Sudley House Artwork of the Month – January 2008

merchant_family_clothes.jpgSudley House Artwork of the Month – January, 2008
‘The clothes of Liverpool’s merchant families’, by various dress makers

About the artwork

National Museums Liverpool does not possess any of the clothes worn by the Holt family while they lived at Sudley House. When Sudley was re-furbished and re-opened to the public in May 2007, following a closure of more than a year, this lack of original clothing proved problematic. We wanted to present the house as the home of a typical Liverpool merchant family, giving a flavour of their lifestyle and including the way that family members dressed. Rather than have reproduction garments made to fill this gap, we decided to display some of the clothes that once belonged to the Holt’s near neighbours, and, co-incidentally, their business partners, the Hollands.

Walter Holland (1842-1915), like George Holt, was a wealthy Liverpool merchant. In 1858 he entered the shipping firm of Lamport & Holt and by 1874 had risen to become a senior partner in the business. In 1876 Walter married Alice Franklin Wray, daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Wray of the Indian Political Service. They had four sons and three daughters. The girls, Catherine Holland (known as Kitty), Hester Gaskell Holland and Alice Elizabeth Holland were fashionable young ladies. They were especially fond of parties and dancing, and were enthusiastic members of the Wellington Club, at the Wellington Assembly Rooms on Mount Pleasant. Their active social life meant that they needed stylish outfits.

The Holland sisters and their mother Alice bought many of their dresses from two of Liverpool’s most exclusive ladies’ outfitters, T & S Bacon and Cripps, Sons & Co., both in Bold Street. They also ordered clothes from expensive Parisian dressmakers, an indication of just how wealthy the family was. Their clothes are typical of those worn by Liverpool’s merchant families during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods.


Gallery Talk
Free Gallery talks at Sudley House, 9 & 22 January 2008, 1pm