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  • Nicola

London Town Sampler: The Cutty Sark & Royal Parks

Welcome to my third post introducing the new Petit FOUR sampler patterns, the London Town blocks. For the past nine months Andrea from the Willow Cottage Quilt Company and I have been posting out parcels of Tilda-filled loveliness to our Block of the Month participants and taking them on a wonderful, whistle-stop tour of the British capital as they created their sampler quilt together. And now it's time to share the block patterns with you.

This time we're taking a bracing trip along the river to Greenwich Park to explore London's trading past from the deck of the Cutty Sark.


Cutty Sark

London was a port long before it became a great city. As islanders, the ancient Britons established strong trading routes, unfortunately attracting the attention of the Romans, who invaded in AD 43 - by sea - and founded the city. And as the focus of the Roman road system, London was established as England's commercial centre.

The history of ship building in the Port of London goes back to the time of Alfred the Great in the ninth century. Six hundred years later, Henry VIII opened Royal Dockyards at Deptford and Woolwich. In 1606, fourteen years before the Pilgrim Fathers set out from Plymouth, three small ships, the Susan Constant, Discovery and Godspeed sailed from London, financed by the London Company of Merchant Adventurers, and founded the state of Virginia.

In the 'Age of Sail' London's fortunes were tied to the trade winds: cargo ships could take up to two years to make a return journey, but faster ships could beat the competition, commanding higher prices, and no cargo was more prized than... tea. Fashionable Victorians paid a premium to drink the first of a new tea harvest, which lead to the ‘great tea races’. The Cutty Sark was built exclusively for this trade: on its maiden voyage the ship departed London on the 15th of February 1870 bound for Shanghai and, after only 25 days in port, sped back to London, arriving on the 13th of October, laden with 1,305,812 lbs of tea. Although I doubt it lasted long!

But the very same week the Cutty Sark set sail, the Suez Canal opened, ultimately forcing her out of the trade for which she'd been built. Steamships could now take advantage of this ‘short cut’ to bring larger cargoes home even more quickly, ending the Age of Sail.

A PDF Pattern for the Cutty Sark block is available here.


Royal Parks

Until the 17th century, the city stayed within the 'square mile' of its Roman Walls, surrounded by the fields and villages which supplied its population with food. The first parks were actually deer parks, created by royal licence and reserved for the nobility to hunt in.

The deer park at Greenwich was inherited by Henry VI in 1447 and became the perfect place for the royal family to escape from the confines of the city. A century later, hunting-mad Henry VIII, was 'gifted' Bushy Park - along with Hampton Court Palace - by Cardinal Wolsey (under some duress) along with his Westminster residence. Keen to move out of the Tower with his new wife, Anne Boleyn, Henry purchased St. James's Park and enlarged it by confiscating Hyde Park from the monks of Westminster Abbey after the dissolution of the monasteries. As we know, Anne didn't get to enjoy her new parks for long and found herself back at the Tower!

Three-quarters of London was destroyed in the great fire of 1666 and the new city was rebuilt beyond its old walls. Looking enviously over the channel to the Palace Gardens at Versailles, Charles II remodelled St. James's Park, planting grand avenues of trees, opening it to the public and settling in a pair of pelicans gifted to him by the Russian ambassador. Their descendants live there to this day.

This was also the time when the crowded medieval streets were replaced by elegant garden squares, bringing much needed greenery to a city which would triple in size during the 1700s. The population tripled again during the nineteenth century, spreading ever outwards with the railway and underground networks. In 1811 George IV remodelled another of Henry's deer parks to create Regent's Park, creating a new home for the Royal Menagerie then housed at the Tower (pelicans excepted) and in 1842, Victoria Park was opened as the first of four new public parks, resplendent with bandstands and flower-lined paths, created for the enjoyment of all Londoners.

Although Greater London now covers 600 square miles rather than one, it has 3,000 parks of varying sizes which make up 100 square miles of green space. And in the quieter corners of Greenwich and Richmond parks you can still see deer...

A PDF Pattern for the pair of Royal Park blocks is available here.


You can find all of the London Town PDF blocks patterns collected together, along with the setting directions, here. If you'd prefer a Pattern Book, they'll be heading to the shop - and Amazon - in a couple of weeks!

In my next London Town post we'll be jumping in a cab to go shopping at one of my favourite places in the city, can you guess where?

Nicola xx


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