William Newton

Title: Assistant Curator
Department: Furniture, Textiles and Fashion

I work in the Furniture, Textiles and Fashion collection, looking after our plastics and modern materials. I'm also interested in video games and medieval art.

Back to the blog front page

Clothworkers’ Object Study Day, 27th May

Hanne Faurby with Eveline Gordon embroidery samples © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

At the end of May we welcomed visitors to a series of talks given at the Clothworkers’ Centre by V&A staff, the second of our Clothworkers’ study days. In these talks, we showcased some of the research that we’ve undertaken within the grand tiled walls of Blythe House. As in October, the talks were extremely […]

Keep reading

Trench coats: from real mud to Nostalgia of Mud

Raincoat 'Witches' 1983 Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren Given by David Barber, in memory of Rupert Michael Dolan T.268:1, 2-1991 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

‘Rustic’ linen smock-shirts were worn by farmhands well into the 19th century. These garments were woven in such a way that they would shrink and tighten when damp, giving them a degree of water resistance: this is also the principle on which gabardine works. Gabardine was invented by Thomas Burberry, who patented it in 1879. With […]

Keep reading

Objects Alive

Object Lives scholars in the Clothworkers' Centre study room © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This morning the Clothworkers’ Centre enjoyed a visit from a group of Canadian academics, part of a research group called Object Lives, funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Their aim, through the close study of objects, is to ‘assess the flow of goods into and from Northern North America’. Today’s session drew […]

Keep reading

A very brief history of staying dry

E.1240-1931 Poster No Wet - No Cold; 'No Wet - No Cold'. Colour lithograph poster with a stylised graphic design of umbrellas, advertising the London Underground Railways. Designed by Manner and issued by the Underground Electric Railways Co. of London, Ltd., 1929. Manner Underground Electric Railways Co. of London, Ltd. London 1929 Colour lithograph © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

As I said in the first post, to stay dry is a very human wish (unless of course you subscribe to the ‘aquatic ape’ theory put forward by some natural historians); so how did people keep the rain off in the olden days?     There is evidence that aboriginal Americans were the first true […]

Keep reading

Forecasting rain

MISC.215:1-1988; Red rubber wellington boots; Dunlop, ca. 1959. Held by the Museum of Childhood © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

    The V&A’s Textiles and Fashion collection holds tens of thousands of objects and is one of the most comprehensive collections of its type in the world. Researching this huge collection is one of the greatest pleasures of my job but, being a busy boy, I cannot devote as much time to research as […]

Keep reading

Into each life some rain must fall

E.524:493-2001
Postcard
Va benone...ecco che piove!; Postcard, Milford Haven Collection, 'Va benone...ecco che piove!', Man putting up his umbrella against 'rain' caused by dog urinating, lithograph, Italian, ca.1904
Italy
Ca. 1904
Lithograph
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  If, like me, you have been a victim of Britain’s unpredictable and frequently inclement weather you may have observed two things:   British people have a tendency to discuss the weather frequently and at great length. A lot of time has been expended trying to find methods to stay dry.     The first […]

Keep reading

Seasons Greetings from Furniture and Woodwork

Sledge; carved, painted and gilded; Netherlands, 1740-1800 (museum no. 980-1883) © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Snow brings the snowman, not the other way round. Snow also brings eye injuries, excuses from railway companies and, most importantly, sledging. Behold this festive transport, replete with carved lion and child, and imagine flying out of it, pink-faced and giggling, catching on a stone at the bottom of a gentle hill covered in barely an […]

Keep reading

St. Barbara

T.13-1937, embroidered picture of St. Barbara, probably a 20th century forgery © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Today, almost three weeks late, I present St. Barbara, another spurious Roman saint. She is said to have been born in the mid-3rd century, her father was wealthy, overbearing and pagan. He kept her locked in a tower to protect her from the world, but could not prevent her from secretly becoming a Christian and […]

Keep reading

St. Eligius

Eloi head

Today’s Sanctus Ignotum, St. Eligius (ca. 588 – 660; known in French as Eloi), followed a successful first career as a goldsmith with a later one as a saint. The signs of his later holiness appear obvious to me (admittedly I am a smug, 21st century know-it-all). He miraculously made two golden thrones using the materials […]

Keep reading

St Martin de Porres

028

Today on Sanctus Ignotum we have a case study in race relations, and our first South American saint. Born in Lima, Peru in 1579, the illegitimate son of a Spanish knight and a liberated black slave, Martin was initially apprenticed to a barber-surgeon. He joined the Dominican Order as a lay-helper, though his dedication to […]

Keep reading