J. D Carr's anti-Corn Law waistcoat

Contributed by Tullie House Museum

Anti-Corn Law waistcoat owned by J. D Carr. © Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery

When the Corn Laws were repealed in 1846, Carr wore the waistcoat a last time at a celebratory tea he gave his workers.Woven into the fibres of this waistcoat is a story that provides us with an insight into a crucial time in Britain's history. The waistcoat represents the campaign for free trade and repeal of the Corn Laws. To reflect this it is printed with an intricate design featuring ears of wheat and tiny slogans saying 'Free'.

It was made for Jonathan Dodgson Carr, founder of the Carlisle firm, Carr's biscuits, around 1840. Carr took a keen interest in a wide range of social issues and one of the causes closest to his heart was the campaign against the Corn Laws. This legislation was introduced at the end of the Napoleonic Wars to protect the price of British-grown wheat. While this pleased domestic producers, the laws caused widespread unrest.

The result was a stalemate that, arguably, brought Britain to the brink of revolution before more moderate political reform broke aristocratic control of Parliament and led to the laws being repealed in 1846.

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