Barron and Larcher order book

Scope and Content

One order book 1938-1947 belonging to Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher, and one typed transcript of the book.

Administrative / Biographical History

Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher both trained as painters. Barron studied at the Slade from about 1911 under Henry Tonks and Larcher trained, and subsequently taught, at Hornsey School of Art from about 1901-1905.

Barron first became interested in printing on discovering some woodblocks while on a sketching holiday with her sister in France and began to teach herself to print in their Hampstead studio in about 1915. Even as a student of painting at the Slade School of Fine Art, under Henry Tonks and William Steer, information on the subject was difficult to obtain. However, two dye books discovered by Barron while searching in the British Library and the library of the Victoria & Albert Museum proved to be particularly useful. These were A practical hand book of dyeing and calico printing by William Crookes published in 1874, and Experimental Researches concerning the Philosophy of Permanent colours and the best means of producing them by dyeing, calico printing etc by Edward Bancroft published in 1794. Barron regarded both volumes as compelling and indispensable. In addition, the Patent Office proved a helpful source of information, as before a dye can be patented a full description has to be given of the ingredients and processes.

Alongside her dye researches, Barron experimented enthusiastically with her French blocks. By chance she found that if indigo-dyed cotton was printed with nitric acid, the dye was discharged (bleached out) and the design appeared white against a blue ground. She also began experimenting with cutch to give her brown, and printed with pyrolignite of iron on cotton or linen to achieve a light beige, discovering that if the material first was steeped in powdered oak galls a black print was produced. From a lecture given at the Victoria & Albert Museum by G P Baker, owner of the printing firm at Crayford in Essex, she learnt how to make a steamer to fix the dyes, using a dustbin and gas ring, and so could extend her repertoire.

In 1915 Barron cut her first block Log following the grain in the wood to create the design. She was a member of the London Group from 1916 until 1921 and so would have been in contact with the leading artists of the day. In 1917 she had her first textile exhibition in the artist Boris Anrep's studio. In 1920 Barron exhibited in the 12th London Group show, however in 1921 she resigned in order to devote herself full-time to textiles.

Contemporaneously Larcher was working in India as the paid assistant to Christiana, Lady Herringham and saw blockprinters at work there. She had been at Hornsey with Philip Mairet (husband of Ethel Mairet). After returning to England she met Barron through the embroideress Eve Simmonds and joined Barron in her workshop in 1923, replacing Barron's working partner Frances Woollard.

Working at 2 Parkhill Studios, Hampstead, London, Barron and Larcher produced printed cottons, linens, velvets and silks using natural dyes for positive prints and also used the discharge (bleach) technique, using blocks of wood or lino. In 1930 they moved to Hambutts House, Painswick, Gloucestershire where they bought a house with outbuildings and set up a workshop, dyehouse and a large indigo vat. From this time their work became more colourful and they integrated synthetic dyes into their work. Several assistants were regularly employed. Barron and Larcher worked for many private clients to create furnishings and dress fabrics. In their designs Barron tended towards geometric patterns and Larcher towards plant motifs.

Major commissions included furnishing fabric in the form of curtains and upholstery for the Duke of Westminster's 40-cabin yacht The Flying Cloud, which was being refurbished by the architect Detmar Blow. They also printed fabrics for Detmar Blow's Gloucestershire house Hilles; the Fellows' senior common room at Girton College, Cambridge; and the choir stalls for the Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral. In 1925 they took on Enid Marx who left in 1927 to set up on own textile workshop. As a close friend, Muriel Rose did much to help advance Barron and Larcher's work. It was she who was instrumental in getting their textiles shown on the other side of the Atlantic. This was first with a Mrs Paul Watson as their representative and, after The Little Gallery closed, touring their work in the USA with the British Council (1942-45) as part of a much larger exhibition promoting the best of British craftsmanship.

Barron and Larcher continued printing until wartime shortages made it impossible to obtain the cloths they needed, after which Larcher turned increasingly to flower painting and Barron to local government work, parish affairs and the occasional teaching job.


  • BLB/1 (2002/13/1) Order Book 1938-1947
  • BLB/2 (2002/13/2) Typed transcript [c.2000]

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Related Material


Selected bibliography

Colour into Cloth exhibition catalogue , Crafts Council, 1984

Harrod Tanya, The Crafts in Britain in the 20th century , Yale, 1999

Roscoe B, Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher in The Arts and Crafts Movement in the Cotswolds , Greensted M, Alan Sutton Publishing Limited, 1993, pages 122-39

Roscoe B, Phyllis Barron in New Dictionary of National Biography , Oxford University Press, 2004

Roscoe B, Artist Craftswomen between the Wars in Women and Craft , ed. Elinor G, Richardson S, Scott S, Thomas A, Walker K, Virago Press, 1987, pages 139-49

Roscoe B, Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher in Pioneers of Modern Craft , ed. Coatts M, Manchester University Press, 1997, pages 61-70

Roscoe B, The Biggest and Simplest Results in Crafts magazine , January/February 1997, pages 30-5