Biscuits with the logo of the Lace Makers' Society

September 24, 2019, by Sarah Colborne

Exhibition Fully Fashioned: Archival Remnants of the Textile Trade

Manuscripts and Special Collections’ latest exhibition entitled Fully Fashioned: Archival Remnants of the Textile Trade was officially opened by Professor Andy Long, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor. The exhibition showcases the University of Nottingham’s business archives relating to lace and hosiery. Both of these industries were a major source of employment in the East Midlands and they have a long industry which can be traced back to the invention of the framework knitting machine in 1589 by local curate William Lee.

The exhibition includes photographs and marketing materials created by lace and hosiery firms illustrating elements of the processes involved in manufacture as well as the rise and decline of both industries. The exhibition also focuses on the struggle for workers’ rights, from the targeted machine breaking campaign of the East Midlands Luddites to the formation of unions such as the Lace Makers Society which was headquartered in Nottingham.

It was appropriate, therefore, that the exhibition was launched with a performance of Luddite songs by the Rise Choir and the Army of Redressers.

Pixie Styx playing a guitar in the exhibition gallery

Pixie Styx performing a song about her ancestor, a framework knitter from Lambley











The early 1800s were a time of turmoil for the framework knitting industry. Appeals to Parliament failed to alleviate the sufferings experienced by framework knitters as a result of over production, the Napoleonic War (which hindered export), and a change of fashion that favoured trousers over hose and breeches.

The East Midlands Luddite campaign began in 1811 and involved gangs of masked men smashing the machines of the hosiers exploiting workers. Attempts to unionise had failed and many may have felt that violence was the only option available. Their actions have been described as a form of negotiation by riot and they had very specific aims: to protest at unfair pay (they had to pay rent on the frames they worked, and the bag hosiers who collected their work might pay them ‘in truck’ with goods not money); the production of ‘cut ups’ (stockings made on wider frames and cut and sewn to shape which were being passed off as superior fully-fashioned stockings); and the use of untrained workers.

Exhibition board in the Weston Gallery, Lakeside Arts

The exhibition continues until the 1st December and the programme of related events for October includes:

Lunchtime Talk: Nottingham Castle lace gallery Thursday 3 October Djanogly Theatre 1pm £3

Staff from Nottingham City Museums and Galleries reveal the plans for the new lace gallery at Nottingham Castle which is expected to re-open in 2020 following a £29.4 million redevelopment. The new gallery will feature star items from the world-class collection, telling the story of how lace has transformed the shape of the city and contributed to changing fashions for over 200 years.

Cyanotype print workshop #1hrMakes Sunday 20th October 1:00-2:00pm and 2:30-3:30pm Visual Arts Studio £8 per person

Debbie Bryan (who runs an award winning shop, tea room and creative space in Nottingham’s Lace Market), will teach this magical Victorian photographic print process and help you create your own unique mini-masterpiece based on historic Nottingham lace designs, inspired by the Weston Gallery’s Fully Fashioned exhibition.

Lunchtime Talk: Luddites and the framework knitters: collective bargaining by riot Tuesday 29 October Djanogly Theatre 1pm £3

Julian Atkinson and Roger Tanner, authors of Luddism in the East Midlands: Riots and Negotiations (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Labour History Society: 2018), tell the true story of Luddism in Nottinghamshire. They share the results of their research into the knitters union led by Gravenor Henson, the character of East Midland Luddism, and the intersections between the two.

The exhibition continues until the 1st December in the Weston Gallery at Lakeside Arts:

Further information about the Army of Redressers and their album of Luddite songs can be found here:

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