Delve into the captivating history of Cole & Son Wallpapers, a journey that began in 1873 with the collaboration of John Perry, the son of a Cambridgeshire vicar, and wallpaper designer-producer John Hanson. This dynamic duo created a pattern book in 1873, featuring eight designs, laying the foundation for what would become Cole & Son—a brand that stands as one of the last hand block printers of wallpaper in the world.
As Perry's competitors succumbed to the mechanization of wallpaper production, he not only weathered the storm but also expanded his collection of wooden printing blocks. In 1888, Perry acquired a diverse array of historical designs from H. Scott Richmond, broadening the scope of Cole & Son's offerings.
The company's expertise extended to custom orders, producing special grounds and block prints in up to 16 colors. The variety of designs, from dados and friezes to small panoramas adorned with birds and butterflies, catered to the diverse preferences of trade clients.
The historic relevance of Cole & Son's creations is underscored by their contribution to significant decorating schemes of the 19th and 20th centuries. Their designs adorned iconic locations such as the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and many more.
Upon John Perry's passing, Albert P. Cole, the owner of a London wallpaper showroom, acquired the company in 1888. A pivotal moment came in 1934 when the esteemed decorating company Cowtan & Son put their collection of printing blocks up for sale. This collection, spanning two centuries, included blocks from J. C. Crace & Son, forming the largest collection of original wood blocks in the trade.
Even today, at Cole's factory in Finsbury Park, original machines developed by John Perry are still in use for dye-coating paper. Perry's ingenuity revolutionized the industry with the creation of a process to imitate silk, using ground mica to achieve a lustrous silk effect on wallpaper.
Another groundbreaking innovation was Perry's single-color surface printing machine, replicating the block printing process in a rotary style. The company also revived the traditional process of flocking, imitating cut and stamped velvet with the application of cut wool shavings.
In 1945, Cole & Son established one of the UK's first design screen print studios, producing papers for the Festival of Britain in 1951. The company continues to evolve, translating much-loved archival designs into multi-colored surface printing, blending original craftsmanship with modern technology.
The Cole & Son archive remains a treasure trove, revealing surprises like the late 19th-century wood block design "Pierpont Morgan" commissioned by J.P. Morgan and other gems like "Sweet Pea" and "Rosebud." The company's commitment to preserving history while embracing modern advancements ensures that the legacy of Cole & Son Wallpapers continues to enchant and inspire.