Turkey Red & Khaki at Elmfield Hall

Sample of dress fabric showing the bold vibrant red known as ‘Turkey Red’ in Britain

Frederick Albert Gatty was born in Alsace, France, in 1819. He became a pioneer of new calico (cotton) dyeing techniques within the region. His work attracted the attention of Frederick Steiner, who invited Gatty to Lancashire in 1842. They formed a partnership and Gatty became well known for his work in improving the dyeing technique of Turkey Red. He used garancin, a pigment made from the madder plant, in his patented method. The colour became known as Gatty Red.

Gatty was to have even greater success for his improvements in dyeing army uniforms with the colour khaki. (Khaki means ‘dust colour’ in Hindustani). This enabled him to gain a contract supplying the whole of the British army, which changed its traditional red coloured uniform to the more camouflaged khaki around the time of the Boer War. This made both the company and himself a fortune.

Date: c.1850 – 1870
Origin: Great Britain
Dimensions: H 136cm x W 75cm

This piece of roller printed cotton has a stylised floral pattern with a slight paisley influence, seen especially in the small patterns used as fillings for larger shapes. The small scale of the printed pattern and light-weight cotton fabric indicate this was probably intended for use as a dress fabric, although this length appears to be unused.

The vivid colours and crisp details would have required precision and expertise to create and are a testament to the skill of the workers as well as the advances in printing and dyeing that were continuously evolving throughout the 19th century as manufacturers sought to create ever more fashionable and desirable fabrics for consumers.

Date: c.1850 – 1870
Origin: Great Britain
Dimensions: H 150cm x W 80cm

This piece of Turkey Red dyed cotton has been crudely made up into a curtain with a simple drawstring along the top edge, probably not the original intended use for the fabric and more likely a way of making use of a leftover piece of dress fabric. The print used on the fabric is a good example of how the bold Turkey red dye was often combined with the paisley motif, which had developed by the mid to late 19th century into increasingly curved cone shapes filled with additional patterning. Originally a traditional Indo-Persian motif known as the boteh or buta, these cone shapes were copied from Kashmiri shawls by manufacturers in the town of Paisley in Scotland and the town’s name became synonymous with this style of pattern.

Date: Mid 19th Century (created), c.1870-1890 (altered)
Origin: Great Britain
Dimensions: H 97cm x W 96cm

A full-length petticoat made from brightly coloured printed cotton in vibrant Turkey Red, greens and yellows. The lower part of the petticoat is quilted in deep wavy bands decorated with narrow braid and each band is filled with down feathers. As well as being a lightweight but incredibly warm garment these down petticoats also had the added benefit of helping to support voluminous skirts before the invention of the crinoline in 1856. After the crinoline had been invented they were stilluseful for wearing under the crinoline to keep the legs warm.

Date: c.1860 – 1880
Origin: Hong Kong (possibly) or Great Britain
Dimensions: H 207cm x W 158cm

A patchwork bedcover made by Sgt. John Hull of the Staffordshire regiment, possibly while based in Hong Kong. It is made from tiny squares of soldiers uniforms in thick woolen cloth of red, black and white with some khaki green, grey and royal blue. Certain pieces are covered with a second fabric where the maker has lacked a suitable colour for the pattern they intended to create. The tiny squares are all joined by hand with backstitches of white cotton creating a ridged effect on the reverse. There are 9485 squares in all, edged by 372 tiny triangles to complete the border and square off the edges. Although comparatively small for a bedcover, it is extremely heavy and must have been very warm.

In this video local historian Gary Britland explores the history of Turkey Red and khaki at Elmfield Hall, Hyndburn including a look at the original dye house still present at the site today.

In 1855, Gatty and his wife moved into the newly built Elmfield Hall in Accrington. The building was designed by a Mr Green, the architect who also created the Peel Institute (which is now Accrington Town Hall). Elmfield Hall was later extended and a new wing added and a classical facade to the front. Gatty would stay there for the rest of his life, dying in 1888.

St James Church, located in Church,near Accrington and locally known as Church Kirk. Many calico printers and mill owners are buried in its small graveyard. The church contains beautiful stained glass windows by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne Jones measuring 8ft by 4 ft and depicting the four evangelists. The church is now closed.

