The practice of concealment Developing social history from physical evidence
: a detailed exploration of artefacts hidden within a Victorian chaise longue and an interpretation of the significance of the contents

  • Carol Circuit

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The removal of a top cover from a Victorian chaise longue, in preparation for restoration work, revealed that the chaise had been stuffed with an assortment of Victorian clothes and tightly bound bundles of textiles rather than the traditional filling of horsehair. Amongst this stuffing was a label with a name and address which appeared to point to an association with the town of Leamington Spa and to the name of the person who may well have been the original owner of the chaise – one Miss Smith - and the opportunity to research this hidden cache proved irresistible.

When handling the artefacts there was a very strong awareness that the last person to touch them had probably been Miss Smith, over one hundred years before me, and this provoked curiosity about what led her to create this cache. I have attempted to portray
the contents of the cache as a narrative by taking a multi-disciplinary approach to try to put them into a context. This research explores methods of interpreting objects in order to make connections with human history and investigates a middle class
provincial life through Miss Smith. It is positioned in the fields of textile and furniture upholstery history and attempts to contribute to the fields of material culture and social history by exploring new knowledge surrounding the practice of concealment and its association with ritual and symbolism.

In order to begin to understand and interpret the significance of the discovery it was important to gain a thorough knowledge of the contents of the cache and this prompted the formation of an inventory – the Miss Smith Archive - which provides a detailed
written and photographic record of each item in the cache and is provided in digital format as volume 2 of the thesis.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
  • Buckinghamshire New University
SupervisorJake Kaner (Supervisor) & Neil Brownsword (Supervisor)

Cite this