The Village of Beer: East Devon

Beer Lace and the Royal Family

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress was trimmed with lace. The neck and sleeve frills, a flounce forming the front panel, and the veil were all made of lace. The order for this lace was placed with Miss Jane Bidney of Beer in 1839. The work was carried out over six months from May until November 1839 by over one hundred lace-workers and the final cost was £1000. The flounce of the dress measured 4ft 6 ins by 2ft 6ins. Once the work was completed, the designs were destroyed so ensuring that the design would not be copied.

This order came at a time when the hand-made lace industry was in decline owing to the development of machine-made lace in the early 19th century.

Miss Bidney had never left Devon before this commission and while waiting to be received by the Queen in London she fainted from nerves!

Miss Bidney herself was commanded by Her Majesty to attend the wedding, while the lace-makers were sent £10 by the Queen to celebrate the wedding on Feb 10th, 1840, which they did in the New Inn!

The flounce was temporarily returned to Beer and exhibited in St Michael’s Church in 1982 as part of the Axe Valley Maritime 82 Exhibition.

Queen Victoria later ordered a black shawl from the lace-makers at Beer.

Princess Mary (Viscountess Lascelles) was presented with a wedding gift of a lace collar which was paid for by every woman in Beer named Mary. This was made under the supervision of Mrs Ida Allen, a descendant of Jane Bidney. This was taken to Buckingham Palace by the vicar’s wife, Mrs Mary Hollis.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother received a handkerchief from Mrs Ida Allen of Beer in 1939.

In 1981, Princess Marguerita of Yugoslavia commissioned the Beer Lace ladies to create a piece of lace as her wedding gift to Prince Charles and Princess Diana. David Skipp designed a motif combining the Prince of Wales feathers with part of the Spencer crest.

For the christening of Prince William, the Beer Lace Group made a book of Nursery Rhymes in lace from designs by David Skipp and Judith Green. One of the characters, Mrs Tittlemouse, is shown above. This was presented by Mrs May Wakley of Beer at Buckingham Palace. Traditionally designs of lace commissioned by or for the Royal Family are destroyed once the lace has been finished to prevent copying. These designs have not been destroyed and are held at Exeter Museum.

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