Just under 175 years ago, how people dried themselves after a wash changed when the first British made terry towel was shown off at the Great Exhibition, and now there’s a smaller exhibition about the company that developed it.

Terry Towels, at the time more commonly known as the Turkish Towel was “discovered” by the noted collector and ethnologist Henry Christy on a visit to Istanbul, and noticed that the way it was woven with many small loops made it particularly good at absorbing water.

Back in the UK, his parent’s hat-making company developed a method of mass production of this Turkish Towel, and just a year later Queen Victoria was buying some from the Great Exhibition. With royal patronage, the company’s fortune was secured, and Christy still manufactures towels to this day.

(Yes, I wrote about Christy yesterday as well, you thought that was a coincidence?)

The Museum of Brands is now marking the upcoming 175th anniversary of Christy with an exhibition about its history, products and how it developed its brand identity, with a wide range of towels and documents from the company archives.

Who knew towels had such a history, as I certainly didn’t.

As a firm though, they started with a sale to a royal person, and have stuck to the upper end of the market ever since, with quite a lot of letters from Buckingham Palace thanking them for their various commemorative towels — right up to this year’s Coronation.

Yes, there’s an official Charles III towel.

The firm naturally changed a bit during WWII, and comparing the pre-war towel with what they sold during the war shows how they had to cut back on the luxuries. They also invented possibly the first wet-wipe for cleaning cars, in the form of a towel bag that held soap flakes.

Although a luxury towel firm that you’ve probably never heard of, you’ve probably seen their towels — as they are often the official towel supplier to major sporting events — and they’re the firm that supplies the famous green towels for Wimbledon.

A notice in the display case says that many of the competitors prize the towels as a sign that they’ve made it to the championships and will often take more than a handful of them home afterwards, maybe not entirely with permission.

These days, ordinary folk can also buy them from the Wimbledon shop, and the most recent number, from 2012, says they sold nearly 100,000 towels during the championship.

The exhibition, Christy is at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising until 31st October 2023.

It’s included in a visit to the museum.

  • Adult: £9
  • Child (7-16): £5
  • Concessions: £7
  • Family: £24


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