Lincrusta was the ingenious invention of Frederick Walton, who had pioneered the development of linoleum floor coverings in the 1860’s. Heralded as the first washable wallcovering, Lincrusta was an instant success, replacing painstaking artisan plasterwork and appealing to Victorian England’s tastes because of its sanitary properties as well as its beauty, practicality and durability.
Originally patented as Linoleum Muralis (Linoleum for walls), its name soon changed to Lincrusta-Walton – Lin for Linum (flax, from which linseed oil is made) and Crusta (Relief), with the inventor’s name being added to prevent others using the same title.
Designs quickly found their way into a huge variety of applications from royal homes to railway carriages, as well as notable buildings throughout the world, including The White House.
Soon after Lincrusta’s launch, which met with immediate and unprecedented success, and with demand so high Walton saw the opportunity to expand production beyond the UK – helped by the continued development of rail links during the Industrial Revolution.
By 1880, a new factory had been established in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, just north of Paris, and with showrooms in Paris and advertising Lincrusta had soon become an international brand.
The reasons for Lincrusta-Walton’s success, an 1880 pamphlet claimed, were that it was “warm and comfortable”, “would not warp or be eaten by worms”, “was not cold in winter or hot in summer like stone or terracotta”, “did not absorb moisture and give it out like brick and plaster” and “was impenetrable and resistant to wet”. This latter quality drew particular attention and was to be a key selling feature of Lincrusta.
Being an astute businessman, Frederick Walton also started to look at opportunities for his new invention across the Atlantic. Although he began marketing to the US in 1879, Lincrusta didn’t achieve widespread popularity until 1883, when FR Beck bought the patent rights and began manufacturing in a factory in Stamford, Connecticut.
Lincrusta’s immediate appeal in the US was to an upscale market, and early examples of its use include JD Rockefeller’s mansion, eminent banker Samuel M Nickerson’s home in Chicago (now The Driehaus Museum), and the California State Capitol in Sacramento – in 1886, the Santa Fe Daily New Mexican described the governor’s rooms in the new territorial capital building as being covered by Lincrusta-Walton of “various designs” which created “a most harmonious and really gorgeous effect.”
Linoleum had already gained a reputation as a non-absorbent surface that was easy to clean. Lincrusta-Walton brought these same qualities from the floor to the wall. It was completely waterproof; soap and water and even diluted acids could be used to clean the surface. This point was made by the Journal of Decorative Arts in 1884: “Among the many contributors to these twin sisters, Hygeia and Art, the name of Mr Walton is, and will long continue to be recognised as that of a man whose inventive powers have placed within the reach of the great bulk of the middle and upper classes, a material peerless as a sanitary agent and of a beauty that need fear no rival”.
In the same year, Lincrusta-Walton was awarded a Gold Medal at the International Health Exposition in London.
In 1887, Lincrusta’s biggest rival, Anaglypta, was launched. Anaglypta was a paper pulp material developed by Thomas J Palmer, the manager of Walton’s London showroom. Palmer approached Walton in 1883 with the idea for a paper-based embossed covering that would be lighter, more flexible and cheaper than Lincrusta. He thought it would be a complement to the older material. Walton, however, feared it would compete with Lincrusta and would have nothing to do with it, so in 1886 Palmer left Lincrusta-Walton, secured his own patent and contracted with Storey Brothers of Lancaster to manufacture the new material at their Queens Mill factory in Lancaster.
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was celebrated by an incredible diversity of people, from all backgrounds and social classes.
Hundreds of thousands came to London for the Diamond Jubilee procession on 22 June 1897, which took the Queen from Buckingham Palace to St Paul’s Cathedral for a service of thanksgiving.
Lincrusta celebrated by producing a Lincrusta plaque in her honour.
Lincrusta production began at factories in Germany, first in Delmenhorst at the Anker linoleum factory (which later became part of the Deutsche Linoleum Werke) and later at a factory in Hannover, part of Rasch & Co. Lincrusta was promoted as a practical wallcovering and continued to be used in a wide variety of places – including the private rail carriages of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
At the same time, due to the phenomenal success of Lincrusta, there was a proliferation of alternative products which came to market.
The first of these, Lignomur, based on a wood fibre pulp, was first introduced in America, and subsequently patented and manufactured at Addision Works, Shepherd’s Bush, London from 1886. The firm was bought out by The Old Ford Co. in 1896 and the formula was changed to paper base pulp.
Subercorium, Calcorian and Cortecine were all rubber-and-cork based materials made in the 1880’s in imitation of Lincrusta, but none enjoyed its popularity or success.
Cameoid was a low relief paper introduced by the Lincrusta-Walton Co. in 1898, while Cordelova, another embossed paper, started in Edinburgh in the 1890’s, and Salamander, a high relief material made of asbestos fibres was introduced in 1895 and promoted for its fire-proof properties.
In 1905, Frederick Walton & Company was acquired by the WPM (Wallpaper Manufacturing Company). WPM had been established in 1899, and in a pattern common to big businesses both in Britain and the USA, began buying up independent manufacturers. In its first year it acquired 21 companies including Ananglypta, Salamander, Cordelova and Lignomur. Whilst most WPM production was consolidated to the Queen’s Mill plant in Darwen, Lincrusta production was left at the original factory in Sunbury until 1918.
