The Battle of Britain Panel by Harry Cross 29 March 2018

Barbara Cross

NTU’s Amanda Briggs-Goode (right) presents panel to Barbara Cross, granddaughter of lace designer Harry Cross

Harry Cross was born in Nottingham in 1875 and and studied at the Nottingham School of Art between 1887 and 1890 – by 1891 Harry was recorded as being a lace designer.

Harry designed the well-known Battle of Britain lace panel during the latter part of the Second World War. He had by that time retired and was ‘brought out of retirement’ by the company Dobson & Brown specially to undertake this work. It’s thought that he started in 1942 and the design took two years to complete. The design was done in 11 sections and as each was completed it was passed to the Draughtsmen to enable a start on their part of the whole process.

It is thought that this project was undertaken to retain the high skills of the staff in a lace factory which was producing work focussed on the war effort and not work to their normal high standards. However, by hearsay the son of the Manager had been a pilot involved in the Battle of Britain and had been killed. If this is true it seems a reasonable explanation to produce a memorial lace panel at huge cost and effort.

Only thirty-eight panels were woven and were presented to King George VI, Winston Churchill, various RAF units, Westminster Abbey, the City of London, the City of Nottingham, airmen from the Commonwealth and several others. The design and weaving of the panels reputedly took over 3 years to complete and required 40,000 jacquard pattern cards, 975 bobbins and 41,830m of cotton for each panel. It is reported that all of the designs, drafts and jacquards were destroyed at the end of the production run.

However, thankfully Harry kept tracings of this design and between 1961 and 1970 when Harry Cross was in his 90s, he was able to replicate the original design. His family recollect that unfortunately his room could not accommodate his treasured easel so his work was then done on the dining table. The design was initially done as the original i.e. black on white paper but he decided this could be improved and used paint, pastel and gilding to colour and complete the painting. Certainly he visited the Nottingham School of Art to talk with students in the time he was busy on the painting and show one completed section at least. A small article and photograph was published in the Evening Post after this visit.

Lave Unarchived

The Battle of Britain Painting by Harry Cross

Harry’s family have kindly loaned these historic and wonderful drawings to the Nottingham Trent University lace archive. The eleven sections have now been digitally scanned and have been digitally printed on fabric at almost full scale to be displayed at the Lace Unarchived exhibition in Bonington Gallery. Two of the painted panels are included in the exhibition, clearly showing his expertise and flair for decorative design. The textile panel and paintings sit beautifully against the contemporary artworks and historic lace in the exhibition.

On the night of the exhibition special late opening, Harry’s granddaughter Barbara Cross was presented with a smaller fabric version of the panel. It was a pleasure to have her represent her Grandfather at the event.

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