Curtains for Early Victorian Homes 1845 – 1880

Behind the man can be seen a window with striped roller blinds and lightweight, swagged curtains in a bedroom. Striped roller blinds were often in colours of red and white or green and white.

A Student’s room at Christchurch, Oxford, England in the 1860’s.
Showing wooden curtain pole and rings and heavy fringed pelmets. In England, it was common to have shutters at the windows that during the day folded back to make paneling at the side of the windows.

This illustration is from the excellent book
“Nineteenth Century Decoration: The Art of the Interior by Charlotte Gere, published by Harry N. Abram Inc. New York 1989
This is a definitive book that I would strongly recommend to anyone interested in early decoration.

Curtains were generally hung on poles and swagged back, held by either “curtain pins” or a curved brass holder that was fastened to the wooden window frame.

Curtains that drew back using cords and pulleys were relatively new, though one 1859 magazine provided diagrams to enterprising homeowners who might wish to try this new invention.

An early pulley-and-cord arrangement for opening curtains dating from 1846, showing a rack pulley being used at bottom right to control movement in the cord. ‘i’ is a pulley as is ‘m’. ‘n’ and ‘o’ are curtain rings.

Curtains were usually designed to match the architectural style of the house.
On the left is a recommended curtain design for an Italianate house
On the right, a recommended curtain design for a Gothic house, the curtain is shown with a pointed ‘drapery’ above.
In both cases the ‘drapery’ was tacked to the inside of the cornice, and the curtains run on a hidden pole or rod.
The left curtains are held by leaf-shaped holdbacks, and on the right ‘curtain pins’ hold the curtains back.

This simple, one layer curtain arrangement is swagged, according to the fashion of the day, but used a “U” shaped ‘hold back’, fastened to the window moulding. The curtains would be drawn back by hand and tucked into the hold back.

Curtain pins could be made of glass, as these were, or brass. They were screwed into the window frame on each side. Commonly, they were positioned at the height of the windowsill, and the curtains were gathered back by hand, and tucked behind the curtain pin. Illustration from an 1865 American Hardware catalogue.

Sometimes holdbacks were used. Made of brass, they were curved into a “U” shape and the curtains would be pulled back by hand and then tucked either behind the pin or into the “U” shaped hold back to keep them open during the day

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