The English Wallpaper Trade 1750-1830

Dr Phillippa Mapes


Phillippa Mapes received her MA with Distinction in the Conservation of Historic Wallpaper and Large Works of Art on Paper from the Royal College of Art/Victoria and Albert Museum in 1993.  After completing her Masters she ran her own conservation business specialising in historic wallpaper conservation for historic houses, museums and heritage institutions.  In 2004 Phillippa joined the conservation team at English Heritage, advising on collections conservation at EH's portfolio of historic sites in their East Territory, before returning to study the purely historical aspect of historic wallpapers for her doctoral thesis at Leicester University.  Gaining her PhD in 2016, she now divides her work time between English Heritage, freelance consultancy and historical research into the historic domestic interior.


Historic wallpapers are normally seen as mere backdrop to the domestic interior and often go unnoticed in historic house interiors and historic pictures, and can often be inaccurately represented in period film sets and recreated room displays in museums. Yet wallpapers were one of the many new luxury goods that were developed, celebrated and produced in quantity during the eighteenth century to satisfy the demands of a growing number of upper and middle class consumers, and they can tell us much about people's attitudes to fashion, status and their own homes at that time.

The ephemeral nature of the wallpapers themselves however, means that relatively few eighteenth century examples survive that are sufficiently intact to tell us when, how and by whom they were used. A different approach to the study is therefore required to answer these questions: My research examines the structure of the wallpaper trade in the eighteenth century and the business practices of those involved, in order to establish a deeper understanding of the market for this product and the consumer demands that drove its manufacture.

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