Enid, magic moquette maker, is finally recognised with plaque

English Heritage asks for nominations as it tackles scheme’s gender imbalance

Thursday, 14th April — By Megan Dean

Enid Marx Katia_Marsh__great_niece

Katia Marsh does the honours as the plaque to Enid Marx is unveiled in Thornhill Road. Images: English Heritage

BY MEGAN DEAN

A BLUE plaque has been added to a house in Islington to commemorate the life of a groundbreaking female designer.

The plaque honouring Enid Marx, a distant relative of Karl Marx, was unveiled by English Heritage last week at 39 Thornhill Road in Barnsbury.

The designer is best known for her industrial moquette designs used on the capital’s Underground trains seats.

She lived in the house in Barnsbury for more than 30 years and her studio in the garden is said to remain much the same as she left it on her death in 1998.

In 1937 Ms Marx was commissioned by London Transport to produce designs for the seating on buses and Underground trains.

While today’s tube seats might not be inspiring to all, back in the 1930s Marx’s block-prints were at the cutting edge of modernist design.

Designer Enid Marx at work

According to the London Transport Museum, she was tasked with creating a fabric design that would “look fresh at all times, even after bricklayers had sat on it”.

In 1922 Ms Marx was one of the few women to attend the Royal College of Art, and in 1944 she became the first female engraver to be named a Royal Designer for Industry.

Unlike her male contemporaries, Ms Marx did not achieve widespread recognition until after her death. Today, writer and design historian Jane Audas describes her as “one of the best designers and illustrators of the 20th century”.

“Her role as a woman doing industrial design, in a very male-dominated profession, has extra resonance for us today,” Ms Audas said. “History hasn’t always told their stories.”

Welcoming the plaque for Ms Marx, Ms Audas added: “It’s great to see more blue plaques for women and, more so, women designers.

“It reminds me of the creative lives that make up the history of my city.”

Katia Marsh, the great-niece of Ms Marx, helped unveil the plaque on April 5.

“She was well-known as a designer during her long life – although millions of travellers would have sat on her Underground seating fabrics without even knowing her name,” Ms Marsh said of her great-aunt.

The decision to commemorate the designer’s life comes as English Heritage works to address a historic gender imbalance in the blue plaque scheme.

At present, only 14 per cent of the 950 plaques installed in London commemorate women.

The charity is now encouraging the public to nominate remarkable female figures from history.

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