Masculinities, Wallpaper, and Crafting Domestic Space within the University, 1795-1914




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During routine renovations, a ‘wallpaper sandwich’ - made up of twelve preserved layers of wallpaper - was removed from the wall of a student dorm room at Peterhouse College, Cambridge. Carefully separated and conserved, these wallpapers provide a glimpse into the decorative domestic surroundings inhabited by students over 180 years, from the late eighteenth century onwards. Able to mimic or defy the aesthetic conventions of their parents’ homes, students were given relative freedom to decorate their college rooms as they wished. As such, these rooms represent a domestic haven within the institutional confines of the Cambridge college. This was a space in which students could explore and express their own ideas of domestic comfort and, for many students, create their first home. Using a selection of the wallpaper fragments as a framework, this article explores the decorative choices made by the young men who were students at Peterhouse in the nineteenth century, and contextualises them within a broader narrative of masculine material culture and domestic consumption. This article draws from the ‘wallpaper sandwich’, college photographic archives, and records of student experience. It argues that the domestic autonomy granted to the students who inhabited these rooms allowed them to craft a domestic interior within the college on their own terms.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the URI link.


Wallpaper, Domestic interiors, Material Culture, Craft, Masculinity


Dyer, S. (2018) Masculinities, Wallpaper, and Crafting Domestic Space within the University, 1795-1914. Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies, 14(2).


Research Institute

Institute of Art and Design