Tuesday 23 June 2009

The end of an era

What has happened to Liberty of London?

Sweet Peas

The shop that I used to visit
to purchase delectable fabric
and irresistible haberdashery
and enjoy quiet spaces to choose yarn
has been redesigned to make more room
for clothing and candles.

Liberty has become just like any other department store.


The redevelopment seems to represent the antithesis of
the values of the Arts and Crafts Movement
which prized the individual work of the artisan
over mass produced goods.

Fruit and Flowers

It is ironic that I was in Liberty to visit
the annual Arts and Crafts exhibition
curated by Patch Rogers of Brighton.


I wanted to admire the craftsmanship
in furniture, metalware, pictures and textiles
that Liberty commissioned and sold
at the end of the 19th century.

Crocus and Snowdrops

Among the items on display in the exhibition
were two small woodcuts
by John Hall Thorpe (1874-1947)
who was born in Australia
and started his career as an illustrator for the Sydney Mail
but worked in England from 1902.

It was delightful to discover this artist
but small consolation for the knowledge
that the pleasure of fabric buying in Liberty
has gone for good.


fifi said...

Is this true? How horrible!

I only thought things like that occurred here.
I went to Liberty of London and bought fabric for my mother, the first visit I ever made to England.

Candles indeed....

Lynn said...

Just what the world needs: another bland, generic department store selling the same old stuff. Of course, there's been a (small-scale) renewal of interest in the Arts & Crafts movement, so maybe the old Liberty will rise again. If it does, I shall celebrate by buying another of those fab vinyl-covered cotton totes (in an "iconic" Liberty print).

A time to dance said...

Beautful pictures...I love them.. am afraid I have never been to liberty...but have loved their fabrics since I was 11.....

dottycookie said...

Whoa, whoa, hang on - are you saying that the fabric department has gone entirely? I may weep.

Ali said...

Really? What have they done? I am worried now.

Unknown said...

There have been similar discussions on one of the Yahoo quilting lists about the demise of the fabric departments in John Lewis stores around the land - sadly it seems all are going the same way. I remember going into the Liberty to buy the tana lawn for my sister's bridesmaids dresses in the mid 80s and being met by a stitchers paradise.

trash said...

Oh! Perhaps we could protest? there must be someone we could write.

kristina said...

Has the fabric section gotten even smaller than when we saw it at Christmas? What could they be thinking? Do they not realize its haberdashery section is what makes Liberty so special? K x

Anonymous said...

Liberté - Egalité - Sororité !

WV : press

The List Writer said...

The fabric and yarn department is still there - but so much smaller, and squashed unattractively into one corner of the 'balcony' bit of the shop.

I was so disappointed to see this when I last visited Liberty - you've expressed my feelings beautifully, Alice.

Fairlie - www.feetonforeignlands.com said...

Nooooooo! Tell me it isn't true.

No Liberty fabric in Liberty?

Why are candles taking over the world of retail? Don't people realise we have electricity?

Allison said...

It is heartbreaking to see old places that we once loved giving way to so called "progress." On the quaint street where my mom's little shop is, they are building a highrise condo that will cut off the shop's view of the Kennebec River.

I hope you will find a new little place that will ascribe to the sweet old way of doing things that Liberty used to employ.

driftwood said...

when Liberty closed down in York many many years ago I bought the most enormous peice of linen in the sale that I used to cover a sofa, it seems unjust that it has ripped just this week, now I know I can't replace it.....

Alice and Ginny said...

Don't get me started on this Alice... I worked for Liberty in the fabric department for 10 years running their amazing sewing school. The very talented fabric buyer at the time is in fact my eldest sons Godmother. I left in 2000 shortly before they cut the fabric dept back to nothing and hadn't set foot inside until last September. It was like seeing an old friend that was familiar yet unrecognisable. I dreamt of it for weeks afterwards. My time at Liberty was fantastic - my first job at 21 and living in "London" no less. One of the perks was that we were given a substantial amount of Liberty print to make into garments for promotions - of course I put most of those clothes in the chartity years ago - what and idiot!!! I don't think I'll go back again too soon. I'd rather remember it as it was, a bustling emporium rather than a beautiful gallery.
On another note, thanks asking Ginny how I am. Very well, busy with books, workshops and a baby boy that turns 1 next monday can you believe!
With love,
the other Alice x

The Coffee Lady said...

I am lost now. I am unsure how to join in. I went into a Liberty once, in 1988, but haven't even seen once since.

I shall crawl back under my stone now.

dragonfly said...

I nearly fainted last month when I got out of the lift in Liberty's to find no fabric dept. ... only to find it had moved location.

I love the pictures in your post too. I have such a fondness for Liberty - my first job after leaving college was in Regent Street and being a window-dresser, Liberty was always inspirational

Ruth said...

Those paintings are wonderful. Who are they by and where did you find them - do tell.

Alexis said...

Very sad!

Ginnie said...

I only know of Liberty from novels set in England. It seemed all the descriptions of beautiful interiors included mention of Liberty prints.

So sad!

JuliaB said...

Good Grief! Whatever next? Have they not heard about the growing popularity of sewing in the UK and that sewing machine sales have gone up here by 500% in the last year or so?? I too loved to have a browse there when in London. Very sad. :(