Weird and Wonderful Wallpapers

“My wallpaper is killing me. One of us will have to go” – Oscar Wilde.

Among many other things, the Prints, Drawings and Paintings collection also includes a spectacular selection of wallpapers. This post showcases some of the more striking, unusual and eclectic wall-coverings spanning the late 18th to the late 19th centuries. Click on the images if you would like more information about each one.

Image of a blue and grey wallpaper with a building themed design

Potters of Darwen. “Perspective views of a Railway Station”. Lancashire, 1850-1853.

Colour woodblock print.


Surreal wallpaper peopled with strange figures

F. Scott & Son. Grotesque/comic wallpaper. British, 1870s.



Image of a wallpaper with an Indian theme

Allan, Cockshut & Co. “Hindoo Gods”. London, 1880s.

Colour machine print.


Wallpaper depicting Queen Victoria

F. Scott & Son. “Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee” Hawick, Scotland, 1887.

Colour print from engraved rollers.


bb75a1e56a6116baedff34a65d6530b2Unknown. Wallpaper showing a birdcage and a drum. Lancashire, c.1800.

Etching hand-coloured with watercolours.


Wallpaper with a design of half naked women

Unknown. Risqué wallpaper for a gentleman’s club. American, c.1900.

Machine  print on laminated paper.


4 thoughts on “Weird and Wonderful Wallpapers

Jon Limbert:

Hi, I have found 2 sheets of this wallpaper up in the loft of my house when I moved in 12 years ago. It looks to be very old. Are you positive it’s from 1994? Im sure it’s Edwardian or later. I am refering to the Unknown. Risqué wallpaper for a gentleman’s club. American, c.1900

Deepinder Singh Cheema:

The F,Scott&Son Grotesque wallpaper is really cool. I hope that this was made for the Childrens Nursery market. I think it might be earlier as I own a Bayliss & Thomas Penny Farthing and made a study of 2 wheeled locomotion ( see above bunny the cycling hooligan)

Daniel Milford-Cottam:

Dear Jon Limbert,

How interesting that you have found two rolls of the risque wallpaper in your attic! We have dated our rolls to c.1900, but the Museum number is E.590-1993 – which means that the wallpaper was formally added to our collections in 1993, not that it is dated to that year.

Please accept my apologies for the delayed response to your comment – I have since moved to a new department at the Museum, so do not get notified of new comments to my Word and Image blog posts any more.

Best wishes,


Daniel Milford-Cottam:

Dear Deepinder Singh Cheema,

Thank you so much for your thoughts! It is possible that the grotesque wallpaper could be earlier, yes, although I am not a bicycle expert or historian by a very long shot.

Best, Daniel

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