Originally posted on Actonbooks.
On opening day in April 1881 you could hardly get down New Bond St in London for the waiting carriages of the rich and famous jamming the street. In the shop at 157 the assistants were dressed in aesthetic style costumes in the carefully chosen colour palette of the movement. It was the BIBA of its age. As one commentator put it “All the world and his wife is visiting Dr Dresser’s shop”. Even The Royal Family sent an equerry to report back.
Dr Dresser was designer Christopher Dresser and the shop was snappily named The Art Furnishers’ Alliance. After many generations of neglect, Christopher Dresser has in the past 20 years or so taken his rightful place in the cultural heritage of middle Victorian period as a modernist without much of the baggage of William Morris.
Dresser’s was a strange, essentially Victorian career that straddled effortlessly the sciences and the arts. He first earned his living as a…