Header image Gail Baxter  
Ghost Tree Studio  
Cover Cloth

In an attempt to protect the British wool trade the first ‘Burial in Wool’ Act was passed in 1666 but it carried few penalties for evasion. It was followed by the 1678 Act which stated that: - ‘no corpse of any person (except those who shall die of the plague) shall be buried in any shirt, shift, sheet or shroud or anything whatsoever made of or mingled with flax, hemp, silk, hair, gold or silver, or in any stuff or thing, other than what is made of sheep’s wool only . . . or be put into any coffin lined or faced with . . . any other material but sheep’s wool only.’

Failure to observe the law brought a fine of £5. However it was considered a great privilege and honour to be buried in lace and many people preferred to pay the fine and to be buried in their best lace. Mrs Oldfield, a famous 18th century actress and lace collector, was buried in Westminster Abbey, in 1830, in a Holland shift with a tucker of double ruffles, and a fine Brussels lace ‘head’. Even highwaymen thought it their duty to put on a good show and went to the gallows in their best lace in the hope that they would be buried in it.

Cover Cloth references not only the Burial in Wool Act but also the fact that the coffins excavated from the vaults in Christ Church, Spitalfields, were covered in woollen cloth. There are numerous fragments of woollen cloth amongst the artefacts from the excavations.

The outer section of the work is cobweb felt, made from Merino wool. The central lace panel is based on the identification code used for Master Silk Weaver Charles Mesman and includes a single red threads that can be read as a lifeline.

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Gail Baxter - Cover Cloth