School of Design

ULITA – an Archive of International Textiles

History

In this section:

History

The Textile Museum c.1904

The acquisition of items forming the ULITA textile collections began in the late nineteenth century. John and Roberts Beaumont, the first Professors in the Department of Textile Industries of the Yorkshire College, later to become the University of Leeds, began to collect fabric samples, pattern books and folios to use as teaching resources for students of woven textile design. In 1892 the items contained in the collection had increased in size and importance so much that a donation by the Clothworkers’ Company allowed for the provision of a Museum, which in 1895 gained its first curator in Miss Clara Benton.

Local textiles firms gave samples and working models to the early museum, whilst the Beaumonts and other professors, most notably Professor Aldred Barker, as well as students and associates, continued to collect items on their travels. The museum was claimed to be the only museum of its kind in the country with the exception of that in South Kensington.

See more information on the archival documents and photographs from the Department of Textile Industries.

St.Wilfred’s Chapel

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St Wilfred’s Chapel entrance

The Archive is now situated in the beautiful surroundings of St Wilfred’s Chapel on the Western Campus of the University of Leeds.

Although we owe our Archive to the initiative of the founding professors in the Department of Textile Industries, it is to another nineteenth century initiative that we owe our home. Leeds Grammar School built the chapel in 1863. Its architect, Edward Barry, created an accomplished re-working of the Decorated Gothic style of the Middle Ages. Built of local sandstone, and with a steeply pitched roof, the main windows have ornate curving tracery. Carving embellished the exterior, with open turrets crowning the four corners. The beautiful east window, depicting the heavens and weather surrounding a star symbolising Christ, is complemented by two small abstract windows designed by Lawrence Stanley Lee in the mid 1960s.

East Window

A key feature of the design is the construction of a building within a building, a conservation ark, providing an ideal environment for textiles. It creates a modern interior, whilst maintaining the elegance of the Gothic Revival interior. As well as dedicated storage, the design has a specially designed display area, making it possible to exhibit ULITA’s aesthetically rich resources.

© Copyright Leeds 2017