Wendesbury Woollens – A Project in England

The demise of the small farm has left a vast number of small agricultural buildings in towns and villages all over the country, and it’s quite reasonable to take a look so long as the land owner knows you’re there. Often in infrequent use, spaces fill up with a strange variety of things and often interesting objects are left and forgotten.

Found in an old tea crate with a horse jacket, these woollen fabric swatches appeared to be handmade. Purchased for £10 each, I took them home to check to see whether there was any information on anything similar. The fabric pattern is a plain weave, and was most likely to be made on a simple loom, something like a simple standing rug loom. These were a feature of communities with a tendency for self reliance, for their simplicity allowed for regular and repeated use without the extended periods of downtime for re-warping. The fabrics are made using tweed yarn (and twine for one piece), suggesting they’re of an origin that precedes notions of trend over function, and most likely date from around the turn of the 19th century. Synthetic dyes were in wide use in the middle of the 19th Century, as were the use of powered mechanical looms.

The diminishing practice of hand weaving began from the turn of the 18th Century, when it was noted that there were 250,000 hand-weavers (The Last Shift, Geoffrey Timmins), a continuously diminishing number as the cottage industries fell to the industrial revolution. It it likely that the works are remnants of the resurgence of pastoral crafts encouraged by the likes of John Ruskin and William Morris, and the conservations movement of those like Philip Webb.

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