green, orange or blue. The size of the orders is often quite large: several involve quantities of 20 yards of fabric or more, while one on behalf of the Countess Robilant in Turin was for 372 yards (Box 1, folder 3).
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
Each letter has been pasted to a piece of card stock, occasionally obscuring an address or other notes on the verso.
Conditions Governing Use
The collection is the physical property of the Yale Center for British Art. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Acquired April 2005, Paul Mellon Fund.
The collection is arranged alphabetically by letter writer's name.
1 Linear Feet (2 boxes)
Language of Materials
A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog
Collection of letters from notable clients sent to the London interior decoration firm Miles & Edwards and its successor, Charles Hindley & Sons, from 1832 to 1875.
Biographical / Historical
The firm of Miles & Edwards began operation in 1822 at 134 Oxford Street, Westminster, London. It specialized in fabric for curtains and furniture, as well as linings, fringes, cords and other fabric notions. They also sold carpets and wallpaper, made curtain rods and draperies to order, and took in furniture to be upholstered. While most of their clientele was in London, they took orders from across the British Isles. Customers in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Wight requested fabric samples and wrote letters with their orders. Though best known for its middle class clientele*, Miles & Edwards attracted customers from the highest levels of society, such as the Duchesses of Bedford and Marlborough.
Charles Hindley & Sons bought out Miles & Edwards in 1844, moving into their Oxford Street premises. Under the new management, the company continued to offer a similar line of products and services, with the addition of furniture sales. Charles Hindley & Sons operated until 1892.
*For information on the clientele of Miles & Edwards and Charles Hindley & Sons, see: Microulis, Laura. "Charles Hindley & Sons, London house furnishers of the nineteenth century: a paradigm of the middle-range market." Studies in the Decorative Arts, v. 5 (Spring/Summer 1998) p. 69-96.
- Microulis, Laura. "Charles Hindley &; Sons, London house furnishers of the nineteenth century: a paradigm of the middle-range market." Studies in the Decorative Arts, v. 5 (Spring/Summer 1998) p. 69-96.
- Microulis, Laura. "The furniture drawings of Charles Hindley & Sons, 134 Oxford Street, London." Furniture History, v. 37 (2001) p. 67-90.
- Carpets -- Great Britain
- Charles Hindley & Sons (London)
- Chintz -- Great Britain
- Decoration and ornament -- Great Britain
- Draperies -- Great Britain
- Furniture -- Great Britain
- Great Britain -- Social life and customs
- Interior decoration -- Great Britain
- Merchants -- Great Britain -- Correspondence
- Miles & Edwards (London)
- Textile fabrics -- Great Britain
- Upholstery -- Great Britain
- Guide to the Miles & Edwards and Charles Hindley & Sons Correspondence
- Compiled by Eva Guggemos; edited by Francis Lapka
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Yale Center for British Art, Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository
Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts
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P. O. Box 208280
New Haven CT 06520-8280 US
1080 Chapel Street
New Haven , CT 06510