The Dyers’ Company and dyeing
The earliest records of dyeing go back to 5,000 BC in Turkey and the earliest mention of dyeing in England was by the Venerable Bede in 731 AD but the earliest record of dyers as a guild in London is 1188 AD. The Guild of Dyers was granted rights of self regulation in 1311 but it was not until 1471 that King Henry VI granted the Dyers’ their first Royal Charter, changing the guild into an incorporated body and granting powers of search and fines for poor quality dyeing in London. Subsequent charters and byelaws were granted until the current one granted by Queen Anne in 1704.
Plants and animals were the exclusive source of natural dyes until William Henry Perkin, aged 18, accidentally discovered the first synthetic dye “Mauveine” while searching for a cure for malaria, and a new industry and era in dyeing was begun.
As part of the celebrations marking the 550th anniversary of the first Royal Charter, two artworks depicting the timeline of natural and synthetic dyes were commissioned from Neil Bottle and installed in the Binding Room.