Many people in Lancashire have a Victorian balloon backed dining chair or antique desk that they’ve inherited. At textile designer Susan Gaunt’s home, every stick of furniture is either a family heirloom or purchased from an antique shop, because her family history has made her passionate about preserving the past.
Susan is a direct descendent of the Yorkshire mill tycoon William C. Gaunt. She spent her youth helping out at the looms of the family business, Sunny Bank Mills, which Gaunt purchased from Edwin Woodhouse – who made the company famous for its worsted fabrics – in 1917. Sunny Bank itself, however, was opened in 1829 – with a Gaunt as one of the trustees.
The family closed the historic building for redevelopment in 2008. When it reopens, it will have a nationally important textile archive dating back to 1857, a have a home in which everything has provenance and history, and promotes past craftsmanship. Her own fabrics can be seen covering the antique chairs of her home. She said:
“I love […] to know where items were made and who made them. We lost that with mass manufacturing but people are becoming very interested in it now.”
In Lancashire, a Victorian balloon back dining chair with its original fabric is a rare find. There are plenty of antiques dealers selling reupholstered chairs, but check the fabric is true to the period. Susan Gaunt would never dream of covering an antique dining chair in anything other than natural wool.
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