Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Macclesfield - NOT to be missed!

On Monday morning I took myself off to Macclesfield with Jill of NB Matilda Rose to have a good look at Macclesfield and see the museums that record/celebrate the Town's industrial heritage. Knowing nothing of the history of the town we headed for the heritage centre and bought tickets to see the Silk Museum, the Sunday School and the Paradise Mill. £8.75 made us wince a bit but let me tell you it was worth every penny and then some! The guided tour around the Paradise Mill was just brilliant.
The photo's start at the Paradise Mill which was built in the 1860's. Above is a Jacquard machine which was invented by a Frenchman to create intricate patterns in hand woven fabrics. The main competitors for English Silk were the French and the Italians and Jacquard had given the French a commercial advantage with his machine which used a roll of 'punch cards' to govern the number of weft threads that are lifted for the 'shuttle', carrying the warp thread, to pass over or under and therefore create a pattern in the woven product.
Well that's as clear as mud explanation Lesley...
A very well worn seat above. It has taken about 120 years to wear this hole.
Silk Bobbins above.
Above, the weaving floor. The Paradise Mill was owned throughout its operating life by one family and they clung on to traditional hand weaving production. The last weaver was made redundant in 1981. What you see when you visit is the entire top floor of the Mill as it was, or very close to 'as it was'. The looms were operated by the weaver using a a single foot treadle. This meant that you stood on one leg all day and treadled with the other; see below.
The ancilliary tasks of preparing the perns and creels was less skilled and usually fell to lower paid women and many children. In 1873 25% of the Macclesfield workforce were children. They worked 10 hour days over a 6 day week. On Sunday they attended the Sunday School, now the Heritage centre, where for the contribution of a penny per week they got an education!

Above, the Sunday School. This was paid for by wealthy benefactors - there are plaques all over the building declaring for all to see who contributed, how much they contributed and when they contributed. Now where does that fit with Christian teaching about charitable giving? The Sunday School was non-denominational and throughout the rest of the week was used by any number of groups and societies.
The contraption above was used to spin the silk thread onto 'perns' or bobbins in preparation for weaving. This would have been designated as childrens work.
Above and below, preparing the creels that will hold the weft threads. Up to 11500 individual silk threads had to be threaded across this contraption to create the weft threads. Womens work!

Above, an intricate engraved block for silk printing.
Above, the weaving floor with the looms stretching away into the distance.

Are you on time? Clocking in machine above.

The Macclesfield Silk Mills funded an Art and Design School where they trained people in the skills needed to produce fine silk designs. Above is a silk design in process. The Paradise Mill had a design office where skilled artist would create designs and then convert them into workable patterns for the card maker (Jacquard cards) to punch the cards that would enable the weavers to produce the new pattern. Below, the punch machine that was used to produce the jacquard cards.

The Office above...
Above, a terrace of Weavers cottages in Paradise Street Macclesfield. See the windows on the top floor. These were to allow plenty of light in so that the loom workers could see what they were doing. Originally silk weaving was a cottage industry here with all the family involved in generating an income. There were 700 cottages like these in Macclesfield at one time.
Macclesfield in the 17th and 18th Century was primarily a producer of buttons, wooden buttons and this was very much a cottage industry. The fashion however moved towards silk covered buttons so silk was imported and transported to Macclesfield from London where it was used to adorn buttons that were then transported back to London and the South East. An entreprenaur by the name of Charles Roe established a water powered 'throwing mill' that meant silk could spun into thread in trhe town and from there it wasn't too big a step to start weaving the silk as well. Macclesfield prospered throughout the Napoleonic wars because the fashionable and wealthy couldn't get French and Italian silk but had to settle for English silk. After the end of the wars with France the market was flooded with French Silk so the move to weaving away from spinning was that much more imperative. Mills soon opened alongside the cottage industries. A 62 hour week would provide eleven shillings in wages in the late 19th century.
Above, cobbled streets abound.

Below, the Town Hall.
Below, The Castle, a 500 hundred year old Inn. We enjoyed a pint and a salmon sandwich here with the convivial company of three elderly gentlemen. Instead of being bought a drink, one of the Gent's bought us a pack of roast ham to share. How kind...



Anonymous said...

Just to add our agreement - we stopped off there when we had the Dragonfly - we were amazed - it is such a fascinating place. We didn't pick up your encyclopaedic knowledge of silk weaving though...
Sue, Indigo Dream

Nb Caxton said...

Hi Sue
Picking up the knowledge is OK it is retaining itI have a problem with these days
Air Head...

paul said...

Hi Lesley
My other half is a Macc girl, we sent a link of your blog to her dad who still lives in Macc.
He said he is going to have a walk along the canal and introduce himself, if you are still there.
His name is Burt and is a very proud born and bred Macc man.
Paul and Elaine
Sydney Australia

Anonymous said...

Long time no blog! Hope that you and the crew of Matilda Rose are all well. Please pass on our best wishes (and take some for yourselves) - hope that you haven't been blown away by the recent gales.
Sue, Indigo Dream