Headwear & Hat Industry Collection
Luton was and still is the heart of the hat making industry in England. There were over 400 hat factories in Luton during the 1800s, with the majority of them making straw hats. Only 9 factories are still active today.
- Our collection is the most complete in the world, showcasing industry objects and paper archive relating to the English hat industry. Our collection includes over 1000 pieces of headwear, 4000 material examples, machinery, tools and rare items collected from our hat factories.
- Our paper archive has an almost complete run of the Hatter’s Gazette, British Millinery, Trade Directories and documents relating to the hat industry. We also display an associate collection of items made by hat factory workers themselves, using hat industry materials, fashion plates and sales materials.
The Household Collection
Costume & Textiles (including Lace)
Our collection includes an array of period costumes, accessories, textiles, lace and jewellery.
- We have a wonderful collection of adult and children’s clothing pieces, as well as reproductions dating back to the 18th century, right up to the 1970s
- Our costume accessories include fans from the 19th and 20th centuries, bags, purses, gloves, shawls, scarves, shoes, parasols, handkerchiefs and wigs
- Our textiles collection features mid 18th to early 20th century quilts, table linen, samplers, embroideries, knitting and dress fabrics
- We also hold a great collection of mourning rings from the mid 18th to 19th centuries, as well as Berlin work jewellery
Applied Arts (including folk art)
Our impressive Applied Arts Collection includes:
- English ceramics from 17th to early 20th centuries
- Silver from 18th to 20th centuries
- Furniture from 16th to 19th centuries
- Woodcarvings from 15th to 18th centuries
- Clocks and Watches from early 18th to 19th centuries
- Glass from the late 17th to early 20th centuries, including the Henry Brown collection
- The Ekins collection of Fidelle Duvivier decorated New Hall porcelain
- The Fannin collection of stoneware
- The Venning collection of furniture, pottery and porcelain.
- We also hold a significant collection of straw marquetry, including Prisoner of War pieces from the late 17th to early 19th centuries and the oldest known piece of English marquetry
Prints, Drawings, Paintings
- We have a charming collection of 18th, 19th and 20th century watercolours, depicting local Bedfordshire scenes, by notable artists such as Thomas Fisher, George Shepherd and Sylvester Stannard
- Our collection of fine art contains over 500 pieces, including works by Edward Callam (1960s) and Theodore Kern (1930s)
- Our 'Naive art' collection includes sand pictures, glass pictures, etchings, engravings, prints and drawings from the mid 18th to 20th centuries
Luton News and Photographic Images
- We have an astounding photographic collection of over one million negatives and prints, including the Thurston collection and Luton News negatives from the 1920s-1991
Prisoner of War artwork
- Featuring straw marquetry from the late 17th to early 19th century
- Including an outdoor mixed media piece “Waterfall” from the “Inspired by Stitch” exhibition at Stockwood Park.
Who to contact about collections?