At first, individual companies within WPM were left some autonomy, but by 1920, Anaglypta, Lincrusta-Walton and Cameoid were marketed together at trade shows and exhibitions.
In 1906, Lincrusta-Walton launched a new product – imitation coloured tiles. These were marketed as “the best and cheapest substitute for tiles at less than half the price of metal imitations, are easy to hang, damp proof, the glaze is permanent, is not affected by steam, and can be fixed with absolutely invisible joints on ordinary plaster; no preparation required.”
These were targeted at the healthcare sector and were “being specified by leading architects for hospital corridors, being hygienic and germ proof, and can be washed with a hose pipe without in any way affecting the material.”
This offer extended the Lincrusta Collection, which already included table mats, toilet mats, finger plates, ceiling roses and other decorative trims as well as the more standard wallcoverings, dado panels, friezes and borders.
Over the years, Lincrusta-Walton appeared in all kinds of places from homes and hotels, to government buildings, railway carriages and ships. Perhaps one of its most notable uses was on board the doomed RMS Titanic, where it is said to have been used in many of the State Rooms.
Indeed, over the years Lincrusta-Walton was used in many of the liners of the time. In 1883, the London Times described the decoration of the new Cunard Liner, Servia: “The main staircase is the largest ever constructed in a passenger vessel. At the bottom…are panels executed in polished maple and Hungarian ash; but the rest of the staircase is done in embossed ornamentation. For this purpose, a new material called Lincrusta-Walton has been employed with singularly good effect.”
With the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, production was halted at Queens Mill, and once again the Lincrusta steels were melted down for use as munitions to help the war effort.
Lincrusta’s reputation for durability was growing ever stronger, with advertising strap lines such as “Solid in Relief! Solid in Colour! Solid in Value!”, earning it the reputation of “the indestructible wall covering.”
British Architect, ASG Butler, alluded to this strength in his 1942 memoir recounting his work as a building inspector in bomb-damaged London. He wrote of “the triumph of Lincrusta,” adding, “I do not mean aesthetically, but quite the opposite, in a military sense. No material, I think, has stood up to blast so stoutly. The bumpy, adhesive skin on wall and ceilings, aping rich plasterwork has counteracted many blows from bombs, even sustaining whole surfaces by itself.”
In the post-war years, various changes in ownership occurred – WPM was purchased by Reed International, Relief Decorations (Anaglypta & Lincrusta) was transferred to Crown Paint Division, who were subsequently bought by Williams Holdings, who were then bought by Nobel Industries and later merged with Akzo to form Akzo Nobel.
During this time, Lincrusta production continued first at Queens Mill then at Marsh House Mill, Darwen, albeit with a fraction of the number of designs compared to its heyday. With so many designs being lost, repairing and replacing old designs was problematic, so much so for one restoration society, The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, the only option was to pay for an original design to be re-engraved. Villa Louis, on the banks of the Mississippi, is a fine example of a British Arts & Crafts Interior, and in 1998 the Villa Louis design was added back into the Lincrusta Collection, a commercial agreement allowing the design to be sold worldwide.
Further changes in ownership ensued, with Imperial Home Décor buying Lincrusta and Anaglypta from Akzo Nobel and moving production to Potters Mill, Darwen, before they were in turn purchased by CWV Ltd in 2003, at which time production moved to a purpose built factory in Morecambe. In 2012, Anaglypta was sold and in 2014 Lincrusta was purchased by Heritage Wallcoverings Ltd, its current owners.
Heritage Wallcoverings embarked on a new and exciting phase of investment, repositioning the brand to target high end residential properties. At the same time the product formulation was changed slightly to ensure Lincrusta achieved BS EN15102:2007 Class B and US ASTM:E-84 Class 1/A fire ratings, opening up new opportunities in the commercial and hospitality sectors.
Additional Sales & Marketing personnel were recruited, new offices were opened in Lancaster to accommodate the growing team and to provide a showroom for visiting clients, and with an aggressive new product launch plan, supported by advertising and promotion, Lincrusta is set to flourish for many years to come.
Manufactured since 1877, Lincrusta is still highly desired and admired across the world. We’ve long understood what it takes to create a lasting impression. And not long after launching in Britain, the appeal of Lincrusta’s wallcoverings soon spread across the globe. This has made us a great British success story where skills and craft have stood the test of time. Today, we are extremely proud that our products are still made exclusively here in the UK and that they continue to enhance the interiors of the most desirable addresses the world over.
From launch, Lincrusta was an instant success, replacing painstaking artisan plasterwork and appealing to Victorian England’s tastes because of its beauty, practicality and durability. Absolutely unique and exceptionally beautiful, our wallcoverings remain unsurpassed for their deeper emboss, exquisite detail and enduring strength.
Originally manufactured in Sunbury-on-Thames, production soon moved to Lancashire in 1918. From the very beginning, our wallcoverings have never needed improving. Even today, we still use many of the original rollers to emboss our distinctive designs and make our products using many of the same natural materials as we always have. Now manufactured in a purpose built factory in Morecambe, we apply the same exacting standards of craftsmanship and attention to detail as we always have.
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