R. E. Littler woodblocks were used to produce fabric for Liberty of London, with river water that was renowned for its purity and could even be drunk unfiltered.

Littler and Company was an established family calico and silk printing business with sites at West Ham and Waltham Abbey in the Lea Valley. In 1831 Littler also bought premises at Merton Abbey by the River Wandle, which had a similar environment to the Lea. The purity of the water that flowed past these Abbey sites was vital for the bleaching of silk. The sheets were often laid out in the surrounding meadows with an armed guard keeping watch.

The company employed their own ‘block cutters’ who carved the intricate pattern designs onto pear woodblocks with great skill and accuracy for each colour in the design. They were then pressed onto a dye-soaked pad on a trolley before being weighted down onto fabric for printing.

The Littler works at Merton outlived his factories on the Lea and by the 1890s Litter produced nearly all the goods for the prestigious Liberty of London. In 1904 Arthur Liberty bought the Merton premises from Littler Jnr. and continued to produce Liberty’s fabric there until 1972.

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  • my other’s grandmother was Mary Merritt who held the lease of the Merton Abbey site. I have a quantity of information derived from copy documents researched by my cousin’s wife. My mother’s father bought a commission as an ensign in the East India Company in 1847 as did a number of earlier male members of the family.dating back to the mid 17th century. The family remained living in India where they both served in the British Army. My parents returned home to the U.K. at the end of 1949 My father was the son of a first world war British army veteran who had signed up in 1914 and was posted initially to Mesopotamia and then to the North west frontier he then became the Superintendant of Works at the British Army Cantonment of Rawalpindi until his return to the U.K. in 1955

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