Local Colour is a collaboration between Super Slow Way, Bradford-based visual artist Claire Wellesley-Smith, and Community Solutions North West, and is based at Elmfield Hall in Gatty Park, Accrington. Elmfield Hall has a rich textile history as the former home of Albert Gatty, an innovator in the Turkey Red dyeing and printing industry during the nineteenth century. A small dyehouse, where it is believed he conducted some of his dye research, is in the grounds of the park and forms a central part of Claire’s practice. This long term project which began in 2016 takes the history of the area to explore connections to people and places through a programme of creative activities taking place at a studio space in Elmfield Hall.



Rachel Midgley

Turkey Red gives such a beautiful and vibrant red that seems to work well with so many other colours. I think I have a few examples of Turkey Red prints in an antique patchwork fragment I bought a few years ago. There are some really interesting prints used in it including this paisley print with what I believe is a Turkey Red background.


Church bank printworks an artist sketch aprox 1890s where printing snd dyeing where manufactured using turkey red dye.


Frederick Steiner process reinventor and patent of Turkey red dye 1843.


Church bank Printworks Church, Accrington owned by Frederick Steiner Turkekey red dye manufacturer.


William Blythe who helped Frederick Gatty achieve “Fast Khaki” with Sulphanated Castor Oil added to Khaki dye. The factory Wm Blythes still operates in Church, Accrington.


The turkey red dye king Edward vii favourite


The grave of Frederick Gatty at Church kirk



Church chemical company video



Memorial to Frederick Gatty at Church kirk



Grave of Frederick Gatty at Church kirk



Coke ovens needed to fuel the boilers at the mills to power the looms at Oswaldtwistle video



The home of Robert Peel in Oswaldtwistle video where he started experiments with calico printing click the link



Cotton warehouse of Thomas Harrgreave and Adam Dugdale built 1836 of Broad Oak mill centre of Accrington video



Foxhill bank printworks Oswaldtwistle


William blythe chemical works Church who made the oil for fast dye in khkai video



This is my history channel on thd Industrial revolution in Hyndburn



The site at Church where Robert Peel came in 1772 to start printing and dyeing Church bank which is now bungalows but still surrounded by original a parimeter wall and gates from the c19



Church bank mill was built by William Duckworth but built on an ancient fulling mill which fulling is cleaning wool before spining. It was situated next to the Church later it was bought in the 1960s and locally know as mastabar.



Church kirk mill was built in 1857 by Emund Kershaw a cotton weaving mill which still stands today owned by Bubbles, brushes and wipes.
Click the video link for more details



This is St James Church, Church, near Accrington locally known as Church kirk. It is where many calico printer mamagers and mill owners are buried in its small graveyard. The church contains stained glass windows by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne Jones and are 8ft by 4 ft depucing the four evangelists. The church is now closed.
Church visit video



Mercerisation was invented at Clayton le Moors, Lancashire by John Mercer it was a process of toughening material giving it a lustre colour by soaking in caustic soda and drying on “tenter” hooks to prevent shrinkage in a machine called a stenter. John Mercer also invented an orange dye.
The video explains more below



Frederich Steiner patented the Turkey red dye process in 1843 after refining it from 20 process to 6 which was better for mass production dyeing. He amassed a fortune working with Frederick Gatty at Hagg works and the Church bank printworks. He named the streets of Accrington after his family and countries they traded in. His two daughters where very well known to royalist and one being a Marquis Victoria Carolina de Janquort.



The textile event at Elmfirld hsll, Gatty park, Church Video



* Images from Broad Oak Works, courtesy of Accrington library

Collage; of Gatty; print/laser woodcut made at the making rooms, Blackburn adapted from Whril Crompton’s portrait of Gatty he did on lino also used for the community signature cloth exhibted at the Howarth Art Gallery and of the madder plant used to make the red dye.

Soldier’s quilt example shown at Elmfield Hall by Gawthorpe textiles.
Soldiers/nurses photo when recovering in at Elmfield Hall when used as military hospital.

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