Althorp lace purchased by Allhallows Museum

Exquisite example of Honiton Lace undoubtedly made by one of the best ever lace makers.

AN important new item has been added to the Honiton Lace collection at Allhallows Museum – and it comes from the Spencer family’s Althorp estate.

The so-called ‘Marie Antoinette flounce’, undoubtedly once worn by a woman of high class, was sold at auction for �3,200 – more than double Christie’s estimate.

It was bought by the 5th Earl Spencer in 1860, but could be older.

A legacy, gratefully received by the museum, paid for the purchase.

“It is so fine and exquisite, it has got to have been made by one of the best Honiton Lace makers,” said lace maker and keeper Mary Wardell.

“It is a very important addition to our collection.

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“The lace is set on all handmade net, which is so long – one piece measures 280 inches and the other 200.”

Experts are now examining ‘fillings’ in the lace – to try and identify who crafted the flounce.

“The fillings are so distinctive,” said Mrs Wardell.

Only the very wealthy could afford such large handmade lace garments in the 1800s. Before the introduction of machinery, a yard of net alone cost �5 – an absolute fortune in those days.

Mrs Wardell said: “It was estimated to sell for between �800 and �1,200, but we were prepared to go higher.

“It was fortunate we had some money left from a legacy that enabled us to do that.”