Toggle menu



In March 2021 The Novium Museum was awarded a grant of £1250 from the Institute of Conservation to conserve and repackage its wallpaper sample collection to ensure the long term preservation of the collection. 

The Novium Museum holds a collection of around 28 samples of wallpaper from 3 separate sites. The samples date to around the 18th-19th century. Precise dating is tricky, as styles and patterns of wallpaper were often recycled over and again. Often detailed study of the production, plaster and backing materials of the wallpaper help to provide more precise dating, but haven't been possible here as this would require the different layers of wallpaper to be separated. Having said that we can use information about the buildings in which they were discovered to help provide estimates of their age.

What some of our wallpaper samples do show is the method used for installation of some early wallpapers. If walls were rough and not plastered, the walls were often battened out around the perimeter with a frame of wood like a picture frame.  To this would be nailed a canvas textile which would be stretched tightly across the wall to form a flat surface.  The canvas would then be coated with a 'size' which is made from animal skins, hooves etc. boiled in water and this would cause the textile to contract and the size would hold it in place when dry.  This process would make the textile even tighter, flatter and smoother like a drum which is a good surface to hang the wallpaper on.  

Often the nail heads would be hidden by pasting over strips with a cheaper, rough sort of brown paper.  This was to stop the nails from showing and also if they rusted, the rust marks coming through to the front of the wallpaper.  There is some of this type of thick brown paper on the back of some of the examples from the museum's collection from the Dolphin and & Anchor Hotel. 

Then the canvas would be lined with paper and when dry, the wallpaper hung over that. If you wanted to save some money (materials and labour costs) you might not line the canvas. 

Find out more about the museum's wallpaper samples below.

Dolphin and Anchor Wallpaper Samples

These wallpaper samples were discovered at the former premises of The Dolphin and The Anchor Inns, Chichester, which combined in 1910 to form The Dolphin & Anchor hotel. The samples were taken during archaeological monitoring in 1998, prior to the buildings refurbishment and alteration to retail usage.

Find out more about the history of the Dolphin and Anchor Hotel here: 

9303                      Early 19th century hand finished wallpaper, discovered in the 'Keats Room' of the hotel. The wallpaper survived behind a later door architrave.

9304                    Wallpaper from a ground floor room of the hotel. There are 5 other layers of wallpaper behind the one you see, the first can be dated to somewhere between 1712 and 1836 thanks to a patent tax                                 mark on the reverse. The top layer probably dates to around the mid-19th century.

9305                    Wallpaper from a first floor room of the hotel, preserved behind battens for a lowered ceiling. This design is printed and probably dates to the late 19th century.

9307                    19th century wallpaper from a first floor room of the hotel preserved behind a partition.

9308                    18th or 19th century, hessian backed wallpaper from a second floor room.

9309                    Late 18th or early 19th century wallpaper from a room at the top of the stairwell, second floor.



19 Westgate Wallpaper Samples

These wallpaper samples and hessian wall coverings were discovered in the upstairs bedroom of No. 19 Westgate, Chichester during renovations to the building. It is believed that they date to around the 1770s.

The building has a pre 18th century timber core with a circa 18th century brick frontage.


43 North Street Wallpaper Samples

These wallpaper samples were discovered during renovations in 1992 in an upstairs room of No 43 North Street. Preserved behind the wallpaper were block printed and hand painted linen wall hangings dating from around 1620 in the Jacobean period. They had been reused as backing or 'scrim' for the later wallpaper. Hessian material was often used as a backing to early wallpapers to smooth out uneven walls to ensure a smooth finish when applying the wallpaper. On this occasion it seems that there was no need to purchase additional hessian, and instead the existing wall hangings were utilised for this purpose.

Although the wall hangings date from around 1620 the house itself was built in the early 18th century, perhaps suggesting the linen wall hangings originally hung in a different building altogether.

North Street 1
North Street 2
North Street 3
North Street 4
North Street 5
North Street 6
North Street 7
North Street 8