Tillet block to mark bundles of cloth

Contributed by RAMM Exeter

Tillet block to mark bundles of cloth

Signed, sealed and delivered in a golden age of trade.

This wooden block has seen a lot of action. It is darkened by age and traces of paint and ink. It was used in 18th century Exeter to stamp a design onto the wrappers (or tillets) of bundles of cloth. It was a time when business was booming and England was growing wealthier and wealthier on the cloth trade to Europe. Exeter was one of the most important ports in England. Ships took easy access from here to France, Spain and Portugal; and round the coast to London and the Netherlands. Most of the city's population earned their living by fulling, dyeing and pressing woollen cloth, which had been woven nearby.

The design on the block is carved in relief and is a mirror image, so that the imprint it makes is the right way round. It has been shaped to fit neatly into a space in a much larger printing block. The image is unique in showing someone working at their trade.

Tillet blocks like this are particularly linked to Exeter. The printing blocks were part of a complex and many-layered system of quality control. The large blocks usually show the royal coat of arms. We think the stamp was put on at the Customs House on the quay.

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Comments

  • 4 comments
  • 1. At 21:18 on 21 July 2010, RAMM Exeter wrote:

    It looks like a block for batik designs in the Far East. [Looms] are still used in rural Turkey. Ladies - not men - still weave?. My mother had two looms - one carpet one and one for dyed rags to make rugs.

    (Anil Lee, moved to Exeter from Istanbul in 1988, in a Moving Here session organised by RAMM Exeter)

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  • 2. At 21:20 on 21 July 2010, RAMM Exeter wrote:

    [It's quite] a coarse wood, coarser than pear.

    (Margaret Hammond, painter, in a Moving Here session organised by RAMM Exeter)

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  • 3. At 21:21 on 21 July 2010, RAMM Exeter wrote:

    It looks German. It looks like a picture in an old manuscript. I associate the history of the book with Germany.

    (Anne-Flore Laloe, historical geographer and French interpreter, in a Moving Here session organised by RAMM Exeter)

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  • 4. At 21:23 on 21 July 2010, RAMM Exeter wrote:

    It's so light. I was expecting it to be heavy.

    (Anil Lee, moved to Exeter from Istanbul in 1988, in a Moving Here session organised by RAMM Exeter)

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