Sultan of Turkey
In 1822, The famous Whitty carpet manufactory of Axminster, produced what must
have been one of the most amazing hand loomed carpets ever made. It was produced
for the Sultan of Turkey and it measured 74 feet x 52 feet. It was said to be
a most colourful carpet depicting a blazing sun, moon and a whole constellation
of stars. The cost of the carpet was recorded as being in excess of one thousand
pounds, which at today’s value would surely equate to a price tag in excess
of a million pounds.
Laid out for the townsfolk
The carpet was made in the old Thomas Whitty factory near the Minster Green in
Axminster and when complete was carried by thirty men to the Congregational Church
and laid out over the pews for the townsfolk to see. It covered the whole area
apart from one aisle.
Wealth and splendour beyond description
The famous customer, Sultan Mahmud II, would have been one of the most powerful
men in the world at that time and he ruled on the Ottoman throne at the Topkapi
Palace from 1808 to 1839. The Wealth and splendour of his dynasty was almost
beyond description. The palace complex of lavish buildings, spires, domes, courtyards
and gardens covered an area of over 173 acres and over 4000 slaves, concubines,
wives, courtiers, officials, and members of the royal family lived there. The
harem alone comprised over 100 rooms.
Deftdar Palace of the Golden Horn
Topkapi Palace is now a museum and still contains thousands of priceless artefacts
from the Ottoman Empire, but sadly not the carpet. However, information was received
last June from Mr. Halil Ozek Acting Director of the museum, indicating the carpet
may have been laid in the Deftdar Palace of the Golden Horn on the Bosphorus.
This palace belonged to one of the women of the court, Esma Sultan, daughter
of Sultan Mustapha III. There is much logic in this theory as the dimensions
of the great reception hall match almost exactly the dimensions of the carpet.
Unfortunately the trail runs cold
at that point as that palace no longer exists.
The Axminster Weavers’ Tales committee organised the great celebration
that marked the 250th anniversary of the production of the first Axminster carpet,
and one of the many aspects of that is to continue to find out more about, and
locate the ‘Sultan of Turkey Carpet’. Whilst enquiries made in Turkey
are still awaited it is felt that some clues may be held here in the UK.
It has been recorded that two of the old Axminster weavers, Mrs. Banks who died
in 1899 and Miss Pitcher who died shortly after, both remembered the great carpet.
Also Mary Anne Hoare, then 90 was quoted “It was counted as a grand event,
bells were rung and carriages came from a great distance on this gay day”.
It is hoped there are still surviving descendants of these three ladies or the
Whitty family, who may have been passed on information or even an old illustration
of the carpet or maybe some information in a publication of the time.
Anyone with any possible clues or information is asked to kindly contact Fred
Wells, Telephone: 01297 33771 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org